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The original Adelphi distillery stood on the south bank of the River Clyde in Glasgow. It was established in 1825 by brothers, Charles and David Gray. In the 1860s the distillery took full advantage of a new pipeline that connected the city of Glasgow with the crystal clear waters of Loch Katrine. By 1870 the name had changed to the Loch Katrine Adelphi Distillery.
The Gray family ran the business until it was taken over by Archibald Walker & Co in 1880. The new owners had distilleries in Liverpool and Limerick, making them the only company to distill in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
By the turn of the century the distillery was producing both malt and grain whisky but its sale to DCL in 1903 would signal the beginning of the end. Distillation of malt whisky ceased in 1906. Grain whisky continued to flow for some time but eventually trickled to a halt in 1932. The distillery stood empty until it was demolished in the late ’60s.
The Adelphi name was largely forgotten until it was revived by Jamie Walker, great-grandson of the Archibald Walker who once owned the distillery. Operating as an independent bottler, Jamie put the Adelphi name back on the map but his time with the company was relatively short-lived. In the early 2000s, he sold a cask to Donald Houston and Keith Falconer. So impressed were they with the quality of their purchase, they decided to buy the company.
The new owners quickly realised that quality stock was becoming an issue in the crowded single malt market and decided that the only way to resolve the situation was to produce their own spirit. Work soon began on land owned by Houston on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. By July of 2016, new make spirit was flowing.
The distillery was designed with a view to capitalising on local renewables. The biomass boiler is fuelled by woodchip from the local forests and the river has a hydroelectric generator.
Much of the barley used in production is grown on land owned by the family of managing director, Alex Bruce. Both peated and unpeated malt are used. The specified peating level comes in around 35ppm.
Adelphi began releasing work in progress bottlings in 2016 that gave whisky lovers a glimpse at the development of the spirit. There were four releases before the arrival of the debut single malt in 2020. For my review of the AD/09.20:01 visit here.
For this review I will be checking out a special single cask bottling, released in partnership with the Good Spirits Co of Glasgow. AD/05:15 CK.181 is made from unpeated malt and matured in a single American Oak Barrel. It was bottled at a cask strength of 58.8% and retailed for £85.
Smell: Creamy malt. Honey and lemon. Apple. Vanilla. Scottish tablet. Some fresh oak and a touch of black pepper.
Taste: Lemon sherbet and barley sugars. Baked apples. Vanilla ice cream. Caramel. Pepper. Liquorice all-sorts. Lightest touch of oak. With water, some buttery shortbread and lime.
Thoughts: The Good Spirits Co have tended towards spirit-led, quirky drams in their bottling output and I’d say this Ardnamurchan rather follows that trend. It really shows the quality of the spirit because there isn’t a great deal of impact from the cask here. All the complexity in the dram comes from the spirit itself with the very lightest of oaky touches. In order to really shine, I felt it needed a drop of water and fifteen minutes to settle but when it found the sweet spot it became rather lovely, with a pleasant buttery note and full-bodied mouthfeel.
I’ve said it before but Ardnamurchan is one of the best of our new distilleries and this is another good example of its capabilities. I don’t think it’s quite as good as their debut release – possibly that’s because I prefer a bit of peat – and at £85 it wasn’t the most affordable purchase but Ardnamurchan have been pretty reasonable with their pricing thus far and there hasn’t been many single cask bottlings knocking around so perhaps it’s justifiable. That is highlighted in the stupid prices you’ll find if you search for this bottle on the auction sites. I’m happy to say, however, that mine is open and will be shared and thoroughly enjoyed. The way it should be.