Springbank and Glengyle
While the Islay region is hot nowadays and the Highland and Speyside are crammed with distilleries today, but it is the Campbeltown which was once the heart of whisky industry in the history. It was once brilliant and after all those ups and downs, it is great to see them still playing a part in the industry.
The heritage almost lost
Recently I saw in the National Geographic that the experts analyzed how the Khmer kingdom, who constructed the Angkor Wat, vanished in silence. There was a similar story in Scotland, but fortunately there is still a trace of heritage left instead of becoming a part of the past.
Once the earliest town of whisky production in Scotland, Campbelltown was like an isolated island. In 1887, there were 21 distilleries here, producing a total of 9 million liters of whisky per year. Those whisky guys were so rich in the era and it was actually the most prosperous town in producing whisky. People even had to import barley to meet the huge production capacity. In the mariner’s era Campbelltown was the gateway to the world, but the develop of land transport has significant effort in eliminating it from their counterparts. Coupled with the economic recession in the early twentieth century, huge number of distilleries closed down and by the time only three was left (one was just reopened in 2004), respectively Springbank, Glan Scotia and Glengyle. Springbank, the most renowned amongst them, is like an antidote to all whisky addicts, regardless of their preference.
Conflict triggered by a sheep
Glengyle, founded by William Mitchell in 1872, is closely related to Springbank as William was actually the son of Archibald Mitchell who founded Springbank. In the late nineteenth century, William and his brother John (John Mitchell) co-operated Springbank, while the other siblings run another distillery called Rieclachan. In the old days, It was common for distilleries to do agriculture at the same time, while they cultivate barley and use the leftover draff for feeding livestock, making the best use of resource and maintain low operating costs. Unexpectedly, William and John had a conflict with regards to the sheeps in the farm, and William decided to leave and establish his own distillery called Glengyle. However, as most of the local distilleries did, Glengyle faced great financial challenge in the Great Depression in 1920’s. The ownership has been shifted several time and finally it stopped operation in April 1925. The building was then used as the office of a micro-rifle club and agricultural company. There were two times where the distillery saw chances to revive but went in vain because of the Second World War. Finally in 2000, it was bought by J & A Mitchell and Co Ltd who also owned Springbank. The chairman of the group, Hedley Wright, was in fact William's nephew. The distillery finally returned to the family. This is a sort of fate.
Time will never wait for anyone
The product of Glen Scotia was not labelled with the name of the distillery but Kilkelan. The simplest reason is that the name was ‘robbed’ by another distillery in Highland. On the other hand, the distillery recognized that the prefix “Glen”was often reminiscent of Speyside instead of Campbelltown. Therefore they decided to use Kilkerran, which was evolved from the Gaelic "Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain", meaning the church of Saint Kerran. No matter what the name is, there are three lines under the flagship, including: Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn. Springbank adheres to the inheritance so far and makes excellent whisky. How could people resist to pay for it?
曾是蘇格蘭最早的威士忌鎮，幾番波節，坎培爾鎮曾有如孤島。在 1887 年，此地曾有21家蒸餾廠，每年共可生產 900 萬公升的酒，當地的威士忌大亨盤滿砵滿，以蘇格蘭計，當時以威士忌營利最成功，非此地莫屬，甚至還得進口大麥，才可滿足巨大產能。在依靠船隻連繫世界的年代，這裡是通往世界的交通要點，但當陸路運輸取而代之，這裡頓變沙漠中的孤州，如被世界遺棄，再加上二十世紀初的經濟衰退，蒸餾廠數目銳減，現在只餘下三家，有一家還是在 2004 年才重開，分別是雲頂（Springbank）、格蘭斯考蒂亞（Glen Scotia）及與雲頂蒸餾廠關係密切、捲土重來的格蘭蓋爾（Glengyle）。而當中，又以雲頂最知名， 其作品應該是其中少數可以醫好所有對威士忌，不論是何種風味體系，上癮者的解藥。
至於跟雲頂關係密切的格蘭蓋爾蒸餾廠，由威廉米切爾（William Mitchell）於 1872 年創立，他是創設雲頂蒸餾廠的 Archibald Mitchell的兒子。在十九世紀下旬，威廉與其兄弟約翰（John Mitchell）聯手營運雲頂蒸餾廠，而其他兄弟姊妹則主要營運 Rieclachan 的蒸餾廠。在當時，普遍釀酒廠商同時經營農業：種植大麥釀造威士忌，同時用釀酒酒渣飼養生畜，物盡其用，維持低營運成本。兩兄弟因為農畜的業務而嘈起上來，導火線是因為羊隻……威廉決定自立門戶，獨資成立格蘭蓋爾蒸餾廠。不過，就如大多數該地的蒸餾廠，捱不過二十世紀初的經濟大蕭條，一再轉手，結果在 1925 年 4 月正式停止運作，建築被用作微型步槍俱樂部及農業公司的辦公室，不至荒廢。當中曾有兩次重生機會，不過先後因二次世界大戰及缺乏實質行動，皆只聞樓梯響，直至 2000 年，由持有雲頂蒸餾廠的 J&A Mitchell and Co Ltd 買入酒廠，該公司主席 Hedley Wright 是威廉的遠房侄子，酒廠總算重回家族懷抱，這是一種命數，也真是好命。
酒廠出品不以酒廠名稱標記，並被命名為基倫蓋倫（Kilkerran）。最簡單的理由是格蘭斯考蒂亞於旗下的高地調和威士忌中採用了該名字，失落一段時間，結果連名字也給人搶去，而且還要用在高地調和威士忌……另一方面，酒廠也認為 Glen 讓人聯想起斯佩塞多於坎培爾鎮，所以便決定以從蓋爾語「Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain」演變而來的 Kilkerran，意指 Saint Kerran 的教堂，亦即今日的 Campbeltown。無論是甚麼名字也好，旗下有三線系列，包括：Springbank、Longrow 及 Hazelburn 的雲頂堅持傳承，固執讓這字號流傳至今，歷劫不死， 並成為威士忌的享譽極品，重掌血脈酒廠，如何也讓人心動付款吧？