Major investment paves way for new Ardgowan distillery and visitor centre

Work will begin this year to build a new distillery on the Ardgowan Estate near Inverkip after Ardgowan Distillery today confirmed an £8.4 million equity investment into the business.

Major investment paves way for new Ardgowan distillery and visitor centre

The site of Ardgowan Distillery

The substantial new equity, £7.2m of which comes from Austrian investor Roland Grain and the balance from new and existing shareholders, will allow Ardgowan to commence construction of its one million litre single malt distillery and visitor centre.

The distillery is also in discussion with a loan provider that will provide additional debt funding for the flagship project in the coming weeks.

Mr Grain is the founder, owner and CEO of IT company Grain GmbH which operates 17 countries worldwide. He has a long track record of investment in distilleries.

“My passion for whisky began as a teenager in Austria when I began to collect Scotch whisky and today I am thrilled to become the major shareholder in the Ardgowan Distillery,” he said. “My wish is for this project to create a lasting connection to the community and produce the highest possible quality whisky and over time achieve the lowest possible CO2 footprint.”

Mr Grain added: “The company founders Martin McAdam, Alan Baker and I have a shared vision of what we can achieve. Already they have built a strong team around them – not least their chairman Willie Phillips and their whisky maker Max McFarlane – and together we will craft the finest quality single malt whisky based on the extraordinary location of the Ardgowan Estate and the unusual microclimate of the Inverkip area.

“My hope is that the distillery will become a landmark building and a significant tourist attraction in the years ahead, and I very much look forward to seeing work commence this year.  

“Ardgowan Estate is less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow and in 2019 Greenock welcomed more than 100,000 cruise ship visitors, so I believe there is a great opportunity to capture this market with a first-class food, drink and retail tourist experience. We estimate the distillery and visitor centre will create up to 30 new jobs within five years.”

Grain has a highly successful record of investing in the spirits industry. He started with a small investment in the Cotswolds Distillery and continued with investments in Manly Spirits (Sydney, Australia), the East London Liquor Company and Potstill Spirits Trading – Austria’s largest whisky importer. Most recently he has become a 20% shareholder in UK spirits business Distil Plc.

Distillery CEO Martin McAdam said: “Roland Grain is a brilliant and passionate cornerstone investor who has global experience in investing in a whole range of spirits businesses. He is a genuine whisky enthusiast who has visited distilleries all over Scotland, and he has a clear vision for the project which is very much aligned with ours; based on place, provenance and people.

“This is terrific news for the project and for Inverclyde. We have put a lot of the uncertainty of Brexit behind us and we hope that Covid will also soon be a distant memory.

“Over the past few years, we have used the time well to build up our team and craft some fantastic, blended malt whiskies, sourcing some of the finest casks from across Scotland. We are hugely proud of our Expedition and Clydebuilt whiskies which have won industry recognition and continue to gather a growing fanbase of customers.”

Local MSP Stuart McMillan added: “I welcome this large investment in the Ardgowan Distillery project and my constituency. The Ardgowan Distillery will not only create 30 new jobs but will put Inverclyde on the global whisky map once again. This is an exciting project and I look forward to seeing the business grow, with Inverclyde being found in many more homes and businesses across the world.”

Sir Ludovic Shaw-Stewart the 12th Baronet at Ardgowan Estate also welcomed the news: “This project is an important contribution to the continuing re-development of Ardgowan Estate. Together Ardgowan House, Castle & Gardens and Ardgowan Distillery will create a compelling destination which can draw visitors from all around the world.”

The first phase of the distillery will incorporate two copper stills and six washbacks, with a planned output of one million litres per annum. Future output can be doubled via the addition of two further stills plus washbacks in an already-approved second phase.

The new distillery will resurrect the name of the Ardgowan Distillery, which was founded in 1896 and located in Baker Street, Greenock. After a few years of whisky production, the distillery was used to make grain spirt and industrial alcohol until it was destroyed in the May Blitz of 1941.

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