Ep. 82 - The History of a 100% Hands On Historic Scotch Distillery

MELANIE STANGER // Springbank Distillery

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Show Notes

This is a distillery I've long wanted to cover on the podcast. After traveling to Campbeltown, I fell in love with the place and its distilling history. And one of two distilleries that survived the collapse of the Whisky Capital of the World was Springbank - and today, it is still owned by the same family that was there during the heyday.

I'll visit with Melanie Stanger, who will fill in some of Springbank's history, talk about the relationship to Glengyle (Kilkerran), and reveal the reason Springbank is so hard to find these days.

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.

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Drew (00:10):
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, Drew Anish, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lore's Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon, the upcoming experiencing Irish whiskey book that we'll be releasing on November 22nd. And today it is time to head to Scotland and one of my favorite places on the island, the entire peninsula and the town of Campbelltown. And we are going to visit with Melanie Stranger, who is involved in regional sales and branded baster for the world famous Spring Bank distillery. And I know this is one that a lot of my listeners will be very interested in hearing more about. It's a family distillery that thrived when Campbelltown was considered the whiskey capital of the world. And of course it did some episodes on that in the past on whiskey lore stories. And we're gonna talk about what happened with Spring Bank in terms of how it came about. Take it through the history and talk about some of the brands as well as doing a tasting of their Spring Bank 10. So Melanie, welcome to the show.

Melenie (01:13):
Thank you for having me.

Drew (01:15):
A lot of things to talk about here. This is one of those distilleries that I think stands out in the world of scotch because you're family owned now is, and this is one of those things where recently I've been sort of saying we shouldn't talk so much about firsts or onlys or that sort of thing, but because sometimes that's a little bit hard to define. But in terms of family owned distilleries, are you one of the only ones or are you the only one?

Melenie (01:49):
No, no, there are a few. Okay. And there are actually in the past few years, there've been quite a few new distilleries starting up. And again, it sort seems to be more sort of families, individuals who are involved in establishing these.

Drew (02:05):
Yeah, that's the other difficulty with the whiskey world right now is that you can say something now, but there are so many distilleries popping up all of a sudden that in fact you are one of three distilleries in Campbelltown. Are there any new distilleries planned for Campbelltown at this point?

Melenie (02:27):
Yep, there are actually three in the pipeline.

Drew (02:29):
Wow. <laugh>.

Melenie (02:33):
And one of them is connected with Spring Bank and Glen Isle and then another one is out by Hanish near the airport. And it's actually really fairly well established. They've bought their land and yep, I think they're ready to turn the turf as they say. And yeah, next year in 2023. And then another one is they've got their plans in for a distillery actually in the town. So I'd say it's fairly optimistic that all these three in the pipeline will actually come to fruition. And if you visit Campbelltown and maybe five years time, you know, might be able to say it's a town to six distilleries rather than the three that we have at the minute,

Drew (03:24):
I would say that'd have to be great for you guys because it really does put Campbelltown completely on the map. Whereas now I think people go, Oh, Campbelltown. Yeah, that's a region in Scotland also, if they're not overly familiar with the regions, cuz you're kind of out of the way in terms of your location being on the entire peninsula.

Melenie (03:46):
Yeah, no, it's super mean when you think, as we'll talk about later on, but for a while there was only one working distillery in the town, although there was such a rich whiskey heritage and then it went up to two and then three. And luckily with the third one, it really sort of helped us reestablish its independent whiskey region because before that it was very much sort really forgotten about. So now having the three separate facilities for the past 20 odd years, it's really helped put it back in the map. And then also just with more interest in whiskey and more people traveling and iLab becoming so popular and lots of people really enjoying that experience. So wanting to come back to our Gale, but maybe visit another town where you have not just one distill but several to visit. And so that's where Campbelltowns really coming into its own.

Drew (04:47):
And this is what's interesting is I've been so hyper focused on Ireland over the last little while, but my trip to Northern Ireland was an eyeopener because it really gave me this sense that there's this sort of friendly competition between Scotland and Ireland as to who was the first to make whiskey. And I say down in Ireland, I think most people in Scotland will say yes, it came up through I Ireland, but it wasn't really until a 1494 is the first record of Vita at that point. But being a forerunner to whiskey at that particular point. But I did an episode not too long ago where I was digging into that relationship. Dodo was the kingdom that not only entire peninsula was part of that, but also Northern Ireland was part of that. And the relationship between those. And you're actually, I would say you're probably closer to Ireland. Well you're definitely closer to Ireland than you are to Glasgow.

Melenie (05:55):
Yes we are. It'd be lovely if you could hop enough light to get to go to shopping in Belfast <laugh>. Yeah. And one of my pet hates is if you're on the phone trying to find where your nearest store is or whatever, quite often nearly discount to see answer. More often than not they'll see your nearest shop is whatever over in Northern Ireland and you think, no, nobody can walk in water or not yet. So

Drew (06:23):
Google Maps a long time ago, back when they had a sense of humor, I did a road trip from Boston to London and it actually said drive into the water <laugh>. Yeah. I'm like, okay, that's interesting.

