It is a fact that no distillery in Scotland is as self-contained as Springbank. From the malting of the barley, to the final stage of bottling, each and every step of the process is completed on site and is overseen and carried out by our expert team, led by our distillery manager.
We are one of only a handful of distilleries to malt our own barley using traditional floor malting methods. The process begins when barley is conveyed into the barley loft and stored. When it is required, it is steeped in cool, clean water, where it is left for up to three days to swell. It is then laid out in a six-inch deep even layer on our malting floors where our team turn it at regular intervals.
Now laden with natural sugars which can be used to produce alcohol, the malt is then removed into a kiln, where depending on whether we are producing Springbank, Hazelburn or Longrow, it is dried over a peat fire, hot air, or a combination of both.
After kilning for between 30 and 48 hours, the malt is now ready to enter the milling stage, where it is crushed into a fine powder called grist in our 1940s Porteous mill.
The grist is added to hot water, allowing us to extract all the sugars into a liquid. This process is carried out in our mash tun, which is made of cast iron and dates back as far as a century. Rakes stir the liquid during mashing, and the process is carried out three times with each grist.
Every stage of our process is carefully considered, from the source of our water in the hills around Campbeltown, to the heating of our stills, to help us maintain the quality and tastes created by our predecessors. Furthermore, our whisky is never chill filtered and we never add any artificial colouring to any of our whisky. This ensures that the natural qualities developed during production are always present.
The liquid drained from the mashing, known as wort, is transferred to wooden wash backs, of which we have six, each made from boatskin larch. It is here that yeast is added, converting the sugars into alcohol over a period of up to 110 hours of fermentation – after which the liquid is ready for distillation.
The liquid from the wash backs is passed through our three copper stills; the wash still, which unlike many distilleries is fired by a live flame, low wines still and spirit still. The spirit produced by this process is then transferred into the spirit safe, where the stillman monitors its progress. Springbank is distilled two-and-a-half times, Longrow two and Hazelburn three, helping us to produce these three distinct malts.
The spirit is transferred into empty casks that have been carefully selected by our skilled whisky experts. It is our choice of cask, combined with the location of our distillery and our unique peninsula climate, that contributes greatly to the distinctive flavours that can be detected in our whisky.
The filled casks are then transported to our dark, moist warehouse and left for a minimum of three years – the age at which a spirit legally becomes whisky. The whisky is matured for various time periods under the watchful eye of our Distillery Manager, and some are bottled especially for limited edition ranges; one in particular was bottled 50 years after it had been filled, giving it a truly unique character.
Bottling and Labelling
When many distilleries may add artificial colours or chill filter their whisky at this stage, we do not, ensuring that the whisky’s natural characteristics are not lost. During bottling, our team inspect the whisky at several key stages to ensure it is consistently of the highest quality, is secure and correctly labelled.