Back on the map – Glen Scotia's growth is helping Campbeltown return to its glory days

The success of yet another distillery can only be good for this famous whisky region, writes Sean Murphy

Published 1st Jun 2017
Updated 1 st Jun 2017

There are few more impressive sights than a Scotch distillery on the make and in the rise of Glen Scotia, we are also seeing the resurrection of one of Scotland’s famous ­whisky regions.

Famed in Victorian times for its production of Scotland’s national drink, Campbeltown suffered badly when the great depression hit in the 1920s and prohibition in the USA, which lasted until the 1930s, added a further blow to demand.

As ­Callum Fraser, the knowledgeable tour manager for the distillery, explained: “There were once over 30 distilleries in the region, but after Rieclachan closed over 80 years ago only ourselves and Springbank were left.”

Since 2004, the pair have been joined by Glengyle, the first new distillery to open in Campbeltown since the aforementioned Rieclachan’s untimely demise in the 1930s.

Previously described as the ­“whisky capital” of the world, this once thriving area had been almost left behind by the single malt boom, with only Springbank holding its own against the growing success of larger distilleries elsewhere.

Thankfully, in the past decade or so, Glen Scotia, which came under the ownership of the Loch Lomond Group in 2014, has undergone a transformation, shedding some of the questionable packaging choices of the previous regime, and enjoying significant investment and a stability it hasn’t had for a very long time.

This sea change was exemplified in an impressive showing at this year’s Campbeltown Whisky Festival, in which the distillery drew in large crowds to an open day that saw hundreds of people attending tours and tastings.

The event followed a successful dinner the night before, in which the Ardshiel Hotel had to accommodate the large number of extra guests who turned up to watch as distillery manager Iain McAlister and whisky expert Charles MacLean held a tasting of several of the brand’s bottlings, including their latest festival expression.

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MacLean was also on hand to help launch the 25-year-old single malt, the oldest bottling the brand has released and the newest expression in Glen Scotia’s growing core range.

With this continued success, Glen Scotia, and the Campbeltown region as a whole, are once again firmly back on the whisky map.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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