Melenie (06:41):
You want to survive

Drew (06:42):
<laugh>? Yeah, if you wanna survive or you have James Bond car of some form <laugh>. But that's an interesting thing to me because I mean my point to them historically in that research was that you guys are so closely related that it almost feels like Ireland and Scotland should just share the earliest records of whiskey because we're not a hundred percent sure who made the first. And it kind of evolved over time. And that whole idea of that relationship still the feeling of the people seems to be the same between the two areas, Northern Ireland and entire peninsula.

Melenie (07:25):
I mean there are lots of similarities and I mean even this day lots of people will travel between the two countries for studying or for work. And I mean I play golf down at Davite and on a lovely sunny day you can look right over to Northern Ireland and you know can take some boats. We'll go over between Campbelltown and Northern Ireland. So it's still very much a mix between the cultures.

Drew (07:55):
Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about distilling in that area. And this rise up to becoming the whiskey capital of the world. The town itself gets its name from the Campbells of Argi. And interesting to note that the first man to mention Vita in the area, Alex Campbell in 1591 was, it's like everything you look at when you're doing a history search on the area, it's like there's a Campbell involved in everything in that area. Robert Burns girlfriend was from there, she was a Campbell. Talk a little bit about where the town got its name from and what you know of that development there.

Melenie (08:45):
Yeah, well Campbell as you're saying is the family name of the Duke of our Gale who's obviously the main landowner for this area of Scotland. And he was very influential in the covenants and he was very much wanting to encourage people to who were in the lowlands to come over and settle in Campbelltown. And so he established in the early 17 hundreds with people moving across from air and the Nearshore coast and very much looking for employment and wanting to improve their lives. So that was really what caused the town to be created and for people to settle. And so you have lots of family names that have been here since then and people have obviously almost 300 years on settled very well and are happy and have created a very good life down here. And a lot of it has been in one way due to its geographical location. So before it obviously would be fishing and then it eventually went into whiskey and we sort of joke still nowadays it's the gfs, it's fishing Farming and forestry are the mainstay of the economy.

Drew (10:10):
There was a lot of barley being grown in that particular area. So I understand. And so that kind of helped feed this idea of doing whiskey even though the area was somewhat religious from what I understand. And probably whiskey was not something that they overly promoted early on, but it just kind of evolved because of what they had around there.

Melenie (10:37):
Yeah, oh very much so. I mean most of the people came over were traditional farming background and so if they had any spare barley beforehand, they would've used it to produce beer. And then when they had the technology and the knowledge they used some sp if there was any spare to produce whiskey and obviously it had a long shelf life. So although saying that it was actually made one day intended to be drunk the next, it wasn't anything like the maturation that we have nowadays.

Drew (11:11):
Yeah, it's interesting to think we try to apply modern sensibilities to whiskey that was made back then, but really they didn't have the rules and if they put in the barrel it was likely being put in the barrel just cuz they needed a place to keep it <laugh>.

Melenie (11:27):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Drew (11:30):
So there are some family names that come out that are the Campbells of course but then in the world of whiskey in Campbelltown there were names like Greenlee, Coville Ross and Mitchell and they really kind of dominated that whiskey scene that they would own multiple distilleries and it seems like it kind of swapped them around a bit as well.

Melenie (11:56):
And I mean being a relatively small town there was a lot of intermarriage as well. So yeah, I mean they were really all very, very close knit community

Drew (12:06):
And Spring Bank actually was not a good, because now we associate it with the Mitchell family, but it wasn't actually started by the Mitchell family was it?

Melenie (12:15):
So it was started by the Reed family who were in-laws. So one of the daughters from the Mitchell family had married them to the Reed family, but the Mitchell family themselves on the site were spring bankers. They had actually done illicit distill distillation and so there was a bite illegal, but there was a family connection with the site where Spring Bank was founded.

Drew (12:44):
Everything really changed mean prior to the Excise Act of 1823, I think Campbelltown Distillery was the only distillery in town and it was sizeable, but the rest of it was illicit from what I understand. Then it just exploded after that law changed with a lot of distilleries coming in. Yeah,

Melenie (13:05):
I mean think obviously I think it was like 10 pounds for a license or something like that, which obviously sounds like pennies nowadays, but at that time I imagine was a significant investment that was obviously in one way it really helped the government gain a lot of tax because everybody became legal rather than trying to produce it illicitly and sell as little as possible <laugh>. So

Drew (13:32):
The Mitchells actually got into legal distilling earlier than Spring Bank with Reln Distillery, am I saying that right?

Melenie (13:42):
Yeah, that's right. You Reln, which is where the co-op is and nowadays.

