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The original Adelphi distillery was founded in 1825 by Charles and David Gray in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, on the south bank of the River Clyde. Renamed the ‘Loch Katrine Adelphi Distillery’ after a pipeline was installed bringing water from Glasgow’s main reservoir direct to the distillery, the site was later sold in 1880 to Archibald Walker, making him the first man to own distilleries in Scotland, England and Ireland, the others being located in Liverpool and Limerick, respectively.
In 1903, the plant was sold to DCL who ceased malt production just four years later, though distillation of grain spirit continued until 1932. Now, almost a century later, little trace of the distillery can be found, with the location now home to Glasgow’s Central Mosque, a beautiful building in its own right, but certainly no distillery.
The Adelphi name was rather forgotten until Jamie Walker, great grandson of previous distillery owner Archibald, resurrected it in the form of an independent bottling company. Adelphi soon gained a reputation as a bottler of the finest single cask whiskies, aided by their policy to bottle at natural colour, without the use of chill filtration.
The success of the business led to it’s purchase in 2003 by Donald Houston and Keith Falconer who continued to run it as an independent bottler until they were forced to concede that securing the amount of quality casks they required was becoming troublesome. They decided that the only logical course of action was to become distillers in their own right.
Though the company was headquartered in Fife, Houston happened to be Laird of the Ardnamurchan Estate in the west highlands which seemed the perfect location to set up their new Adelphi distillery. Building a distillery in such a remote location was not without it’s problems however. In particular, the single track road meant that the distillery had to be designed with access in mind. No piece of distillery equipment could be more than 3.3 metres wide or it wouldn’t make it through the narrowest parts of the road. Nevertheless, work was finally completed in June of 2014 and the new distillery was producing spirit soon after.
As a sort of progress update, Adelphi have taken to releasing the occasional bottling of spirit, offering whisky fans a convenient way to keep tabs on the development of the product.
The most recent expression was released in late 2018 and featured a blend of casks, some of which had already reached the crucial three year stage (though not all, meaning the liquid couldn’t be called whisky). Distilled from both peated and unpeated malt and matured in an array of different casks, including a selection of Octaves which once held both Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry, the spirit is bottled at 55.3% and retails at around £55.
Smell: Certainly doesn’t hide it’s youth with a definite hint of new make about the nose. However there is also a strong sherry influence with raisins, sultanas and prunes all coming through along with maple syrup and salted caramel. There’s burnt toast and charred oak and a generous amount of pepper, wrapped up in gentle wafts of bonfire smoke.
Taste: Fiery pepper then silky caramel. Maple syrup and prune juice, bitter dark chocolate, sea salt, charred oak with a smoky finish. Addition of water tames the ever-present pepper a little and allows for an altogether more civilised experience.
Thoughts: Early bottlings from new distilleries can be fascinating, as they offer a small status report on how the spirit is coming along. This release from Ardnamurchan is no different and it certainly seems to suggest that we can expect good things in future though £55 for a ‘work in progress’ could perhaps seem a little steep to some. Crucially however, it is a pleasant drinking experience in its own right, rather than merely a curiosity.
There can be no doubt that the people behind the Ardnamurchan distillery know what they’re doing. Their very practical usage of smaller casks has allowed the spirit to take on an incredible amount of wood influence in a short space of time and whilst the telltale signs of youth remain, this 2018 update shows some serious potential. In short, Ardnamurchan is yet another new single malt distillery that’s well worth getting excited about.