When discussing Campbeltown and whisky today it’s relatively easy to focus upon Springbank or its nearby upstart Kilkerran. Often overlooked is another distillery a short walk from Springbank itself that dates back to 1832 and the golden age of Campbeltown’s status as the whisky capital of the world.
Glen Scotia was founded by two families eager to tap into the growing demand for Campbeltown’s industrial capacity for whisky. Whilst the number of distilleries in the town began to tumble and the prominence of Speyside distilleries gathered momentum with consumer tastes. Glen Scotia continued to survive where many others had shut their doors for good in the town. By 1895 the distillery had left the confines of family ownership before arriving in the hands of Highland Malt Distillers in 1919. Unfortunately, the collapse in demand for whisky brought partially about by the First World War and Prohibition forced the parent company to go bankrupt in 1924. With no sign of Prohibition ending, many distilleries in the town entered the history books with names such as Ardlussa, Argyll, Benmore, Burnside, Glengyle (now revived as Kilkerran) and Hazelburn never to return.
For Glen Scotia a previous owner stepped into the breach and ensured distillation continued but only until 1928. Unfortunately, the owner, David McCallum, drowned himself in Campbeltown Loch short afterward its closure. Eerily the loch was created to provide a water source to Glen Scotia distillery. New owners revived production by 1933 and at last Glen Scotia settled into a sustained period of operation. During the 1950’s acquisitions were commonplace throughout the whisky industry with companies growing in size and acquiring distilleries to support their significant range of blended whiskies. Hiram Walker purchased Glen Scotia in 1954 but it was a short-lived tenure with A. Gillies & Company taking over the reins in 1955.
You’ll have noticed very little is mentioned so far about expanding or refurbishing Glen Scotia but some much needed investment did finally arrive in 1979 with a reconstruction project lasting 3 years. This was fortunate timing as whilst the demand globally for whisky was declining, prompting many old distilleries to be mothballed or closed for good. Glen Scotia was in the midst of being redeveloped and arguably this may have safeguarded its future. Other distilleries outside of Campbeltown such as Glenury Royal, Brora and Banff were not as fortunate. Once the work was completed, Glen Scotia only returned to production for a couple of years before closing in 1984 due to the aforementioned fall in demand.
It wasn’t until 1989 with the arrival of Gibson International that production resumed once again. Another change of ownership prompted another period of closure during the 1990’s as the expected growth in whisky demand did not retaliate until after the millennium. It was just prior to this calendar milestone that production resumed at Glen Scotia assisted by the knowledge and manpower of the Springbank workforce. We’re now seeing some of the casks from this period appearing at retail often bottled by Cadenheads and their quality is excellent.
2000 itself marked a change in hands and a dedicated Glen Scotia team under the name of Loch Lomond distillers. For several years they admirably kept things running at the distillery often with a mindboggling array of releases. A new owner and increased capital was required and this arrived in 2014 with a private equity firm. This has prompted further investment of the distillery and as a brand itself. A new range of whiskies was launched in 2015 displaying a new-found confidence and tapping into the impressive warehouse inventory. New expressions included the popular Double Cask and a variety of specific age statements at affordable prices.
Today Glen Scotia looks to the future with increased sales, a higher profile and continued support from Campbeltown and visitors to the region eager to discover the fine whiskies the resident trio of distilleries produce.