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The distillery will be unique: it is a Lowland distillery with maritime characteristics, given its close proximity to the sea and the Gulf Stream. It’s the perfect place to distil Single Malt because of the quality of the water from the local spring which is beautifully clean and sweet - it has been analysed in the laboratories of Scottish Water and is perfect for producing a classic, lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
WATER Water is the life blood of distilleries and the local spring that provides the Ardgowan Distillery with its pure water is part of a network of springs that has been used since the foundation of the estate over 600 years ago. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce camped near the spring and his weary horse drank deeply from its sweet waters. Inverclyde gives its name to the carboniferous lithostratigraphic group (a sequence of rock strata) in southern Scotland and northernmost England. The rocks of the Inverclyde Group have also previously been referred to as the Cementstone Group and Stirling Group. The group comprises sandstones with limestones and dolomites and some mudstone and lesser amounts of siltstone.
The distillery will be located on Ardgowan Estate, within 45 minutes of Glasgow by car, 10 minutes’ walk from Inverkip Marina, close to the Inverkip railway station, which has a frequent service from Glasgow, and a mere 15 minutes from the cruise ship terminal at Greenock. All of which make it a perfect location with easy access for creating a quality visitor experience.
The distillery will also provide an entry point to the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park which is Scotland’s largest regional park. The park incorporates the Loch Thom reservoir, named after the civil engineer Robert Thom, who designed the scheme in 1827 to deliver water via a long aqueduct known as “The Cut” to power heavy industry (and provide fresh water) in Greenock. The Cut is popular with hikers and bikers with extensive on-road and off-road trails. The elevated park provides some of the best views in the south west of Scotland.
Illicit stills and smuggling have been part of the local history of Ardgowan for hundreds of years. During the 18th and 19th centuries, smuggling was a significant part of the economy of Scotland, and the Firth of Clyde became a favourite haunt of merchants dealing in contraband. Duties imposed on goods such as tobacco, whisky and tea after The Union of the Crowns in 1707 meant that illicit trade in duty-free goods became a particularly profitable endeavour for anyone in the area with a boat.
In the 1890s Ardgowan was again associated with whisky making, the original Ardgowan Distillery Company Limited was formed and a whisky distillery was built in Baker Street in Greenock. The distillery operated through the early 1900s and was converted to make industrial alcohol before World War II. The alcohol was then used as part of a fiery mix to fuel RAF fighter planes. The original distillery was almost totally destroyed in the Greenock Blitz of 7 May 1941, when it burned for two days, its blue flames providing a beacon for successive waves of Luftwaffe bombers. The production plant was rebuilt in a month, although the surrounding buildings were in ruins for the rest of the war. It finally ceased production in 1952.
The new distillery will be built in a cluster of ancient farm buildings on the estate’s Bankfoot site which has been, at various times, stables, a coal gasification plant, a sawmill and an equestrian arena. The distillery building will be newly built, created in a manner which is sympathetic to the existing cut stone and brick buildings. Many of the original engineering and architectural drawings dating back to the 1800s for the buildings at Bankfoot are available and will form part of the distillery visitor experience.