Campbeltown Chronicles: Part 1

The Campbeltown Malts Festival takes place in May each year and the drive there was both entertaining and enlightening due, in no uncertain terms, to the inimitable and refreshingly un-British Viva Lenoir. After picking Viva up at 8:30am, before we had even hit the Maybury junction, I concluded that the wonderful Scottish expression ‘aff yer heid’ could well have been invented just for her. Our first stop en route to the wee Toon was Auchentoshan.

still house
Due to our timings, the only tour we could book on was The Wee Tasting Tour. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much. I had previously visited Auchentoshan a few years before and didn’t think it would be much different to then. It’s safe to say that I was proved wrong by our superb guide, Jeremy. With so many opportunities for distillery visitor centres these days to use technology and gimmicks to create interactive experiences, sometimes the most important resource is overlooked: personality. Jeremy was both engaging as well as knowledgeable and, simply, a really good laugh; his enthusiasm was contagious.

The tour ended with a tasting of three of the core range: American Oak, 12 years and Three Wood. There was also an Auchentoshan and IPA cocktail to taste. As I’ve probably mentioned before, cocktails aren’t really my thing so, for me, the best bit was the eeny teeny mugs they were served in which we were allowed to keep. This is just as well as I strongly suspect they may have ‘accidentally’ fallen in to Viva’s bag anyway…

Auchentoshan mug

After our visit to Auchentoshan, we headed along the A82 a little further to Loch Lomond distillery. Although not open to the public, as such, Derrick, the distillery manager, was kind enough to give us a quick tour before he needed to head off to a meeting.

Loch Lomond distillery

This is a distillery which has interested me since tasting the single grain whisky (made from 100% malted barley) during a recent tweet tasting.  The distillery was unique when it first opened in 1994, as it was the only distillery in Scotland which produced both malt and grain whisky. The set up is extraordinary: straight neck pot stills alongside swan neck pot stills, grain coffey stills as well as a coffey still creating spirit from 100% malted barley.

As the latter is not made in a copper pot still, it can’t be called a single malt and, therefore, has to be labelled as a single grain whisky.  At the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to nose some of the new make spirit both from Loch Lomond and Glen Scotia distilleries, comparing and contrasting the very different styles.

new make spirit

By this time, we were starving and it was time for lunch. As much as I loved looking around Loch Lomond distillery, I have to admit that it isn’t situated in the most picturesque of locations. So, passing swiftly by the requisite industrial estate burger van, we stopped at Colquhoun’s, overlooking the loch itself. Nice food and, as views go, not too shabby at all.

We were then back on our way to Campbeltown. The next few hours flew by as Viva and I put the world to rights and she started her list of expressions which, one day, might just end up being printed on to t-shirts.

We arrived at Rhoin Farm shortly after two of our housemates, Florian and Stefan. When Jo and Klaus arrived shortly after us, our Campbeltown family was complete.


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