Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to malt, distill, mature and bottle on the same site. It manages to do this while operating a highly complex distillation regime, which creates three different styles.
The equipment at Springbank is resolutely old-style: an old Boby mill, an open-top cast-iron mash tun, wooden washbacks made from boatskin larch; and three stills, direct fire on one of them, a worm tub on another.
The malt is handled in three ways to produce three contrasting whiskies – Springbank itself is medium-peated, Longrow is heavily peated, while Hazelburn has no peat at all. Ferments are very long – in excess of 100 hours; with low-gravities which both produces a low-strength wash and high levels of esters. This fruity base is then distilled in three different ways, depending on the style being produced.
Springbank is partially triple-distilled. The wash still (which is direct fired) works as normal producing low wines, the strongest portion of which are directed to the spirit still charger. The remainder is redistilled in the intermediate still (which has a worm tub) and put into the feints receiver along with the heads and tails from the spirit still distillation.
This mix makes up 80% of the final charge, with the strong portion of low wines from the wash still making up the remaining 20%.
Unsurprisingly, the result is a highly complex new make that is collected at an average strength of 71-72% – lightly smoky, oily, fruity, delicately fragrant yet powerful.
Longrow is heavier and smokier – the malted barley obviously playing a significant part, but so does distillation in the direct-fired wash still and second distillation in the spirit still which has the worm tub. It is collected at 68%, lower than Springbank.
Hazelburn undergoes standard triple distillation and is collected at between 74-76% abv.
Maturation for all three is in a mix of casks – as well as the standard ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry and refill, other types [wine and rum] and sizes [60 litre ‘rundlets' and 50 litre ‘kilderkins’] are used.