Inverclyde distillery signs £100 million ‘infinity cask’ deal

Date Posted: 2 Mar, 2023

Image: Left to right – Ardgowan Distillery’s director of investments Roland Grain, chief executive Martin McAdam, and new master of wood Stuart MacPherson

Inverclyde’s first zero-carbon distillery has signed a £100m deal with one of Spain’s oldest sherry cask producers to secure a decades long supply of ‘infinity casks’.

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

It is believed to be the first unique cask design for the Scottish whisky industry in more than 100 years.

The first batch of these casks has already been manufactured and are now seasoning for at least two years in Bodegas’ dunnage warehouse in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

As the £20m distillery building project nears a construction start date, Ardgowan has also appointed a new master of wood, Stuart MacPherson. Joining from Edrington, he brings 43 years of experience in managerial roles at some of the world’s most successful spirits companies, including more than a decade as master of wood for The Macallan.

Martin McAdam, chief executive of Ardgowan Distillery, said: “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 Ardgowan Infinity cask is specifically designed for us and is the first unique cask design for the Scottish Whisky industry in over a century.

“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 to 18 months.”

Roland Grain, the principal shareholder at Ardgowan and director of investments, commented: “Our partnership with Bodegas Miguel Martín is indicative of our commitment to creating what we hope to be the finest whisky in the world.

“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.”

Ardgowan Distillery revealed plans for its ‘cathedral of whisky’ distillery in 2021 – with first production scheduled for 2024.

A total funding package of £24m has been secured for the project so far, with the distillery recently raising in excess of £3.6m via a convertible loan note to shareholders.

Grain added: “We’re fortunate to have received excellent financial support from investors so far as we commit to delivering to a true low carbon distillery, and shortly we will be announcing our Clan Ardgowan programme enabling whisky lovers around the world to join our crusade.”

In addition to creating 47 local jobs for Inverclyde, the distillery has invested in new technologies to put sustainability at the heart of its plans, partnering with Heriot-Watt University and engineers Briggs of Burton to develop pioneering technology to capture all of the CO2 in its fermentation process and transform it into green biomethane.