Ardgowan Distillery brings industry veteran Willie Phillips on board

Willie Phillips

Willie Phillips

One of the whisky trade’s best-known names has joined the Ardgowan Distillery, which plans to build a world-class malt whisky distillery and visitor centre on the Ardgowan Estate near Inverkip. 

Industry veteran Willie Phillips – who spearheaded The Macallan malt whisky for 18 years – has been appointed chairman of The Ardgowan Distillery Company. 

He aims to help create a ‘really outstanding’ new lowland single malt whisky. 

Last year the Ardgowan Distillery submitted their ambitious plans to Inverclyde Council, and a planning decision is expected shortly. 

Phillips was managing director of The Macallan malt whisky from 1978 until the company was bought by Highland Distillers in 1996.  During this period Phillips helped establish The Macallan single malt as an international brand.

Commenting on his appointment, Willie Phillips said:

“I’m really interested in the idea of creating a new lowland malt whisky in this part of Scotland, which is close to Irvine, where I spent much of my youth. The Ardgowan team is looking to bring on board one of the most experienced ‘noses’ in the businesses – someone who will help them craft a new spirit of great quality – and I am sure we will together create a really outstanding new lowland single malt whisky.”

Ardgowan Distillery chief executive Martin McAdam said:

“Willie Phillips has a real passion for whisky and decades of experience in making superlative spirits and marketing them around the world.

“We have a fantastic plan to build a globally-recognised new lowland malt whisky distillery which Inverclyde and Scotland will be proud of and we look forward to working with Willie in bringing our ambitious vision to life,” McAdam says.

Inverclyde Council is currently considering the distillery’s plans, which include a state-of-the-art distillery and visitor attraction on the historic Ardgowan Estate near the port of Inverkip, with the potential for new employment both during construction and once the distillery is operational in 2019.

“Following the planning decision, we will commence detailed design and procurement work for the construction of the distillery.  This work will give us the opportunity to engage with local businesses and the public in order to develop our plan and start to employ the staff that will be engaged during the construction and operational stage,” McAdam says.

The proposal 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.

In addition to his role with The Macallan, Willie Phillips was managing director of Janneau SA, an Armagnac company from 1997 to 2003 and has been a non-executive director of a number of companies associated with the Scotch whisky industry, and was chairman of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for ten years.