Kilkerran 8 Year Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky and the the history of Mitchell’s Glengyle distillery is a long and colourful one, but one which begins with a man named William Mitchell. William was the son of Archibald Mitchell, the founder of nearby Springbank Distillery. In the second half of the 1800s William ran Springbank Distillery in a partnership with his brother John, while the other brothers and sister were active running the old Rieclachan Distillery across the town. The family were not just distillers but also farmers, which was quite a common thing in those days. The growing of barley and production of farmers’ feed (a bi-product from mashing) meant that it made sense to run a distillery as well as being a farmer to keep the cost down. The farming element in the partnership with John didn’t run very smoothly – allegedly the two brothers had a quarrel about sheep – and this saw William leave the family business to start up his own venture, Glengyle Distillery on the corner of Glebe Street and Glengyle Road, just down the road from Springbank. Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery was founded by William Mitchell in 1872 and he ran the distillery as a sole proprietor.Like the majority of Campbeltown distilleries, Glengyle suffered greatly during the economic downturn at the beginning of the 20th century. It was bought by West Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd in 1919 then sold again in 1924 for the princely sum of £300, before production finally ceased altogether in 1925. The entire spirit stock from the Glengyle Distillery was auctioned off on the 8th of April that same year.
Despite not producing any more spirit, the Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery buildings remained in relatively constant use right up to modern days. In the 1920s the building was rented out to Campbeltown Miniature Rifle Club for a number of years and the buildings were later used a depot and sales office for an agricultural company and so it remained the best preserved of all the former Campbeltown distilleries.
Possibly because the buildings were so well preserved, a number of attempts have been made to re-open Glengyle Distillery in the past. The first was a mere 16 years after it had closed down when it was bought by the Bloch Brothers, then owners of Glen Scotia Distillery, who planned to rebuild and extend Glengyle. The war intervened however and nothing came of it. A further attempt was made in 1957 when Campbell Henderson applied for outline planning permission to undertake a £250,000 modernisation of Glengyle and re-open it but again nothing came of it. Third time lucky though as in November 2000, 75 years after Glengyle had last produced spirit, it was announced that the buildings had been bought by a new company, Mitchell’s Glengyle Limited, headed by Mr Hedley Wright, chairman of J&A Mitchell and Co Ltd, and great-great nephew of William Mitchell, original founder of Glengyle.
Why name the whisky Kilkerran?
Kilkerran is the name that was chosen for the single malt produced at Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery, there are two reasons for this. Firstly, because the name Glengyle is already used for a blended Highland malt and Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd were not able to purchase the rights to use that name. They also wished to avoid any possible confusion between the newest single malt to come from the Campbeltown region and a pre-existing blended Highland malt.
Secondly, and more importantly, Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd are very proud to be continuing and adding to the great Campbeltown Distilling tradition and the choice of name reflects that. Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Saint Kerran had his religious cell and where Campbeltown now stands. Kilkerran is thought to be a suitable name for a new Campbeltown malt since it was unusual for the old Campbeltown distilleries to be called after a Glen, a custom more usually associated with the Speyside region.