After a 20 year career at the world renowned Laphroaig distillery, in 2021 John Campbell decided it was time for pastures new.
He left his role at the Islay distillery to take up a new challenge at Lochlea, in Ayrshire, a fledgling distillery with hopes of creating something special.
The distillery is one of only a handful in Scotland using its own grown barley, from the farm where it lies, with plans to become a single site distillery.
Lochlea is making a name for itself in the industry, with a limited edition series that ties into the seasons on the farm, with fitting names like Fallow, Harvest and Sowing.
And now they have just released their five-year-old single malt, which shows Lochlea at its oldest age so far.
It’s a new challenge for production director and master blender John, who doesn’t have a 200 year old history to fall back on if things don’t go to plan.
‘It was hard to leave Laphroaig , but it was the correct time for me in my career and I still have my house and family on Islay so I get my Islay return every couple of months,’ John said.
‘The pressure is on at Lochlea as we don’t have 200 years of heritage to fall back on and we need to keep improving all the time as the whisky gets older and more complex, we need to show its full potential.
‘It’s a more dynamic flow to working in a small business versus a corporate structure – things move faster.’
But there is more creative freedom for John in starting something new with no expectations.
‘Ultimately yes there is more creative freedom, and it comes from the place where customers don’t have any concept of who or what we were,’ he said.
‘That’s our job now to build that image and to show consumers what Lochlea will become and I think we have done a very good job so far.
‘The whisky really comes from the DNA of Ayrshire. We are integrated into South Ayrshire and want to deepen the roots in our community.
‘Growing our barley here on the farm helps as part of that and we have plans to develop all facets of this.
‘Ultimately the goal is to become a single site distillery and that is the biggest way for Lochlea to reach our environmental, quality and sustainability targets for the brand.
‘The 5 year old is a marriage of different flavour profiles and it shows Lochlea at its oldest age so far.
‘The spirit is developing different characteristics as it ages, this is part of the fun right now in understanding this development.
‘The liquid itself is more viscous, fruity and shows floral and cereal notes. It is our best liquid so far.
‘We released this very limited edition on Burns Night, as a nod to Robert Burns who once worked the land here, and we’ve been delighted to see how popular it has proved to be.
‘This does mean that it may now be very difficult to get hold of a bottle.
‘Whisky means everything and I think coming from a huge whisky community I feel it’s intertwined in being part of the fabric of who you are.
‘It also means fun and social occasions to me and I just like being with whisky people.’