Whisky Advocate

Springbank Update

November 21st, 2008

I received this note from Frank McHardy, Director of Production at Springbank. It went out earlier this morning to me (and other select media sources). This is great to see Springbank starting back up in 2009, as they promised they would

(And yes, I was the writer referring to Springbank as the “canary in the coal mine,” with regards to what might be happening to the whisky industry, in the current issue of Malt Advocate.)

Here’s the letter from Frank:

It is now nearly six months since we took the difficult decision to temporarily suspend  the production of spirit from both  Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries. There were a few contributing factors which led to our decision and these included the high price of electricity, oil, empty casks and barley. The Still House roof also required replacing and this has now been completed. Our warehouses were pretty full of maturing stock but with bottling continuing to fulfil demand world wide for our products more warehouse space is now available. Six months ago we said that  “the material market will be kept under continuous review” and “we can now clarify that we will commence production from both of our distilleries during early 2009.”

The price of utilities has dropped dramatically recently and we will take advantage of this to get the distilleries producing again. J & A Mitchell have recently been reported by one whisky writer to be like “the canary in the coal mine.” If you remember coal miners used to use a canary as an early warning system to detect gas at the coal face . We reckon that we have recognised the warning signals early enough and acted sensibly to protect our brands, and of course the canary. After 180 + years in distilling we think that we know how to react to trends within our industry.

This year we commissioned local farmer Robert Miller to grow 25 acres of Optic barley. The crop has produced 50 tonnes of barley which now lies in our barley loft and we await the barley to come out of dormancy. Distillery Manager Stuart Robertson is carrying out weekly “mini steeps” of the barley in small plastic food containers, they actually look suspiciously like his sandwich box. Once the barley “wakes up” and can germinate we will start malting. The local barley supplemented with malted barley already stored in our malt storage bins will ensure production of spirit at both our distilleries for up to six months next year. Great news.

F. McHardy

11 Responses to “Springbank Update”

  1. Mike Dereszynski says:

    Hi John,
    Great news.
    I got an early ear on this from Mark Gilespie’s (WhiskyCast) interview with Peter Currie during your N.Y.Whiskyfest.
    Perhaps if our “Directors” in Washington and on Wall Street had Frank’s economical sense and “recognized the warning signals early enough and acted sensibly” we wouldnt be knee deep in canaries.
    If my wallet is still my wallet come 2009,I hope to visit Campbeltown.Do you think Frank and Peter have anything special planned for next year? Besides having 180 years of distilling under their still house roof,its also the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns and the anticipated year of the Homecoming or Gathering of the Clans.I’m looking at my 1965 Local Barley and thinking “Happy Days Are Here Again”
    Heres hoping a continued long life to Frank,Peter and Campbeltown and that our microdistillers and historical distillers can someday talk of 180 years of making the spirit.
    Mike Dereszynski

  2. John Hansell says:

    Mike, Springbank has some good reasons now to put out something special next year. Let’s hope they do (and hope that we still have money to partake).

  3. Harvey Fry says:

    Springbank (Longrow, Hazelburn, Glengyle) is what it’s all
    about. they don’t need naked ladies & other superfluous
    nonsense to sell their very fine products. they know you
    know WHAT’S IN THE BOTTLE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF & tells
    you all you need to know. of course, ‘THE’ GREAT ONES
    (Macallan, the handbag people & a few others) know too.
    but, they also know the fancy packaging makes it all look
    like much more than it is. & even if it isn’t, the increase
    in the price to you is always going to be a whole lot more
    than it costs them to dress it up.

    most of these masters of our whisky universe are good &
    strong enough to survive the coming bust. hopefully, at
    least some of their excessive performance art gimmickry
    (not to mention down right rip-offs)’ll go (good riddance)
    off into the great slithery fog from whence it came. then,
    with a li’l’luck, it’ll take its time coming back.

    Springbank, not having to pay severance to the ride in &
    out cockroaches, will do just fine. +, if they put out a li’l’
    something special next year, we can expect it to be fairly
    priced. at least it will if Henry Preiss doesn’t do his ‘what
    the traffic will bear’ (the special 21 & 32 were marked up
    nearly 100 percent over the going price in the UK) 2 step
    turnaround on it. &, if things look then like they look like
    they’re going to look now, he wouldn’t dare. besides, i
    hear (now that he’s sold the company) he’s back out in
    the great outdoors cavorting with the customers & doing
    the kind of things he loves.

    hey John, i understand your not wanting to climb too far
    out on limbs. but, when you know something exciting is
    going on over there, i really believe you could come to
    have enough clout to influence its spread by persistently
    asking the right questions &, maybe even once in a while,
    weighing in on its prospects over here. if you don’t want
    the extra work (+ the power that might come with it) i’ll
    let it go. but, please think about it. with the troubles
    coming, i think the American consumer is gonna be very
    much in need of some kind of arbiter/ombudsman going
    to bat for him. who could do it better than you?

    also, please let me know if/when my stuff gets a li’l’ too
    blogsy? i realize i sometimes ride/dance pretty close to
    the line between good fun & a fairly dark vulpine vim.

