Time passes so quickly, when you fill yourself with fun, laughter, and… a lot of work. Before we knew it, we were halfway through the week and having graduated from the warehouse and malt barns, more adventures await as we moved into the second half of Whisky School. Read about Part 1
During our time at Whisky School, we also got some special tastings and will share more about our warehouse tastings and our tour of Kilkerran in another post!
Day 3 lighting the Longrow Fire
What’s unique about Springbank is that they produce 3 different expressions of whisky from the same distillery. Longrow is the heavily peated range, which has phenolic levels of between 50-55 ppm. We were lucky to see how Longrow was produced because this limited expression (~10% of total production) is only produced once a year!
We started the day by putting away the barley floor, shovelling the barley down a chute into an enclosed brick-walled level beneath the kiln. We then had to spread out the barley evenly on the floor for even drying, this also to ensure the consistency of smoke for the peated malts.
It was time to light the fire, and John (what a good lad) who overheard me saying that Longrow is my favourite Springbank whisky, told me I could start the peat fire! It was as simple as lighting up a roll of discarded newspapers, and tossing it into the furnace. Soon enough, glowing embers and the characteristic smell of peat smoke surfaced. So if you like the peated notes of the Longrows distilled in 2018, when you do eventually try them years from now, please give us a shoutout!
Longrow is a laborious whisky to produce because the fire needs to be fed with peat every 10 minutes, for 48 hours! Starting with wet peat, then transitioning to dry peat, its a lot of hard work shovelling, transporting, and tossing the peat evenly into the furnace. Try doing all that with smoke and the heat of over 1000 degrees celsius engulfing your face.
The more time we spent in the distillery, the more we realised that shoveling is an invaluable skill; make sure you put that at the top of your resume if you’re applying for a job at Springbank!
Day 4 at the Still House
Day 4 allowed us to have extended time in the Still House, where Engineers, Chemists, Operations executives and Whisky lovers alike will be absolutely fascinated.
We spent the morning learning about the 3 different distillation processes for Springbank, Hazelburn and Longrow. Springbank is one of the last few distilleries that still uses the oil fired burner with a rummager – which stirs the wash slowly during distillation so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the still.
The 3 charts above contrast how Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn is made.
- Hazelburn: Triple distilled lowland style with no peat influence
- Springbank: Two and a half times distilled, lightly peated
- Longrow: Double distilled, heavily peated Islay style whisky
We stood in front of these charts for a long time, analysing the differences in the three different distillation processes. Something I didn’t realise before was the use of condenser versus the worm tub – a pretty controversial topic in Whisky on whether the old fashioned worm tub bring additional flavours to the distillate.
The process for Longrow only goes through the worm tub whereas Springbank and Hazelburn go through the condenser.
When we asked John about this, we found it was simply because the worm tub for Still No. 1 was replaced with the newer condenser when it began to leak and that they didn’t really think it made a big difference! How curious that the Longrow is my favourite, I’m still wondering if it might have something to do with the worm tub.
After which we were shown how the spirit is made. Starting with 5 hours of collecting low wines and feints in the charger tanks, the head then runs for about 5 hours and finally we get to the heart of the run in the Spirit safe – fresh, fruity, clear new-make spirit!
Over at the spirit still, Michael taught us how the different readings were done with the hydrometers and thermometers in order to determine the different cuts – the head, heart and finally the tail of the run.
The nicest thing about working at Springbank is how nurturing the team is… almost everyone has worked here for 10 years and more! John Wareham who works in the Still House has been with Springbank for 28 years – he distilled almost 3 decades of knowledge for us over the 5 days, and some nights!
Day 5 Graduation!
One of the best kept secrets of Whisky School, is the written exam that comes right at the end. It required the best of our scholastic (and collaborative) talents to complete and I’m glad we all passed with flying colours. Each of us graduated with a Diploma from Springbank Whisky School and had a Special Personalised Bottling presented to us by Findley and Gavin! This was followed by a sumptuous lunch prepared by Donald which included Haggis rolls, and gourmet sandwiches.
With such fond memories of our work at the distillery and the new found family… Springbank will taste even better for us, especially since we’ve been through the entire process of making the Spirit. We have a greater appreciation of how much tough work goes into making whisky, and most importantly, preserving the time-tested traditions and heritage of bringing a taste of wee Campbeltown to the World!
Big shoutout to our Springbank Family who made our week so memorable!
Gavin, Finlay, Janet, Gordon, Michael, Robert, John, John, Roddy, Ian, Kerry and Julie and her team
Also the guys from the Cadenheads shop: Mark, Donald, Cameron, Mitch and team
We can’t wait to be back for the Springbank Festival!!
The whisky school runs from April till June. If you’d like to attend the school, register your interest here! The waitlist can be up to 2 years – it’s well worth it!
Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed reading about Springbank School because we loved our time there. If you’d like to read more about our first distillery visit to Springbank, you can read our featured post on Greatdrams.com!
2 Replies to “Springbank Whisky School Part 2”
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