Whisky with ice: Ardgowan Distillery launches ‘South Pole Scotch’

A Scottish distillery has launched a brand new dram with a difference - each limited edition bottle contains malt whisky that has been to the South Pole. 

Published 11th Sep 2018
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

The Ardgowan Expedition, a 20-year-old premium blended malt Scotch whisky, contains whisky which has travelled to the South Pole and back, carried by explorer Robert Swan OBE and his son Barney on their recent low-carbon mission – the South Pole Energy Challenge.

Only 600 bottles have been created, with the distillery team saying that there is one for "every mile walked to the pole".

Ardgowan Expedition

The limited edition dram has been specially blended by Ardgowan Chairman Willie Phillips and includes classic single casks from upper Speyside and the northern Highlands.

Each bottle – which will retail at £500 each – has been personally signed and numbered by Willie, who rose to fame as the managing director of The Macallan from 1978 to 1996.

And to mark the launch, Robert Swan has cracked open the very first Expedition bottle – in sub-zero conditions – in a specially-constructed ice bar.

He sampled the Antarctic spirit along with Jessica Skelton, the distillery’s ‘Mission Controller’, with both declaring their first dram “superb”.

The whisky is the first bottling by Ardgowan Distillery Company Limited, which is planning a new £12 million distillery and visitor centre at Inverkip, 30 miles west of Glasgow.

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Describing the 20-year-old whisky, Willie Phillips says: “By combining the richness of Speyside and whiskies from the north coast, and marrying in sherry casks, the blend has an opening sweetness, a pleasant mouth feel (perhaps a little peppery undiluted) and a finish which reminds one of its age – altogether a unique and very enjoyable dram.”

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Commenting on the launch Jessica Skelton said: “This special whisky commemorates our partnership with Robert and Barney, who we helped by designing and making a number of solar-powered snow melters for their clean energy quest. In return, Robert agreed to take some whisky to the pole – and Expedition is the end result.”

Expedition comes in a 70cl bottle in a wooden presentation case and is bottled at 46 percent. It is available direct from Ardgowan or via exclusive whisky retailer Robert Graham.

Martin McAdam, CEO of Ardgowan Distillery Company Limited says: “We are really proud of this bottling and hope it will help raise awareness of Robert’s mission to protect Antarctica. The current moratorium on commercial exploitation of the Antarctic ends in 2041, and Robert wants this extended for future generations.”

Ardgowan has already received full planning permission for their distillery, with construction set to commence next year.

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Once operational, the distillery will create six new full-time jobs, with up to 15 additional jobs in the visitor centre and retail operations, with around 47 further jobs created in the wider economy during the first five years.

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.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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