Drew (13:47):
And so that was Wiley Mitchell I believe.

Melenie (13:52):
Yeah, I'll go with your superior knowledge in that. Yeah,

Drew (13:54):
<laugh> <laugh>, all my digging through, I laugh about this cuz when I went to Campbelltown, I went to the library and I pulled out a book on the distilling history and we can go through Alfred Barnard's book and get a lot of what was going on during the second boom and in Campbelltown. But during that initial boom, all of these different distilleries, I'm trying to write this episode and I'm going, I can't figure this out, I had to create a spreadsheet basically of all the distilleries and say, okay, this one opened on such and such a year and then it closed on this year and then this one opened this year and then it closed this year and it changed ownership there. And it's like it's when you're talking about what ended up being somewhere between 28 and 30 distilleries in an area and you're trying to keep all of those in your head and figure out all the family connections between each of them,

Melenie (14:51):
The family connections are very difficult cuz there wasn't much variety in first names

Drew (14:55):
<laugh> <laugh>

Melenie (14:56):
And Father and Sons tended have the same name and then the grandson as well. So yeah,

Drew (15:01):
The big challenge of researching old history for sure, especially in Scotland and Ireland because you would definitely run into a lot of the same first names over and over again.

Melenie (15:12):
And it could be the same writing but different translation or vice versa. And sometimes the person doing the census didn't have the best spelling. Yeah.

Drew (15:22):
So then we have the Reed Brothers selling and so John and William Mitchell were the ones that came in and brought, were they brothers?

Melenie (15:33):
Yes, they were. Yeah.

Drew (15:35):
Okay. And so with all of these distilleries going on here, the early years, is there much known about what type of whiskey? I mean they were selling single malt guessing up until around 1860 when the Spirits Act opened up blending. But would that have been, how much do you know about those early years of distilling there?

Melenie (16:03):
Well, I mean we've got some base small sort of a corner of the shop, which is a museum and we have some old documents there and one in particular would it be of interest to you because it was for I think 120 gallons of whiskey that had been sold to a certain John Walker of Kamar.

Drew (16:25):
Ah, okay. All right. Yeah, and

Melenie (16:29):
I'd say that's the oldest one that I've seen here anyway.

Drew (16:33):
Yeah, and really that's what helped Campbelltown get so big. I think the second time, it's the thing that I didn't understand about Campbelltown before I started researching it is you hear Campbelltown was a whiskey capital of the world and then it just disappeared. And so you get in your mind this image of a town that boomed for six or seven years and then just crashed because it grew too fast. But that wasn't the case at all. It was almost, it was a century at least where Campbelltown was a dominating force in the world of whiskey.

Melenie (17:10):
Yeah, no, very much so. I mean, the population nowadays is about 6,000. The population during the whiskey era was 12,000. So I mean for that time it was a really, considering it's geographical location, it was booming. And with the distill, obviously you need all the support trades as well. So you'd all the Copper Nest Coopers, everybody had to be on site because I going for a short distance, 40 miles it took you eight hours on your horse to get there. And even if you was by boat, Boat was slightly more accessible because it was only 10 hours by boat from Campbelltown to Glasgow which in those days was I think the second city of the empire. So you could hop on a ship and it would be going all around the world. So in one way it was remote, but another way it was actually very well connected for that time when the sea was the moway of nowadays.

Drew (18:21):
And so once the Spirit Act came along and blending began, now we know one of the blends that the whiskey went into. But what's interesting when I taste blends, Johnny Walker Black is an interesting one to mention because there's a little bit of a smokey character in there. So you taste it and you go, okay, I wonder where that is coming from and all those different flavors that you're trying to blend together to make a whiskey. And I've always heard that Campbelltown has a particular personality in terms of its whiskeys. What would you say that personality, is it as a kind of seaside character? Was it the peat that was used early on or the type of barley?

Melenie (19:10):
Yeah, no, I'd say that, I mean there's loads of different factors. I mean obviously the barling is important for flavor, but also fermentation. We have a really long slow fruity fermentation. And then equally the distillation as well is very unique being distilled two and a half times. And then equally I mean all the maturation takes place in the town in Campbelltown. So the whole production process, it ised all happens in the same site. So the whiskey is never actually talk about your food miles nowadays, but I mean it's not traveling even probably a quarter of am mile in its lifetime from distillation to maturation to bottling which makes it very special. And I think with the maturation we're only about 800 meters from the sea. So definitely that would give you the lovely saltiness coastal notes that you recognize with the spring bank. But equally the Pete I mean if you go back into a hundred hundred 50 years ago the Pete would've been locally Doug from near the town.

