Springbank is one of Scotland’s many distilleries to be legitimately founded on the site of an illicit still. In 1837 the distillery was bought by the Mitchell family making this the longest family-owned distillery in Scotland. The distillery is based in Campbeltown, once referred to as ‘the whisky capital of the world’. Sadly, prohibition and the great depression laid claim to the crash of over 25 Campbeltown distilleries, and in light of this hardship it is inspiring that Springbank, thankfully, not only survived but flourished; all whilst resolute in their commitment to doing things uniquely.
Springbank’s continued passion for traditional whisky production is still evident as they remain one of the only distilleries in Scotland to complete the entire process onsite - from malting their own barley to bottling the final product. Springbank are proud to produce three distinctly different styles of malt from their distillery: Springbank, a medium peated whisky produced using a 2.5 distillation; Longrow, a heavily peated double-distilled whisky, and Hazelburn, a triple distilled and lightly peated whisky.
The Local Barley series is one of Springbank’s most highly anticipated releases. The series sees the distillery use only locally grown barley from neighbouring farms to create something that is uniquely Campbeltown. It may sound humdrum, but even today many distillery operations and resultant expressions carry very little that is truly ‘local’.
The first of these local expressions was released back in 1988 and limited to just 687 bottles. The expressions came with greater momentum in the 1990s, and a series of batches from 1965 to 1966 have since set a benchmark of extraordinary quality in the whisky industry. They all boasted great age statements, ranging from 30 to 36 years of age, and all hold impressive ABVs of 50% and above even after decades spent in cask. These vintages are recognised for capturing the how and why from a period often referred to as the 'golden era of whisky production', expressing the differences in the industry at the time such as barley strains, yeast types, quality of sherry casks etc.
Undoubtedly the greatest examples of Springbank’s legendary Local Barley series hail from the 1966 vintage. Whether from ex-bourbon or sherry casks, these whiskies offer profound directness, freshness and concentration of character. The run of casks 443, 442 & 441 all bottled in 1990 at natural strength were nourished by the kind of unctuous, almost resinous old sherry cask that is quite thoroughly unobtainable today. The resultant whiskies offer a level of leathery concentration and earthy density that is hard to rival. While in comparison the numerous bourbon hogsheads which followed often revealed the inherent exotic lusciousness of the Springbank distillate. Flavour profiles which balanced coastal softness, vivid tropical fruits and textural, mouth-coating waxiness. Characteristics which could only be obtained by time, gentle wood and masterful whisky making.
Rare whisky expert, Angus MacRaild
Although these releases don't feature the Local Barley name or today's recognisable label, they are now recognised as an early part of the Local Barley series which was formally named and introduced in the 2000s. Springbank have said that the Local Barley series was initially introduced as a 5-year series, however, is now a part of their annual plans for the foreseeable future - to much delight of whisky fans.
The Local Barley series, now totalling over 50 expressions, has built a reputation for outstanding quality among whisky collectors and fans, becoming one the hottest collector's lines from the distillery. It is perhaps one of the reasons behind Springbank's meteoric rise in recent years with it not only top of the list in Rare Whisky 101s investor rankings in 2019 but also within the top 5 distilleries searched for on Whisky Auctioneer in 2020.
Interested in the detail? Download our infographic on Springbank distillery's production process and unique 2.5 distillation regime. We have also compiled a table with details on all Local Barley releases to date which you can download below.