Springbank Hard to Find? Here's Why!
Updated: Aug 22
Managing to get hold of Springbank core range 10 and 15 has become a real challenge of recent. We are being very tongue-in-cheek, but we suggest if you are seeking to procure a bottle that you consider performing an SB rain dance (must be during a Thunderstorm on the 18th or 28th of the month), or, joining a local church (other religions are available) and putting in a bit of 'big man' dialogue time through some prayers. Maybe, if you visualise it enough, like an athlete trying to win the world 100 meter sprint record would do, then it will become reality! Picture the bottle appearing in your browser as you are casually browsing and imagine taking a calm sip of your coffee, whilst you diligently check the postage terms of the site, before proceeding in a leisurely fashion to buy that bottle, even taking time to browse other bottles on the site. Pinch yourself! This will never happen ever again - at least not in the next few years anyway. The horse has bolted.
Has our Springbank exasperation reached peaked levels? Sadly, we think it hasn't. Springbank, a family-owned distillery located in Campbeltown, Scotland, and the three brands they produce: Springbank (lightly peated), Longrow (heavily peated) and Hazelburn (non-peated) are incredibly hard to find and buy at RRP in 2023.
Springbank whisky is known for being extremely limited in its availability which makes it difficult to locate and buy. We look at why that is, and what your best options are to manage to snag a bottle.
Read ahead or check out our Honest to a Malt podcast episode on Springbank.
Finding Springbank hard to find? Here's why!
Limited Production Capacity
The maximum annual output of Springbank is 750,000 litres annually with that being roughly 80% Springbank, 10% Longrow and 10% Hazelburn. Then it is reported that Springbank only produce 30% of their overall capacity, or around that, which would be 225,000 litres. All 3 whiskies are casked at 63.5%, which is why some older expressions are often lower than 50% ABV. If this production capacity is compared to The Macallan, they can produce 15 million litres of alcohol a year, or for example Lagavulin which produces 1.4 million litres, or Ardbeg which produces 2 million litres a year.
Old-School Ways of Making Whisky
Springbank are proud of how they make whisky, preferring floor malting, which involves malting the barley on-site, and they have their own bottling line. These methods require more time and effort compared to modern industrial processes, limiting the volume of whisky that can be produced.
Storage and Aging
Springbank whiskies are renowned for the unique 'funk' notes, which is imparted from the dunnage warehousing by the sea, where casks are stored on floor level, rather than in large racks. Other distilleries store their casks often in a mixture of locations, partly for spreading risk and as they perhaps have a less strong cask storage identity. This ethos, and a focus on reaching older stock, creates limitations to the number of casks that can be stored, and thus limits supply growth.
Unlike the larger whisky producers, Springbank continues as an independent and family-owned business, which gives them the ability to concentrate on product and quality. The distribution networks and marketing resources are not on the scale of other globally demanded brands, and that likely suits Springbank, due to limitations in supply. Even if they could scale supply, and maintain quality, it might be challenging.
Growing Popularity and Demand
In the last 10 years, demand for Springbank (according to Google) has tripled. In the same time demand for Benromach has stayed flat, and Ardbeg has only grown slightly. Whilst Ardbeg has higher demand overall (approx. 2.5 times that of Springbank) it also has a much larger production capacity. Ardbeg also run direct to consumer for special releases, whereas Springbank continue to push limited editions through established retail and other channels. The rapid increase in the value of Springbank on the secondary market has meant more of the released bottles get collected, or sold on auctions websites, which further reduces the availability of Springbank at RRP to folks that want to drink it. Bottles of the core range 15 sell for £120 to £140 at time of article, which is 60% to 85% over RRP.
Allocations and Priority Lists
Springbank itself has a club that cannot be joined, as it is full up, whereas Ardbeg have an online email barrier to becoming a ‘commitee member’ to be able to buy special release. Then some retailers and distributors of Springbank have allocation and ballot systems in place due to the limited supply of Springbank whiskies. They may prioritise certain customers, such as high spending customers, longstanding customers or members of whisky clubs. All in all, this makes the barrier to entry difficult to being able to forge a relationship with a local retailer and thus makes it more difficult for new customers to access the Springbank whisky.
How to Snag a Springbank!
Pay close attention to release windows so you can be vigilant. Free-up time to 'wait for the drop'.
Check with your local retailers if they will be stocking Springbank and whether it will be in-shop, via ballot, allocated to high spend customers, or just sold online.
Plan a trip to the distillery (in a car with a large enough boot) for you and your friends to get a few bottles. If you do go to the distillery, the handfill bottles are good value (as at time of posting this article, £55) and cask strength.
Sign up for ballots, and obviously the more the better.
Join the bot community. We have no idea how this works, but it's what some people use to buy whisky and is referenced since 2020. Now we are in 2023 we assume bot influence and disruption in automated buying is even more prominent.
Browse auctions and pay attention to the price trends. Never buy a bottle on an auction website immediately after release. This is when prices peak in the short term, before usually dropping, then steadily climbing.
See if a friend can help you out. They might have a connection, or be able to get more than one bottle of something.
Join in on a bottle / sample split to try some of the releases without having to actually get a whole bottle.
See if you are close to a bar or pub that stocks Springbank, and go and have a dram and a chat!
Failing all this, or if this (and it probably is too much effort), consider to broaden your horizons. Pay more attention to other distilleries with similar (not the same) salty, coastal, funky profiles. Perhaps the most obvious from Campbeltown is Glen Scotia, then Kilkerran. In Speyside, Benromach, extols some of the same virtues through its Dunnage warehouses and distillate profile. Another option, is to look at Tobermory (Ledaig) and whilst there are obvious differences, they tick some of the same lovely boxes with salinity, dirtiness, fruitiness, peat and depending on the cask, can really hit that Springbank spot!