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Ardgowan spends £100m on Sherry casks

Scottish producer Ardgowan has signed a £100 million (US$112m) deal for a decades-long supply of Sherry casks and hired The Macallan’s ex-master of wood.

Ardgowan's director of investments, CEO and master of wood
L-R: Roland Grain, director of investments; CEO Martin McAdam; Stuart MacPherson, master of wood

Ardgowan, which will soon begin construction of its low-carbon distillery in Inverclyde, has partnered with Bodegas Miguel Martín, one of Spain’s oldest Sherry cask producers.

The move marks what is thought to be the first unique cask design in the Scotch whisky sector in more than a century.

Ardgowan Distillery has commissioned Bodegas Miguel Martín to construct sustainably sourced European oak casks, at a cost of 30 to 40 times more than standard whisky casks.

Roland Grain, principal shareholder at Ardgowan and director of investments, said: “The first batch of Ardgowan Infinity casks have already been manufactured and are now seasoning for at least two years in Bodegas’ dunnage warehouse in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

“While many distilleries tend to just finish their spirits in Sherry casks, our whisky will be matured for its whole life in these first-fill infinity casks. We have already spent more money on our casks than many others are investing into building a distillery.”

Macallan’s MacPherson joins Ardgowan

The distillery has also hired Stuart MacPherson from Edrington as its new master of wood. He brings 43 years of experience in managerial roles to Ardgowan, including more than a decade at The Macallan.

Ardgowan previously appointed Edrington’s Max McFarlane as its whisky maker.

Martin McAdam, CEO of Ardgowan Distillery, added: “With up to 80% of whisky aromas and flavours deriving from casks, it’s imperative to have a master of wood as experienced as Stuart to perfect our maturation process.

“The cask supply contract is an enormous commitment from Ardgowan and demonstrates our dedication to quality and our desire to create a fantastic whisky.

“The casks are specifically designed for long-maturation and will be seasoned with organic Sherry for 27 months – far longer than the industry standard of 12-18 months.”

Ardgowan’s CEO said the company had delayed the introduction of its single malt to “make sure we’re getting the most out of these special casks”.

Ardgowan is aiming to start production in 2024. It has secured a total funding package of £24m (US$27m) for the project to date.

The distillery has partnered with Heriot-Watt University and engineers Briggs of Burton to develop technology to capture all of the CO2 in its fermentation process and transform it into green biomethane. Ardgowan said the technique has never been used in a Scotch whisky distillery before.

The new facility is expected to create 47 jobs.

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