A spring in its step
Welcome to Campbeltown, the smallest Scotch whisky region and the home of Springbank distillery.
IT may be the smallest of Scotland’s whisky regions today, but Campbeltown used to be THE whisky capital of the world.
Located on the Kintyre peninsula on the south-west coast of Scotland, Campbeltown is a small town of about 5,000 people. At first, it seems strange that this little town is actually classified as one of Scotland’s main whisky regions alongside Islay, Speyside, Highlands and the Lowlands.
According to Springbank Distillery’s regional sales manager David Allen, this is all down to the region’s history.
“Yes, it does seem a bit bizarre that a small town with only 5,000 people and three distilleries is a whisky region on its own. But for a period of time, Campbeltown was actually considered the whisky capital of the world,” he said during an interview in Petaling Jaya recently.
“Back in the 1890s to 1920s, Campbeltown had over 30 legal distilleries, and many more illegal ones, which is quite incredible considering there were only about 2,000 people living there at the time,” he said.
“We have our own style of whisky – very robust, complex with maritime notes, and a distinct flavour profile that was sought after by the big blenders of the day and also in the US market.”
Among the reasons for Campbeltown’s booming whisky business was the fact that it had all the right ingredients for a whisky industry, including barley farms, peat bogs to supply peat, and coal mines to fuel the stills. The town itself also had a deep sea harbour which made it easy to transport the whisky by boats from Campbeltown, either further into Scotland, or west, towards America.
According to him, there were a lot of reasons for the decline of Campbeltown whisky, including the World Wars, Prohibition and the Great Depression in America, and even Al Capone, who was said to have made low-quality bootleg whisky and put them in Campbeltown casks to try to pass it off as genuine Scotch whisky.
“When there was a lot of demand for Campbeltown whisky,
The Springbank distillery is one of the main flagbearers for Campbeltown region Scotch whisky. ROSLI/The Star Photos: MUHAMAD SHAHRIL