Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to malt, distil, mature and bottle on the same site. Impressively, the Campbeltown distillery manages to do all this while operating a highly complex distillation regime which creates three different styles of whisky. The equipment at Springbank is resolutely old-style: an old Boby mill, an open-top cast-iron mash tun, and wooden washbacks made from boatskin larch. There are also three copper stills, with direct fire on one of them and a worm tub on another which helps to add complexity and personality.
The malt is handled in three distinct ways to produce three contrasting whiskies. Springbank itself is medium-peated, Longrow is heavily peated, and Hazelburn has no peat at all. Ferments are very long, in excess of 100 hours, with low gravity (a greater proportion of water to malt) which both produces a low-strength wash and high levels of esters. This fruity base is then distilled in three different ways, depending on the intended style.
Springbank is partially triple-distilled. The direct fired wash still works as normal producing low wines, the strongest portion of which is directed to the spirit still charger. The remainder is redistilled in the intermediate still which has a worm tub, and put into the feints receiver along with the heads and tails from the spirit still distillation. This mix makes up 80% of the final charge, with the strong portion of low wines from the wash still making up the remaining 20%. Unsurprisingly, the result is a highly complex new make that is collected at an average strength of 71-72%. Springbank is lightly smoky, oily, fruity, delicately fragrant yet powerful.
Longrow is heavier and smokier. The malted barley obviously plays a significant part, as does distillation in the direct-fired wash still and second distillation in the spirit still which has the worm tub. It is collected at 68%, a touch lower than Springbank.
Hazelburn undergoes standard triple distillation and is collected at between 74-76% abv.
Maturation for all three is in a mix of casks. As well as the standard ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry and refill, other types including wine and rum and varying sizes [60 litre ‘rundlets’ and 50 litre ‘kilderkins’] are used.