So that would've given again a sort of lovely smokey but probably salty smoke <affirmative> again just cause of its location being in a very narrow peninsula and very close to the sea as well. And just the fruitiness comes from all the lovely casts that we use because we know that about 70% of the flavor comes from the cask. So yeah, even in that time, although it wasn't a necessary requirement to mature for three years, most people did mature it cuz they recognized people would wanted color to their spirit and they enjoyed the different flavors it offered as well.

Drew (21:07):
This was the fun part about walking around doing the tour at the distillery. It is the most complete distillery tour in Scotland as far as my experience has been in that you on the standard tour are basically getting to see everything from malting all the way through to bottling, which I mean it's interesting that those pieces are the first and the last are missing from so many distilleries. I think there's only seven distilleries right now that have malting floors and not all of them run all the time. And yet with your distillery you're able to move through the entire process. And we walked outside and I saw a pile of Pete sitting next to the door. It's like, okay, this is very real. It's all right here. And definitely easily accessible. It makes me wonder too about with the rise of Campbelltown and all the buildings that were through there, how much of the current structure of the Spring Bank distillery is from the original 1828 distillery?

Melenie (22:21):
Right. I mean that's a very good question. I really don't know. I think we think that most of the buildings were from maybe 1850s, 1860s and that would actually just have been the external walls. I mean the equipment was very much sort of revamped in the 1960s. And then really since then there's been a case of maintenance but not really installation of new pieces of equipment. And so for that reason, lots of people call it a working museum. I've actually had people visiting from other distilleries and at the end of the tour they quite often say now shows where you really produced the whiskey <laugh> because they can't believe that whiskey is still need as traditionally as it is. I am at Spring Bank.

Drew (23:13):
And then to walk in, So you have three pot stills and you're doing two and a half times now is, I know you do a triple distilled as well, which is I think the hazel burn, right?

Melenie (23:24):
Yeah, that's

Drew (23:25):
Right. And so there's part of me that's going, I wonder if it's two and a half, they decided on two and a half times because they knew they were nestled so close to Ireland, they wanted to be the bridge <laugh> between the two. With this distilling at two and a half times, is that something that is historical? In other words, were they also distilling two and a half times back in the 19th century?

Melenie (23:52):
I mean, nobody actually really knows the answer to that. We don't know if it was the case from 1828 or if somebody had an idea in the later on. All we do know is that we distill it two and a half times and it works <laugh>. Okay. So I mean Mr Right is very much y fix, which isn't broken, so we're going to continue with it because there's nothing, if anything, it's enhancing the product.

Drew (24:26):
So how do you technically get to two and a half distillations with three pot stills?

Melenie (24:32):
So basically from the first distillation they collect the low bind and it goes to one tank, and then after second distillation you get your fence, and then in the tank they mix 20% of the low wine with 80% of the fence. And then once that's been combined, that then pours into the final still. And so after the final distillation, some of the liquids been distilled twice and some rice. So you get to an average of being distilled two and a half times

Drew (25:10):
That works creative math. Yours isn't as complicated as Mortlock Mortlock is like, okay, they, it's like two point something or other times distilled. It's like how did you figure all that out? And then you see the calculations and you're going, Okay, because they have the world's smaller or they have Scotland's smallest still, I think. And that's why they suggest that <laugh>.

Melenie (25:34):
Yeah, Yeah,

Drew (25:35):
It's very interesting. So as we move along through history, there was a second boom that second boom was followed by a, it was sort of a slow decline, I guess mean. It was basically after the Patterson crash at the end of the 19th century and all of a sudden the DCL was going around buying up every distillery they could get their hands on and then shutting them down. So I think that was part of what really knocked out the distilleries in Campbelltown. But there were some cases where the Glen Gele distillery, and actually that's kind of an interesting story. I don't know how much of that you but Glen Gele distillery seems to have evolved out of a family dispute at Spring Bank.

Melenie (26:30):
Very much so. I mean, the two brothers that we mentioned earlier, John and William worked very well at Spring Bank together for many years. And then just yet they were both farmers and unfortunately had an argument over some sheep <laugh> and it escalated and it actually ended their business relationship. So John being the elder brother, he kept Spring Bank and then William being the younger brother thought, Do you know what? I still want to produce whiskey. I'm going to set up on my own. So he bought land bordering onto Spring Bank and built himself a distillery Glen. And it was a working distillery for almost 50 years until the 19, no, sorry, actually longer than that, until the 1930s. And it was actually one of the few well, the first distilling in can in Campbelltown where William's daughter she actually ran it for a while and sorry, she ran me, which is next door to Glen for I think a short film in the 1930s.

Drew (27:37):
Okay. It's all three, I mean all Mitchell distilleries then all kind of in a row with each other down there.

Melenie (27:48):
And I mean, the nice thing is that if you go to the co-op, the dress of the co-op is still the name of the distillery. It's still we o'clock and Oh

Drew (27:55):
Wow. So

Melenie (27:55):
The name does still exist.

