Bar Tab: Springbank Dram Tent

“Is this a festival of whisky or a festival of queueing?” asks one mid-morning arrival on Well Close as numerous young men with cases of whisky pass between the long queues of slightly impatient and mostly damp attendees. A restorative slice and scone piece and a coffee later, and the queues have dwindled, but not the rain. The first tent in the courtyard is doing a roaring trade in brollies and bar tokens. The dram tent – with a menu as long as a distillery manager’s odd jobs list during silent season – beckons; the crowds steaming and streaming at the flap. Inside is conviviality, community and a few Germans trying to sneak a crafty ciggie. Discussion of the whiskies takes centre stage; tales telt about Springbank origin stories. No one will admit to anything less than a long-running love affair with the obdurate old lady of the wee toon – there are no arrivistes here. They left with their six bottles at 10:05. But as sales remain steady across the dividing row of casks at the bottle shop, the two per-person rule is less observed as the day progresses and the dram bar pours get slightly larger, but still not large enough for one Scandinavian gentleman who huffs his way to the back of the queue again. Outside a brass band plays giving even its Abba covers the flavour of a Christmas carol. It is a festival after all. Underfoot, the grass turns to mud, turns to puddles and plastic dram cups fall to the floor. New friends drift and sway, the stories getting less believable, the commitment and the hip flasks getting wilder and wilder. “Will you be on Islay too?” we ask – “Nah, too expensive, it’s a just money making scheme these days” comes the reply from a man who takes a swig from his commemorative Campbeltown Malts Festival Glencairn (yours for £6) and looks down at £130 of whisky – just over a litre of it – sitting in a soggy brown paper bag at his feet. “Umbrellas are available in the shop” trills the Tannoy, cheeringly. (Well Close, Campbeltown, @springbank1828 – open one day a year). Read more Bar Tabs here.