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We have built a strong and experienced team with world-wide experience in the development, distilling and promotion of whisky. Our Chairman, Willie Phillips, brings almost 50 years of knowledge and success in the Scotch whisky industry. Gordon Wright, our Head of Development & Sales, brings career-long experience in whisky sales, nationally and internationally. Our CEO, Martin McAdam, brings his knowledge of process engineering and renewables to the team. Our Director, Alan Baker, brings his knowledge of civil engineering, planning and his entrepreneurialism to the team. And our Design Review Advisor, Michael Egan, brings vast knowledge of process engineering in the drinks industry. Read on for more details.
CHAIRMAN: MR. WILLIE PHILLIPS Our Chairman Willie Phillips is a living legend within the Scotch whisky industry.
He was managing director of The Macallan Malt Whisky from 1978 until the company was bought by Highland Distillers in 1996.
During this period his passionate team’s adherence to quality established The Macallan Single Malt as an international brand. From 1997 to 2003 he was Managing Director of Janneau SA, an Armagnac company, and was resident in South-west France.
He was appointed Chairman of the Ardgowan Distillery in January 2017 and is relishing the opportunity to work with industry experts on developing the Ardgowan Single Malt.
Willie states: “I believe the greatest whisky in the world is one you haven’t tasted yet.”
CEO: MARTIN MCADAM Martin McAdam is a proven business leader with a track record in success across a number of industries.
Martin holds a BE (Hons.) in Chemical Engineering, awarded in 1982 from University College Dublin, and in 2003 completed the Advanced Management Program (AMP) at Harvard Business School. Martin became a founder shareholder in Kingsbarns distillery in Fife which was acquired by the Weymss family in 2010. He was also CEO of wave energy company Aquamarine Power until 2014 and he serves as non-executive director of FTSE 250 company, Greencoat UK Wind Plc. In his early career Martin worked in the process control and power industries before switching to the computer industry where he became a founder of several successful software companies. In early 2000 he became an investor and employee in the start-up renewable energy company Airtricity, and in 2003 he relocated to the US and took on the role of General Manager for the North American market. Under Martin’s leadership Airtricity in North America created a pipeline of over 3,000MW of wind projects and constructed over 400MW of wind plant. Airtricity was subsequently sold to SSE for over £1bn in late 2007.
MISSION CONTROLLER: JESSICA SKELTON With a PhD in astrophysics and a career track record in systems and data analysis, Jessica Skelton leads on the design and delivery of the Ardgowan Distillery project. She has already successfully secured full planning permission for the £12 million scheme and is now working closely with civil engineers and process designers to deliver the distillery design.
Jessica is also charged with the launch of Expedition, the distillery’s very first bottling.
After completing a first-class degree in physics and astrophysics at Manchester University, Jessica came to the University of Edinburgh to complete her PhD. Following this she became involved in the renewables sector, developing large databases and delivering sophisticated statistical simulation models as well as developing a taste for fine malt whisky. At Ardgowan, Jessica is a versatile and creative problem-solver who works alongside a broad range of disciplines to ensure our distillery mission is well on track.
MASTER WHISKY MAKER: MAX MCFARLANE Max joined Lang Brothers as an admin clerk in 1974 but soon moved to Robertson & Baxter (now Edrington Group) to work with Master Distiller Alan Reid in their sampling room. He later took over this role following Alan’s retirement, and worked closely with Master Blender John Ramsay to produce many award-winning whiskies.
Max has worked with iconic whisky names including Famous Grouse, Bunnahabhain, Glengoyne, Tamdhu, and Glenrothes. He was instrumental in the rise of Highland Park, and his name appeared prominently on their labelling before his recent retirement. His exceptional contribution to Scotch Whisky was recognised in 2017 when he was inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich.
DIRECTOR: ALAN BAKER Alan graduated as a Civil Engineer from University of Glasgow in 1987 and is a Chartered Engineer. Alan was Chief Executive for Airtricity (Scotland), a leading renewable energy company, focused on the development, construction and operation of wind farms across the world. Alan also spent nine years with Scottish Power playing a key role in the development and construction of major power infrastructure, ranging from gas fired generating power stations to gas storage installations, and latterly wind farm projects. During his early career, Alan worked with W.S. Atkins and Morrison Construction developing major defence, rail and water projects. Alan has been instrumental in the development of the relationship with Ardgowan Estate where he has been developing energy projects with the trustees for over 10 years.
COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND SALES: GORDON WRIGHT Gordon has a superb track record in building export sales for niche whisky brands. He honed his commercial skills during his early career as Sales Director at Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown where he helped bring the family-owned Malt Whisky to a global audience, creating export sales of £1.4m in just four years.
In 1996 Gordon joined Murray McDavid Ltd in London as Sales Director. There he established the new Independent Bottling Company and built sales to over £500k in just 3 years, achieving double-gold award-winning bottlings. Gordon joined Bruichladdich Distillery in 2000 and helped raise the equity to purchase the company from JBB. As Marketing Director at Bruichladdich he established a worldwide network of distributors for the Islay malt, and was part of the team that achieved the Whisky Magazine’s Innovator of the Year 2003/4. Gordon has subsequently created the Alchemist brand, focusing on creating unique spirits and delivering them to 15 international markets.
He has also worked with Speyside Distillers, Glasgow, appointing distributors for new international markets and creating new expressions and unique bottlings. Gordon was appointed as advisor to Ardgowan Distillery Company Limited in 2017.
PROCESS ENGINEERING DESIGN REVIEW: PROFESSOR MICHAEL EGAN Professor Michael Egan is a vastly experienced figure in the brewing and distilling world and was appointed as advisor to the Ardgowan Distillery in 2016 as part of the design review team.
He graduated as a Chemical Engineer at University College Dublin in 1965 prior to commencing his career in Canada with the Hiram Walker Group – famous for their Canadian Club Whisky – and cut his teeth working at distilleries in Illinois and Ontario.
He joined Irish Distillers as their process engineer for the design of their new distillery in Midleton, modernising the methods of pot still heating, energy recovery and dis-entrainment, prior to completing his PhD on extractive distillation. In 1983 he was seconded to Guinness Brewery to head up the redevelopment of the brewery at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. He worked with Guinness for 10 years as Director of Brewery Redevelopment and completed the £200million project on time and budget.
Professor Egan has also worked as an independent consultant and designed, among other projects, Teeling’s first Irish whiskey distillery at Cooley, Co. Louth.
He has also carried out work for the brewing industry in St. Petersburg and Rostov in Russia and the wine industry in Bulgaria.
SIR LUDOVIC SHAW-STEWART
With a family history stretching back over 600 years, Sir Ludovic (‘Ludo’) Shaw-Stewart, is the 12th Baronet and owner of Ardgowan Estate. In that time the estate has seen battles and witch trials, and has played a major part in the story of Scotland. King Robert the Bruce fought here prior to Bannockburn and his descendent King Robert III granted the estate lands to his ancestor Sir John Stewart in 1404. The new distillery will mark a new chapter in the history of the area, and Sir Ludo plans to make it a cornerstone of the regeneration of the Ardgowan Estate.