During Victorian times Campbeltown was the most famous whisky-producing region in the world. Campbeltown is the main town in the remote Kintyre Peninsula in west Argyll; situated between the isles of Islay and Arran. There were more than 30 distilleries and Campbeltown itself was often referred to as “Whisky City” and “The Whisky Capital of the World.” However, over time Speyside and Lowlands distilleries became more prominent and as blended Scotch whisky became a consumer favorite, there was a notable decline in the demand for Campbeltown whisky, as popular opinion soured and the whisky was considered to be heavy, oily and smoky.
Greed also began to play a factor in Campbeltown’s decline as distillers began to focus more on the quantity of whisky produced rather than on the quality.
Since the 1930s, only the Springbank and Glen Scotia distilleries remained. While the two distilleries closed during certain periods of time, neither closed permanently. They have become a testament to Campbeltown’s resilience. Together with the new Glengyle distillery, they have revitalized the whisky industry even though their combined whisky output accounts for less than 1 percent of total production in Scotland. Despite this, Campbeltown remains one of the five official regions in Scotland for malt whisky production. Even though this remote seaside village is lacking in the number of distilleries it more than makes up for it in history and pride.
The Springbank Distillery has been on the same site since 1828 and is the only distillery in Scotland to complete the entire production process on site. It has been owned by the Mitchell family for over 180 years.
The Glen Scotia distillery was originally just the Scotia Distillery. It was built in 1832. It is said to be haunted by its former owner, Duncan MacCallum who died in 1930. Workers today are said to avoid certain areas of the distillery after dark.
The Glengyle Distillery restarted production in 2004 after being closed for almost eighty years. The distillery is owned by J & A Mitchell & Co, the same company that owns and operates Springbank. However, the whisky made at Glengyle is named Kilkerran.
Campbeltown does not have a distinctive regional style as the other whisky regions do. The use of peat and casks for infusing flavours into the malts varies by distillery. Overall, the distilleries produce a style similar to elements found in the Lowland and Islay. Campbeltown has gained a cult status among whisky enthusiasts. While it will likely never grow to the heights of centuries past, the town has at least partially reclaimed its heritage.
The offerings of all three distilleries are occasionally available for sale in Canada’s liquor stores.