Clydebuilt ‘Coppersmith’ from Ardgowan Distillery Co.

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Coppersmith is the first release of a new series of ‘Clydebuilt’ whiskies from the Ardgowan Distillery Company Ltd.

Brainchild of Martin McAdam, a former shareholder in Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife, the project will eventually culminate in the creation of a new malt distillery on the west coast of Scotland near the village of Inverkip.

Once up and running, the Ardgowan distillery will produce three different styles of spirit. Their flagship expression will be a traditional, unpeated lowland malt but they will also produce small batches of both lightly peated and heavily peated liquid, taking advantage of their seaside location to create a uniquely coastal lowland single malt.

To help develop the project, McAdam secured the talents of Mr. Willie Phillips, former managing director at Macallan to sit as company chairman whilst another industry veteran in the form of Max McFarlane has taken on the role of master whisky maker.

McFarlane got involved in the whisky industry back in 1974 when he took a job as admin clerk with Lang Bros. It wasn’t long however before he had moved to Robertson & Baxter (now part of Edrington) to work with master distiller Alan Reid. When Reid retired, McFarlane himself became master distiller, working closely with master blender John Ramsay. Over a long career he has worked with brands like Famous Grouse, Bunnahabhain, Glengoyne, Tamdhu and Glenrothes as well as being influential in the rise to prominence of Highland Park.

The Ardgowan Distillery Company first entered the market last year with their ‘Expedition’ blended malt, a whisky which contained spirit that had been carried to the south pole by legendary explorer Robert Swan and his team. Though it was a dram of high quality however, the excessive price point placed it outwith the reach of all but the wealthiest of whisky connoisseurs so it is pleasing now to see the company work with McFarlane to create a more affordable range.

I can’t say I’m totally convinced by the use of the Clydebuilt brand on a blended malt produced entirely in the highlands but I am prepared to let that slide so long as the quality of the spirit is good. The frequent use of the word ‘premium’ on the Ardgowan website is also something of a concern. One wonders in what way the spirit from this as yet unbuilt distillery will be premium. Isn’t it for the consumer to decide if a whisky is worthy of such a tag?

Niggles aside however, Coppersmith is an appealing blend of malts from Highland and Speyside distilleries that were matured exclusively in oloroso sherry casks before being bottled at 48%.

*Full Disclosure: I was sent this sample to review and share my thoughts with you, my readers. As always I will strive to give as impartial a critique on the quality of the whisky as I possibly can. 

Smell: Chocolate raisins. Chargrilled meats with a honey glaze. Burnt toast. Oak. Apple, orange zest and a sprinkling of pepper.

Taste: Red apples. Honey. Raisins & sultanas. Drying oak. Chocolate. Orange creams. Cashew nuts. Nutmeg and Pepper.

Thoughts: A satisfyingly weighty whisky that is reasonably priced at £50 a bottle.

It’s a decent dram that utilises sherry casks without allowing them to totally swamp the spirit. The result is a well balanced blended malt that offers a pleasing mouthfeel and a rich flavour profile with some subtle complexities. A promising hint of good things to come.

A tasty dram then, but this review could have been so very different. The original sample I received from the lovely folks at Ardgowan had unfortunately leaked a little in transit, though the fill level left more than enough to work with so I got on with it, only to find the liquid to be a rather unpleasant experience. The sherry notes on the nose had taken on a cheesy aspect and the palate had a distinctly metallic note. Whether this was due to a poor seal on the sample bottle, causing excessive oxidation or to some taint at the bottling stage I don’t know but I was fairly sure that something had gone wrong somewhere. Credit where it’s due, a second sample was soon winging its way to me and the new dram made for an altogether more enjoyable encounter, and one that I am now happy to recommend. 

For more on Ardgowan Distillery, click here.


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