Drew (27:56):
Yeah. Now after doing all my research, I need to come back again and just stroll around town again and catch these names that I did all the research on and kind of spot stuff like that. That's fun. It's like walking around a town that's a museum, although it's kind of a museum that has <laugh>, the museum pieces have disappeared. <laugh>,

Melenie (28:19):
Yeah, it's very much just like any city really. You've just got to take your time and look up and I mean, you know, can be walking anywhere. And then you realize it might be a coat station nowadays, but it was built as a distillery.

Drew (28:33):
The interesting thing about another distillery, which was Hazel, which is a name that's related to your whiskey is that it seems that during the war there were some people coming in trying to buy up some of the Campbelltown distilleries to try to survive. And Peter Mackey, who's one of the very colorful figures who was on Ila and had gotten in the dispute between Lef fro and Lagavulin, came in and bought Hazel Burn to try to save it, but then ended up his son died in the war. And it was, to me, it kind of shows how World War I was really kind of the death now for Campbelltown, because what it did was it took so many of the distillers away, it took so many of the people who worked in the industry away, and that it was significant on top of the fact that there was this suggestion that Campbelltown whiskey was dropping in quality because they were just trying to push out as much whiskey as they had all this whiskey in the warehouse, and they were just trying to push whatever they could out. And blenders weren't quite as interested in it as they were in the past.

Melenie (29:54):
I mean, it's interesting what you say about the First World War because Mitchell's son I actually died in the closing months of the First World War. He was in the rfc, so what eventually became the Royal Air Force. And he actually died just a few months after turning 18. And so you can see why you hit, obviously hoped to pass the distill on. So maybe that's again, one reason why he sold in the mid twenties. I think he was in his seventies by then and maybe was questioning, where's the future here? When he was just looking at you say, the reputation of Campbelltown wasn't good at that time. And the problem is with whiskey with all the new regulations was that it was no longer possible to make whiskey and sell it the next day. You know, were having to produce it and wait for three years before you got a return in your money which at that time you'd no guarantee that who you were planning to sell your whiskey would be there in three years.

And so you'd no guarantee that you would actually earn that money back. So it was a challenge. They'd gone a bit perfect storm now after Covid, but it was definitely a perfect storm in the era of the 1920s due to just the first World war, the loss of life, the economic problems and then coming up towards the end of the twenties with the depression and also prohibition. And so it was a real, very, very difficult time. And if you didn't have that reputation either for the quality that was definitely another issue as well for Campbelltown. And I mean, equally, we were sort of traveling a bit transport, well, discussing transport links earlier on. And one of the reasons that space side to cut off in the late 19th century was because of rail. And I mean Campbelltown to this day, our nearest jewelry station is, which is half an hour, 40 minutes outside of Glasgow. So that development in transport just really never helped Campbelltown. And I mean, it was still in the 1920s, 1820s, it's by C, it still took more or less eight to 10 hours to transport good goods. And so that part of the equation had never changed.

Drew (32:36):
And so once we get up to the point where all of these distilleries are, have died out now, and there's just three left. And of the three left, two of them are, were they still Mitchell Own, was Spring Bank and Reln, were those still under the Mitchells at that point?

Melenie (32:56):
Actually, Mitchells and they owned you Clark until I think the 1930s when it was sold. And I mean William Mitchell owned Glen until he sold it in I think 1925.

Drew (33:09):
And then those two Rick Clarken took the longest to shut down actually Spring Bank, as I understand in the late twenties also was either mothballed for a little while or something like that occurred that it was off the map for just a short period of time.

Melenie (33:27):
Yeah, yeah.

Drew (33:28):
And then for the longest time, Glen Scotia, it's so funny because when I was talking to Ian McAllister about it, we talk about the fact that Glen Scotia's reputation really wasn't great over that time period. It wasn't until he came in really towards after the first, or during the first decade of the 21st century, that they started looking at the equipment and saying, Wait, maybe we need to do something a little bit different here to improve our quality. But yet they held on through all those years and Spring Bank held on through all those years, even through the 1980s when we were in somewhat of a whiskey depression I think you could call it. What do you think is the reason that Spring Bank was the one that was able to keep the quality up and survive so long in that area?

Melenie (34:25):
Well, I think my mum mean Mr. Wright inherited the distillery in the 1960s. And I mean, he was a younger son, so he'd never expected to be in that position. And unfortunately his brother be deceased him, but also died far younger than expected. And then in fairly quick succession, his father died and his father actually said to him, you know, should sell. But he thought, No, I'm going to give it a shot. So for the first 10 years he actually commuted between St. Andrews and Campbelltown every weekend. And so it was very much, it wasn't his focus, it was his sideline. And then just luckily he decided, no this is worthwhile. And he actually, after 10 years moved to Campbelltown. So I mean there's been somebody sort of steading the ship and guiding the distillery through all these decades since then. And so, I mean that's definitely helped put it in a very sure footing that we're very lucky to the luxury of nowadays. But as we were saying earlier, obviously causes its own problems as well.

