DISTILLING IN THE KINTYRE PENINSULA DATES BACK TO 1609 WITH THE GRANTING OF THE FIRST LICENCE TO PRODUCE ‘AQUA VITAE’. FOUNDED IN 1832, IN THE VICTORIAN AGE, CAMPBELTOWN WAS KNOWN AS THE WHISKY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD - ONE OF THE FIVE DISTINCTIVE MALT PRODUCING REGIONS OF SCOTLAND. GLEN SCOTIA IS A FINE EXAMPLE OF THIS HISTORIC STYLE, AND NOW, AS WE INTRODUCE AN EXTENDED RANGE, IT IS ABOUT TO BE DISCOVERED BY A NEW GENERATION.
CAMPBELTOWN WHISKY: Whisky making on the Campbeltown peninsula dates back to 1636 when a farm at Crosshill made a return for 6 quarts of Aqua Vitae payable to the town of Lochhead, the former name for Campbeltown. With the ready availability of local barley ‘bere’, peat for drying the malted barley and fresh water, the area became a rich bed of illicit whisky production through the late 18th century and the first years of the 19th century.
The final key element was the Armour family, a firm of local plumbers and coppersmiths, who arrived in Campbeltown in 1798. Robert Armour’s coppersmith business, set up in 1811, was the perfect cover for the manufacture of 4 part illicit stills made up of ‘The Vessel’, typically less than 40 gallons, ‘head , arm and the worm’. Robert Armour kept detailed records in his Still Book up until 1817. The map below shows the sites of all the stills supplied by Armour from 1811-1817.
THE DISTILLERY: Campbeltown or Lochhead as it was earlier known, was reportedly the ancient seat of the Scottish Parliament set up by King Fergus in 503AD. Indeed the site of the Glen Scotia distillery is built near to Campbeltown’s ancient parliament square. It is suggested that the Stone of Destiny, on which all Scottish monarchs were crowned, came from here.
Towards the southern end of the Mull of Kintyre, Campbeltown is an isolated, distinctive place. The whisky produced here is special too - so much so that it’s classified as a separate region, quite apart from the Highland, Speyside, Lowland and Islay whiskies which are perhaps better known today.
With an excellent water supply, easy access to peat and grain and a growing market in Victorian Britain and beyond, little Campbeltown had 28 distilleries by 1851, and proudly proclaimed itself ‘the whisky capital of the world’. Today only three distilleries remain, of which ours, Glen Scotia, is one of the finest in Scotland.