Around September last year I posted on Facebook, asking for tips for me and my friend FV to spend an afternoon and evening in Campbeltown. While I did get some way-too-obvious things, like Springbank and Cadenhead’s, I also got the tip to visit Glen Scotia.
Even better, Donald MacLellan, an International Sales Manager for the Loch Lomond Group of which Glen Scotia is a part, said we couldn’t not visit Glen Scotia. The ‘we don’t have time to do everything’ excuse didn’t fly. “You drive 500 miles to visit Campbeltown, you’re not telling me you don’t have time for the last 200 meters”.
Even better yet, he told me we could also visit outside of regular visiting hours, going as far as shouting 24/7 at some point. Easy for him to say, he wasn’t the guy welcoming us in his spare time!
After a while we had set up a date with Callum Fraser to visit the distillery at 8pm, so we could have dinner first and cool down a bit after the Cadenhead’s Warehouse tasting.
When I visited Campbeltown in 2010 Glen Scotia wasn’t a pretty sight. Walls and fences made sure you didn’t feel too welcome, and it also didn’t look like there was any love lost in keeping the place neat and tidy. A lot has changed since then.
Now you see a mid-town distillery that’s nicely painted, on a tidy plot that’s nicely kept. Also, there’s a visitor center now at which Callum was waiting for us just when the sun was setting over Campbeltown.
We started with a tour, which skipped most of the regular numerical information and official script. We just walked around and Callum pointed out some things that were irregular or different from most distilleries. We had a nice chat with David, the mashman, about some distillery quirks, and we got to see all the technology for the grain stores. All the technology in this case is a binder with some scribbles in there to see which silo contains what, and which washback was filled when.
David turns out to a guy with a can-do-attitude, based on Callum’s stories. Apart from finding it rather ridiculous that there’s a bottling in his honor, he mashes, but also knows how to run the stills and do maintenance on most of the equipment in the distillery.
In the stillroom we had the chance to talk to Sean, the stillman, for half an hour or so. The stills were coming on steam while we were there so there was a bit of a gap in his schedule to talk to us. It’s great to see a real craftsman at work with manual controls over the stills and someone who is so familiar with the equipment that most of what needs doing is triggered by sound and sight instead of all kinds of analog and digital equipment.
We unfortunately couldn’t do the warehouse tasting since the warehouse manager had already gone home and locked up after himself, as he should. Callum made up for this by pouring quite a few amazing drams in the tasting room, though.
We tried the Glen Scotia 18, the Mashman’s Reserve (2001), I believe there was a 16 year old bourbon cask there too. After the other 11 year old Single Cask (2005) we made a small sidestep to the official 27yo Littlemill. I didn’t see that one coming, but damn that’s good!
By this time it was already around 9.30pm and with a full day of driving from Campbeltown to Newcastle for the ferry, we decided to call it a day and do some last minute shopping for back home (Irn Bru, Gingernuts, a cake for the kids).
This tour, which was 100% off the beaten path for tours as I know them, was an absolute stunner. Talking to the people who make the stuff you like to drink, and getting to know some of the quirks of their craft and their distillery, with a host as awesome as Callum, this was an epic end to our Scotland trip!
Thanks a million to Donald, Callum, David and Sean for being great guys! Glen Scotia went up many notches in my book…
Of course, being the enthusiastic geek that I am, I forgot to take proper pictures, of the people and such. So just a few random shots of the distillery are all I have…