Drew (35:42):
<laugh>, he would have introduced, I guess it was in the early seventies when a second brand came out, the long row which is your repeated expression. But help me of understand this. There is an element of Pete in Spring Bank too, is there not?

Melenie (36:03):
Yeah, so Spring Bank, this is a very sort a suggestion of Pete. So we're talking, it's just about six hours in Pete Smoke so about 12 to 15 PPM for some you usually tend to get it, we bit in the nose and then more in the finish. It's just another interesting dimension to the whiskey itself.

Drew (36:24):
Yeah. Was it still being used for blends at that time or was it being sold as a single malt? Cuz I know single malt is it's return is more recent than we really would imagine it to be.

Melenie (36:39):
I mean I think for Spring Bank, I mean the mots have tended to be a focus in the recent history anyway. There has, obviously there's been Campbelltown Lock which is a blend that a lot of people associate with Spring Bank and that sort of had a bit of a rebirth recently with the ab battered malt, whereas before it was a blended whiskey. So I've now gone onto a blended malt and it's a really good whiskey for an introduction to the town because it's got whiskeys from all the five single malts from the three distilleries in the town.

Drew (37:20):
Oh, okay. Okay. Very interesting. I love that community share in doing that and bringing together all the whiskey distilleries for something like that.

Melenie (37:32):
Yeah, well I mean, Camptown Locker is so well known and so, I mean there's a very famous song in Scotland and actually Worldwide by Andy Stewart and it's Campbelltown La I wish you were Whiskey <laugh>, if you haven't heard it, just go to YouTube and it's very, very popular. Very funny,

Drew (37:50):
Very nice. I, I'll have another song I have to throw in with Paul McCartney now Mullin Contre cuz I always make the mistake of because I'm so used to saying Mo of with attire that whenever I try to say Attire Peninsula, I always wanna start off with mole <laugh>. Right. And that's just a spot on the peninsula that's not the whole peninsula.

Melenie (38:14):
And as it's quite an interesting road to get there as well. Is

Drew (38:18):
It <laugh>?

Melenie (38:19):
Yeah, it takes a long time to

Drew (38:21):
Get there. Oh man. Explain the relationship between the Glen Gele distillery and Spring Bank because when I went there to tour, they're two separate tours. You go to co Caren, it is its own distillery, but it's, you just walk seamlessly from one distillery to the next. And so talk a little bit about your relationship with Glen Gole and how that distillery came about.

Melenie (38:53):
Well the, first of all, it's the same production team. So it's the same guys who produce whiskey at Spring Bank Distillery also produce whiskey at Glen Gil Distillery, but two very different styles. So as we were saying, Spring Bank distillery is a very labor intensive production <affirmative> whereas at Glen Gele not quite sitting down in a comfy chair and press a button on a computer screen but it's relatively more modern than Spring Bank. And the two distilleries are with obvious their summer production team, they're also similar based, strong ties start in the end of the production process. So the barley for that's used at Glen Distillery is multi Spring bank on the traditional floor malting. And then the barley, once it's been malted, it goes up to Glen Gil, which is where it's then milled, fermented distilled, et cetera, put into casks. And then in the warehouses that surround the path between these two distilleries there's different whiskeys and different ages are all mixed up across different warehouses. So the maturation you know, could have a spring bank maturing side by side to a CO and whiskey. So it's all very much a haggle difficulty.

Drew (40:28):
<laugh> do you guys offer a tour that goes and does both distilleries or it's you try to remain independent on that end?

Melenie (40:38):
I think we're very much still separate. So you can do both tours, but they're both Yeah, that's separate start times and end times

Drew (40:50):
The whiskey that, because people may go Glen Gole, I'm not familiar with that, but they've probably seen Karen, which is the name of the whiskey. Was there a reason for going with a different whiskey name then from the distillery name?

Melenie (41:08):
Yeah, so when Mr. Wright purchased the building in 2000 when the distillery initially been closed in 1925, everything had been sold even the name of the whiskey. So it was very much just the building that he purchased. None of the equipment was left. And also the brand Glen had been bought by another company and it was actually a blended whiskey at that time, it's called Glen. And so that company, the name was offered to Mr. Wright when he purchased Glen Distillery, but for a rather inflated price

Drew (41:52):

Melenie (41:53):
And so he may be a wealthy man, but he said thanks but no thanks. So they came up with the name of Co Karen for the whiskey because it's the English version of the Gaelic name for Campbell time.

Drew (42:06):
Okay. I was gonna say during my research, St. Karen was the one who had come over, I guess he was considered that he was taught by St. Patrick. Of course, when you're talking about Irish history, it seems that St. Patrick lived for centuries and seemed to travel to step foot on every single piece of the Emerald is. But it's interesting to see how his name is attached and the idea that St. St Karen came over and that his name was associated with the town <affirmative>. So

Melenie (42:43):
Yeah, Coen is basically, well I believe it's like Kill is for Mount and so St. Karen's mount. Okay. And actually when you're in Campbelltown, the road out to the graveyard is called Coka Road.