  4. John Hansell says:

    Mike, Harvey: There’s always been a special place in my heart for Springbank. I have more Springbank (and Longrow) bottles than any other distillery. I’m looking for good things from Springbank in the future.

    And Harvey, don’t worry. I will go out on a limb as far as my time allows me to. I’m not afraid to go out on limbs. There’s just too many limbs and I have to pick and choose which one to go out on.

  5. Louis says:

    Hi John,

    Let me second the motion in hoping that upcoming older Springbank and Longrow releases are resonably priced in the US. But The Whisky Exchange lists the Longrow CV for L24.67 w/o VAT, and the best price that I have seen here is $60

    Slainte.

    Louis

  6. T-Bone says:

    Springbanks and their cousins are among the small select few craft whiskies (we know who the other ones are, and they as a group generally do not feature naked ladies to attract attention to their product). I love the idiosyncratic character of Springbank and it will be well worth the wait.

    As for the UK/US price difference? We’ve been Preiss-gouged again!

  7. Peter Currie says:

    Hi John,

    I’m sure that you have covered most of these issues before, but i think some of the criticism towards Preiss Imports is a bit unfair.

    To buy Longrow CV in the UK, with VAT, would cost £29.00. 6 months ago that was about $60. To have it shipped to the America will cost £10/£15 per bottle, not much of a saving.

    Preiss Imports have to work within the constraints of the three-tier system. They have to pay licensing fees for each different label in each different state, and have 3 extra companies/brokers needing their margin before it hits the shelves. Add this with a strong pound over the last few years and the price soon shoots up.

    Hopefully this info will go some way to answering questions on pricing, although I’m sure it doesn’t make it any easier to part with hard-earned cash.

    cheers

    Peter

  8. John Hansell says:

    Peter, re-directing our attention on the original theme of the posting, it’s great that Springbank will be opening up again. Can you offer any insights on possible new bottlings in 2009?

  9. Peter Currie says:

    Hi John,

    2009 promises to be a very exciting year for all involved with Springbank.

    The next bottling in the Wood Expression range will bottled in January, and is a Springbank 11 Year Old, which has spend its full maturation in ex-Madeira Casks. 9990 bottles

    Springbank 18 Year Old will also be released in March next year. We have a collection of casks from 1989, 1990 and 1991 that Frank and Stuart will vat together for release in 2009. The Springbank 18 year old will become part of the standard range with an initial release of 7920 bottles.

    Hazelburn will reach 12 Years Old in June and we will be releasing approx. 4000 bottles of Hazelburn 12 year old, using whisky from 1997, the first year old distillation.

    Perhaps the most exciting of all will be the Kilkerran “work in progress.” Mitchell’s Glengyle distillery opened in 2004, and we will be releasing an un-aged (5 year old) kilkerran to map the maturation of Campbeltown newest “old’ distillery.

    We are also hoping to release Springbank “vintage” range. Until now we have had problems getting the label approved by the A.F.T. as apparently we can not use the word vintage on the label of a distilled spirit. We are once again looking at altering the label for Batch 3 to see if we can get approval.

    Surely these releases will get us a nomination for distiller of the year? We have canaries to feed!

    cheers

    Peter

  10. B.J. Reed says:

    I visited Springbank in 2004 and I don’t think I have seen such a rustic, unreconstructed distillery in all my years of visiting Scotland – The wooden racks that housed their casks scared the hell out of me (thought they would fall down at any moment) – Of course there was no visitors center (had to go to the Cadenhead shop) and some of their equipment was, shall we say, vintage. I hope any renovation maintains the feel of Springbank but don’t modernize too much! While I am not Springbank freak I do like the whisky and their commitment to quality.

  11. John Hansell says:

    BJ, my first visit there was in 1991. (That was back when Gordon Wright was still working there. He gave me the tour.) The floor maltings were still not being used. And yes, I saw plenty of “vintage” equipment.

    I was lucky because that’s right around when they released the two “Green” Springbanks, and I was able to snag a bottle of each at the Eaglesome’s shop just down the road. I stil have been able to talk myself into opening them. I turn 50 in 2010. Maybe then.

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