Campbeltown (Scottish Gaelic: "Ceann Loch Chille Chiarain") is a town and former royal burgh in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, located by Campbeltown Loch on the Kintyre peninsula. Originally known as Kinlochkilkerran (Eng: The head of the loch by the kirk of St. Kieran) - this form is still used in Gaelic. It was renamed in the 17th century as 'Campbell's town', Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyle, having been granted the site in 1667 for the erection of a burgh of barony . Campbeltown became an important centre for shipbuilding and Scotch whisky, and a busy fishing port.
Campbeltown is one of the handful of areas in Scotland categorised as a distinct whisky producing region, and is home to the Campbeltown Single Malts, at one point having 34 distilleries and proclaiming itself "the whisky capital of the world". However, a focus on quantity rather than quality, and the combination of prohibition and the Great Depression in the United States, led to most distilleries going out of business. Today only three active distilleries remain in Campbeltown, which have, or in one case is expected to have, an excellent reputation for their quality.
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Campbeltown today is a strangely sober and robust town at the end of the Kintyre peninsula. In the middle of the 19th centaury it was a thriving centre for whisky production with the town being home to 34 distilleries at its peak allowing it to proclaim itself to be "the whisky capital of the world". Today there are only two distilleries in Campbeltown, Glen Scotia and Springbank.
Of these two Springbank is by far and away the most successful. The distillery, produces three distinct types of whisky (the only two other distilleries to produce more than one are Loch Lomond and Tobermory).
Springbank is quite unusual in that unlike most brands of whisky it is not chill-filtered, nor does it have colour added. The spirit is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, although Springbank is experimenting with rum casks as well. The standard 10 year old bottling is available at 46% volume, but a 100° proof bottling (at 57% volume) is also available. They also produce a somewhat darker 15 year old. A 21 year old variety of Springbank exists, but is increasingly rare.
Longrow Single Malt is a very heavily peated whisky. The standard Longrow is also a ten year old, matured in ex-bourbon casks, while a Sherrywood 10 year old is also available. There is also an experimental tokaji-cask expression available.
Hazelburn Single Campbeltown Malt was first distilled in 1997. Hazelburn is a triple distilled, non-peated whisky.
Springbank is also one of the very few distilleries in Scotland to perform every step in the whisky making process, from malting the barley to bottling the spirit, on same premises.
In recent years the Springbank distillery has also brought an old distillery back from the dead. Some 200 metres away down a small back street is the Glengyle distillery. In late 2000 the company of Mitchell's Glengyle Ltd. was formed with the express purpose of renovating and rebuilding the Glengyle distillery. Mitchell's are associated with the Springbank distillery and both operations come under the guidance of Mr. Hedley Wright, a descendant of the Mitchell Family, the original owners of both businesses.
Over the next four years the buildings were repaired to an adequate standard, being restored in line with the local area and the buildings' listed building status (Protected by law). A new pair of giant stills from Invergordon, malt mills, a mash tun and washbacks were installed along with all the related equipment. Production at the new Glengyle distillery began in 2004 with the first spirit expected to be ready by 2014. The whisky from the new Glengyle distillery will not be called Glengyle, rather it will be bottled under the name Kilkerran. This is both to avoid confusion with the vatted malt of the same name and also because traditionally, Campbeltown malts are not named after a Glen.
The exception to that rule is of course Glen Scotia. Generally, Glen Scotia is a lightly smoky, salty single malt with a quite concentrated nose and good length despite a delicate structure.