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Campbeltown

Campbeltown offers a wide range of styles, light to peated, and all good.

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The whisky regions of Scotland are seemingly as fluid as the whisky itself. Depending upon who you listen to or read, there are either four, five or six. What is for certain is that the Lowlands, Islay and the Highlands are always listed as separate regions in their own right. Speyside is sometimes listed as a sub-region of the Highlands, even though it has the largest number of distilleries of any region and has its own definitive style. The Islands, too, are sometimes listed as a sub-region of the Highlands. Finally, after spending years being subsumed into the Highlands bosom, Campbeltown has re-emerged as a separate region. Quite right too! For an area that once prided itself as the whisky capital of Scotland, losing its own identity must have been hard to take. Campbeltown, known as "The Wee Toon", once boasted the highest capita income per head in the country because of its lucrative fishing, shipbuilding, coal mining and whisky industries. Although these industries are much reduced, it is still a highly popular holiday resort, lying as it does on the Gulf Stream that gives it a mild climate. Looking at the harbour today, it is difficult to imagine 400 herring boats crammed into it, but it is probably even harder to imagine 34 distilleries operating shoulder to shoulder in the town. Initially supplying an increasingly thirsty public, these distilleries soon found that they were competing with the sweet and light Speyside whiskies whose distilleries had recently become more accessible through the railways. The oily, peaty and heavy Campbeltown whiskies fell out of favour in the UK, so they turned their attention to the American markets. However, by this time, the Campbeltown distilleries seemed content to produce huge amounts of malt without worrying too much about quality, and the region became synonymous with bad whisky. The prohibition in the US was the final blow. Sixteen distilleries closed in the 1920s alone. Today, only two of these original distilleries exist in the region: Springbank and Glen Scotia. Whereas Glen Scotia seems to have suffered from a lack of investment over the years, Springbank is one of THE world's great distilleries. Without it, Campbeltown's right to belong to a separate region must have been a little questionable. However, it has recently revived the names of the long-dead Longrow and Hazelburn distilleries as two further variants produced under its own roof; the former heavily-peated and the latter triple-distilled and unpeated. But they haven't stopped there; another former distillery name - Glengyle - was revived in 2004 by the owners of Springbank as a totally separate distillery using the stills from the defunct Ben Wyvis and an old malt mill from Craigellachie. The Glengyle malts are known as Kilkerran. The Campbeltown style is generally complex, oily, salty and peaty, and, if it might have suffered during those years of poor production quality (its whisky was apparently referred to as "stinking fish"), today Campbeltown is back with a vengeance.

Glen Scotia 12 year old

Glen Scotia distillery was established in 1832 and ceased production in 1984. The distillery was bought by the Loch Lomond Distillery Company in 1996 and resumed production in 1999, making it the only Campbeltown distillery not owned by Springbank. Despite this revival, Glen Scotia has felt a bit unloved, both in terms of its distillery and it whisky.

Recently, however, its has undergone a major makeover with several new releases (a 10, 12, 16, 18 and 21 year old) and new packaging, which should give this little-known distillery a far better exposure.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Beautifully rounded. Pears. Peaches. Lychees. Licorice.
Palate: Rich and hugely fruity with more licorice and a gentle oak background which appears briefly but which never overpowers the gentle fruit and custard finish.

Retails for around £35-40

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Longrow

The third of the three single malts made at Springbank, Longrow is an Islay style peated whisky. Like Hazelburn, Longrow was an old Campbeltown distillery. Longrow has gained something of a cult following amongst peat freaks. As well as the CV, Longrow have a 10, 14 and 18 year old in their standard range. They also do regular special releases that sell out quickly.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Massively fruity (pineapple?) and juicy. Pine nuts. Blood oranges. An undertow of coal tar soap.
Palate: Initially light and fruity, then, slowly, the peat and wood spice erupt onto the palate. The finish is deliciously smooth with soaring fruit and vanilla and toasted coconut

Retails for around £35

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Springbank 10 Year Old

Springbank distillery, founded in 1828 by Archibald Mitchell, is the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland and is now owned by Archibald’s great-great-great grandson, Hedley Wright. Springbank does all its own malting, matures all its whisky on site and does its own bottling, which is very unusual these days. Springbank has a capacity to make 7.5 million litres annually, but shocked the whisky world when it temporarily ceased production in 2008. Happily, production began again 6 months later, and the Springbank brands go from strength to strength.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Tangerine. Pears. Salt. Menthol. Caramelised pecan nuts. Light peat. Slightly dusty.
Palate: Immediately spicy, salty and lightly-peated, with vanilla, coconut, green apples, and a long macaroon finish

Retails for around £35-40

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Glengyle Kilkerran Work in Progress 6

The original Glengyle distillery was opened by William Mitchell after a row with his brother John saw William leave Springbank in 1872. Sadly it closed in 1925. However, at the turn of the century Springbank owners J&A Mitchell and Co decided to rebuild the distillery on the same site. Production began at the new Glengyle in 2004. The rights to name whisky Glengyle actually reside with Loch Lomond distillery, so the output of the new Glengyle is called Kilkerran. The name Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic name for the original settlement formed by Saint Kerran. The Kilkerran whisky was first released as a five year old whisky as Work in Progress 1 in 2009. This bourbon-matured work in progress 6, is 10 years old, not that you’d know from looking at the label.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Fresh coconut, tarry, salt, grapefruit skins, lemon and honey lozenges.
Palate: Vanilla and oak. Assertive. Tar, salt and a honeyed accompaniment to the long, woody finish.

Retails for around £35-40

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Hazelburn 10 year old

Hazelburn was an old Campbeltown distillery that closed in 1925. In 1997 Springbank resuscitated the brand and the first version was released in 2005. Hazelburn is unpeated and triple distilled, which makes it a light, maltesery and subtle whisky.

This 10 year old replaces the old 8 year old and, as good as the 8 year old was, this is a major step up in quality. This could easily pass for a top-quality lowlander, and, as compliments go, that’s as good as it gets.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Very light and delicate. Cream soda and lychees
Palate: Maltesers. Hugely fruity (water melon, pears and nectarines), malty, aromatic and incredibly juicy. Wow!!!

Retails for around £35-45

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