The Glen Scotia renaissance
Walking along High Street in Campbeltown the other day I was stuck by how nice and well cared for Glen Scotia was looking these days. I’ve lived in Campbeltown, on and off, all my life and believe me, Glen Scotia has never looked so good! In fact it always used to look a bit forlorn and neglected, to the point where even the locals weren’t exactly sure whether it was in production or not.
However, since the newly formed Loch Lomond Group took over in early 2014, all that seems to have changed. Along with the shiny new paint job and signage there is now a brand new shop/visitor centre and distillery tours available. Neither is very clearly signed (although plan in place to correct this) from the outside but pass through the unassuming door, marked Distillery Manager, and you find a very tastefully decorated shop with some nice quirky touches (I love the old Victorian cash register!).
Unfortunately, I didn't manage to go on tour during their recent open day (part of the Campbeltown Malts Festival at the end of May), however the visit of a family friend last week gave me the excuse I was looking for to have a nosy round the inside as well as the outside!
One thing that did surprise me going round was how small it was. Don’t get me wrong, the building itself is massive but despite the imposing facade, the actual production equipment is all quite dinky and much more traditional than I remembered. The mash tun is one of the old cast iron ones, with a modest 2.85 tonne mash, and everything is manually operated - not a computer in a sight (nor discreetly tucked away anywhere that I could see). Shannon, our guide, told us that production currently stands at about 300,000 lpa, with plans to increase this to 500,000 lpa by the end of the year. In the past a lot of Glen Scotia’s production was destined for blend, however the plan is to very much to cut back on that side of the business going forward and concentrate on developing Glen Scotia as a Single Malt.
Intrigued by what I had seen in the distillery and shop, I got in touch with Scott Dickson, the Marketing Manager at Loch Lomond Group, who very kindly took some time to discuss their plans. He is very enthusiastic about Glen Scotia, and about the Loch Lomond stable in general, which he describes as ‘hidden gems’; “With Glen Scotia, the previous owners had a really good cask management system in place, under John Petersen, the master blender. We’re building on that and really want to build on the classic Campbeltown style of malt. We've been working with the team at Springbank and see a great opportunity to work together to really promote Campbeltown as the fifth whisky production region.”
Further building on the importance of Campbeltown as a region, LLG are currently renovating the dunnage warehouse on site so more of the spirit can actually be matured in Campbeltown itself. I did ask whether the goal eventually is for it to be 100% Campbeltown matured but, whisky people being a cautious/superstitious bunch, was informed that while they will be maturing more on site, they will also continue to send stock to their other bonded warehouses in Alexandria and Glen Catrine, “just in case something bad happens, it’s better to have it a bit spread out”.
To achieve that typical Campbeltown style, Scott explained, “We produce three types of single malt at Glen Scotia; unpeated, lightly peated and heavily peated. These are married together by our Master Blender, John Petersen, to give the style we are looking for. We are particularly pleased with Victoriana as we feel it is the closest we can get to the original Campbeltown style with that lovely sea spray, salty tang”
Now, I must confess I haven’t actually tried the Victoriana yet, but I intend to rectify this very shortly. Happily it sounds like it will be much easier for me, and everyone else, to get their hands on Glen Scotia, to buy or to try, going forward. They are in the process of finalising their UK and Global distribution with the intention that Glen Scotia should be much more widely available through specialist independent retailers and whisky bars and they have already confirmed their attendance at The Whisky Show in London in October and expect to be participating in many more festivals and shows in the near future. Excellent news - it’ll be great to see another Campbeltown malt represented on the Festival circuit.
Good news for those coming to Campbeltown as a whisky tourist too - in an eminently sensible move Glen Scotia have decided to offer daily tours at times that do not clash with the existing Springbank ones so should you feel so inclined, you’d be able to tour all 3 Campbeltown distilleries in one day! (Glen Scotia tours are at 11.30am and 3pm. Springbank’s, with option of touring Glengyle as well, at 10am and 2pm).
Glen Scotia Tours can be booked by calling +44 (0) 1586 552288 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Individual tours and tastings on request.
Thanks to Scott Dickson for the information and photos of the shop (mine didn't really do it justice!) and the new product range.
The ‘before’ shots of the distillery and the product range I got from Google images so apologies if have not credited someone that should be!
Whisky Impressions is run by Kate Watt. Previously at Springbank and then Glenfarclas, I now design some whisky related stuff and write about it, and anything else that takes my fancy, on this blog.