Drew (42:59):

Melenie (43:00):
Yeah, so

Drew (43:01):

Melenie (43:02):
I dunno if you want to name a WHI after to graveyard.

Drew (43:05):
Graveyard, yeah. That's

Melenie (43:06):
What has happened.

Drew (43:07):
Yeah, it has enough other history along with it. Ums Co castle as well.

Melenie (43:13):
Yep. They're also the name co. Karen appears quite a bit over in the nearshore coast, which we were talking earlier about the settlers coming in from Shire. So there's another sort of link between different parts of Scotland that were separated by the sea,

Drew (43:32):
You guys have a really big fan and this big fan is somebody who has a lot of influence because when I started learning more about scotch whiskey, I was paying attention to this guy. And his last name I think is also Mitchell Ralphie Mitchell, who does all the video tastings. He is really a great promoter of yours. Is that I wonder cuz in these days there are so many distilleries, new distilleries that are starting up, that are seeking out people to promote their whiskeys. How does it feel to have someone just latch onto you like that? I take it he's been down there a couple of times and probably done some behind the scenes tours with you guys also.

Melenie (44:28):
Yeah, no, I mean we're delighted that people love Spring Bank so much and what's nice is that it's the whiskey that does the talking.

Drew (44:40):
What's interesting is I sampled it while I was there, but the thing is that when you're on a tour, we got to taste, I think Spring Bank 10 then the Hazel burn and the long row. But sometimes when you're on a tour, and it was still in my early days of doing tastings that you kind of go, Yeah, that's good, but I can't put my finger on what it is that is gonna make me wanna go buy that bottle. But I was in Nashville, Tennessee with a friend of mine and we were at a whiskey bar and I looked down a list and I went, what? I need to sample some spring bank. And so it was 12 year and they poured the glass and I pulled it to my nose. And normally this happens with smokey whiskeys for me, but where you stick your nose in the glass and you just don't wanna pull your nose out of it.

In fact you, I've had times where I've sat there for 20 minutes not wanting to take a sip of the whiskey because I'm enjoying the smell of the whiskey so much that I'm afraid I'm gonna spoil it if the taste doesn't quite match up to the experience I'm getting on the nose. And that's what happened when I was in Nashville. I didn't realize that that 12 was a cast strength. And the bartender came over when she poured it, she said, Oh this is the last of the bottle so I'll pour that and you can just finish that and I'll go crack a new bottle, bring it over and pour you another. And so I thought, well this would be a fun time to do a little experiment and just see if the last out of the bottle is similar to the first other, the bottle or if there's a difference.

And it didn't matter either one, I couldn't get my nose out of the glass because I so enjoyed that orchard fruit the citrus that comes through to me, it's almost like, or an orange creamsicle kind of smell that comes out of it that takes me back to when I was a kid. And so it was so fun to nose that and enjoy it that much. And then I decided that I wanted to go get a bottle of the cast strength 12 year and that's when I found out that Spring Bank is very hard to find. It used to be that if I went to my local total wine, that it was always sitting there on the shelf and it was always saying, here I am. And I always kind of walked past, but now that I really want it I ended up going up to Nash or up to Kentucky because I joke with people that I go to Kentucky to buy scotch because they, they're an open state so you can get a lot more there.

But when I walked into the store I saw a bottle of Spring Bank 10 and they wanted $120 for it and I went, I know it's not $120 whiskey but I better buy it cuz I haven't seen it anywhere else. And then of course for the rest of my trip everywhere I saw a bottle of $99 Spring Bank, 10 on the shelf where I went. But this is one of those things that when I went to Ireland, I specifically looked for Spring Bank to bring back with me at a whiskey shop that had scotch in Dublin and they said we just can't get it. So we have this with Buffalo Trace here in the US but this concept of allocation And what are the reasons why it's so hard to find a bottle of Spring Bank these days?

Melenie (48:45):
Well just unfortunately 10, 15, 20 years ago nobody had a crystal ball and so no one thought this whiskey boom that really had been going on since the 1990s would continue so long and just, it's an actually sort of cycle. So everybody's expecting it to have a darn downturn sometime. But also another sort of week work has been covid and definitely we noticed a change during Covid where people had just more money to spend on higher end products and definitely whiskey was one of the winners of that.

Drew (49:26):
So basically it's just I'm hearing all sorts of things like getting bottles is difficult for a lot of distillers. Getting barrels is tough for a lot of distillers, but if you think about the barrel issue, that's not something that you're really gonna realize until years from now when that whiskey has had time to age. There's stuff that should already be aging out there but has have any of these other supply chain kind of issues also fed into the problems of getting whiskey out there?

