The Ardgowan Distillery has appointed industry veteran Mike Keiller as its new chair as the Inverclyde whisky makers gear up to build their new flagship distillery.
Keiller will begin his role today (February 1), when he takes over from current chairman and whisky legend Willie Philips who is standing down after four years at Ardgowan and nearly 50 years in the trade.
Mike is a qualified Scottish chartered accountant whose early career began at Bell’s Scotch Whisky in Perth, followed by senior finance and corporate roles at Guinness, United Distillers Europe and Diageo.
Keiller joined Morrison Bowmore Distillers as CEO in 2000 and over the next 14 years he helped transform the business from a bulk whisky supplier into a profitable brand-led operation with globally acclaimed spirits including Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch.
After his retirement, he served as a non-executive director with The Last Drop Distillers from 2016 until 2018.
Mike will continue as non-executive director at AIM-listed spirits group Distil following his appointment last year.
Ardgowan Distillery CEO Martin McAdam said: ‘Mike is a fantastic guy and it’s great to welcome him as our new chair as we enter a very exciting phase of our business. In the months ahead we will commence the build of our world-leading carbon negative distillery with the goal of producing the very finest premium malt whisky.
‘Mike’s industry experience in Scotland, the UK and internationally, and in particular his skills in building a global brand, will prove crucial as our production ramps up in the years to come.
‘I also wish to play tribute to our outgoing chairman Willie Phillips, who supported us through the challenging start-up phase. Willie will now become president of our whisky tasting forum – and I look forward to nosing our first new-make spirit alongside him.’
Mike said: ‘It is exciting to be joining the Ardgowan Distillery as they seek to realise their vision of producing the highest quality malt whisky at their ground-breaking new distillery.
‘I’m relishing the opportunity to work with Martin on the company’s corporate strategy and to being part of a young, dynamic and fast-growing team of passionate whisky pioneers.’
In June 2021 the Ardgowan Distillery confirmed the Inverclyde project would go ahead following new investment of £8.4 million led by principal investor Roland Grain and additional investment from Distil Plc.
Roland, director of Investments at Ardgowan said: ‘I have already worked with Mike at Distil and he brings huge experience and capability to the company. Mike shares our vision of creating a great carbon negative distillery, a great single malt and building long-lasting customer relationships.
‘We are lucky to be able to access the best professionals in the industry and we will continue to do so to form an all-star team to achieve our goal of making the best and most climate-friendly whisky on this planet. I want to thank Willie for his service and I´m looking forward to continuing work with him in our whisky tasting forum. We are now on track to be operational at the site in 2023.’
In December the Ardgowan Distillery unveiled ambitious new plans for their landmark distillery and visitor centre which will commence construction later this year.
The new design uses low environmental impact composite cladding, timber and steel materials to create a light-filled modern Nordic long hall.
The company has pledged their new distillery will be carbon negative and are working with specialist distillery engineers Briggs of Burton to ensure the flagship building has the latest innovations in energy reduction, heat recovery and carbon capture.
The new distillery 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.