Melenie (50:01):
I would say mean for us it is maybe just sort of delayed say as you say, there was a problem with glass problem with corks. But we've just been able, these have been minor delays I would say mean as far as I'm aware what we've planned to bottle since we all sort returned to work in July, 2021 has been able to take place.

Drew (50:32):
Yeah. Are you guys doing a lot of other distilleries are and taking this opportunity to ramp up or are you being semi cautious about it that we know whiskey goes through these ebbs and flows and is very popular then it kind of WANs for a little while and then it comes back?

Melenie (50:52):
Well the mots are basically in use as much as possible 12 months a year give or take the two week shutdown in between Christmas a new year. So if we want to continue having our homemade handmade whiskey, that's pretty key is to retain our a hundred percent malting. And so we're not going to be able to increase production <affirmative> unless we adapt that. And Mr. Wright is very, for him the standard is handmade whiskey whiskey. And so in the past few years to help with that, we've a new bottling line, we've got a couple of new warehouses and so the next stage we'll be looking at possible malting facilities on site for s seline because that will then free up to all the barley for Spring Bank and even more barley at Spring Bank, which will then enable us to increase production because the minute spring bank production's probably about nine months of the year. So I mean straight away you can increase that significantly by solving the malting issue. I

Drew (52:07):
Hadn't really thought about that. That makes a lot of sense when, because these other distilleries can just go out and buy more and buy more and buy more. They don't have to have that lag time where you have to basically wait for the malting process to be completed so that you have barley to work with <affirmative>. Yeah. So let's go ahead and do a I'm gonna little nosing and tasting on this and talk about it, but tell me about the barrels that you use for spring Bank 10 especially. Are you doing I know you use sherry barrels and you use bourbon barrels, Is it a mixture of px? What kind of cherry barrels do you use for your whiskey?

Melenie (52:53):
Yeah, so for the spring bank 10 it has sort of a general recipe the production guys will follow, although they'll tweak if required. So it's usually 60% bourbon casts, <affirmative> and then 40% sherry casts and the sherry will mainly be <inaudible>.

Drew (53:10):
Okay. I wondered with all the brightness in this, cuz I get vanilla, I get the honey, I take it those that's kind of likely coming from the bourbon barrel. But then the orchard fruits seem a little brighter to me than I usually think. Oso is your raisins and plums and pigs and that sort of thing. So it's an interesting balance

Melenie (53:34):
And I think sometimes from the bourbon cash you can definitely get lovely apples coming through a bit of zestiness to,

Drew (53:42):
There's nice little spicy character on this. I'm gonna start looking for that peat note a little bit more that smoke note cuz I think it comes in on the finish, but the way that it comes in, it's it's very subtle and it just changes, the sweetness dries out towards the end. And I think maybe that's what that is, smoke influence and I'm just not picking that out.

Melenie (54:10):
Yeah, no, I mean the fact it's such a short time the barley is dried, the pizza smoke definitely. We're not going for a heavy pizza influence. We're just belying for to have a nice sort of twist to look for another dimension to the whiskey itself.

Drew (54:33):
Well Melanie, thank you so much for taking us through and talking a little bit about the history, going through the history of Campbelltown and of Spring Bank to add to our knowledge of the one distillery that really kind of hung in there through the whole thing and kept the quality up and kept the faith for Campbelltown fans through the years and for introducing us to some of the different brands as well. I thank you and I wish you guys a lot of luck and I guess we will continue to seek out those bottles as we can and appreciate the fact that you guys are trying to stay true to your mission of creating a honest whiskey from front to back, a hundred percent in house.

Melenie (55:23):
Yeah, I mean that's very important. I mean we're obviously looking at, we are not happy that people can't buy it so we are definitely looking at improving the production and increasing production, but obviously as we know, whiskey isn't a quick game, so we're just going to have to be patient and wait for a number of years before it becomes available.

Drew (55:45):
Well I wish you best of luck and I will keep seeking out the Spring Bank on my shelf. Cheers.

Melenie (55:51):
Yep, enjoy.

Drew (55:53):
And thanks again to Melanie for being on the show and sharing the story of Campbelltown and Spring Bank. If you'd like to learn more, you can visit Spring Bank dot Scott and for you fans of the Whiskey Lore Stories podcast, well the show is gonna be returning with all of my travels around Ireland and the story of Irish whiskey coming up very soon. But first, I gotta get this audio book produced for the upcoming Whiskey Lord's Travel Guide to experiencing Irish whiskey. So maybe a couple more weeks before I get back to it. And so I thank you for all of your patience. I'm a one man, Wrecking grew, doing all I can. I'm yours, Drew Hamish, and thanks for listening. And until next time, cheers and SLO of a whiskey lords of Production of Travel Fuels Life, llc.

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