16 March 2020

102nd Whisky Insiders Interview - Max McFarlane

Ardgowan Distillery

Whisky Maker


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I joined Lang Brothers in 1974 and then spent many happy years at Edrington prior to joining the Ardgowan Distillery. I’m still working now, so that makes 46 years!

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
The resurrection along with others of Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky, culminating in it being selected as the best single malt Scotch whisky in the world three times, was an extraordinary team effort of which I remain extremely proud.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
It was my second day at Lang Brothers when I was introduced to Glengoyne single malt in the staff sample room. It made for a pretty special first week at work!

What does whisky mean to you?
If gold medals were awarded for lifetime experiences, then whisky would undoubtedly be the winner for me. It has enabled me to travel the world, meet so many wonderful people and indulge my creativity and passion for a really incredible product.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Over the next few years, I would like to play a part in the education of the public about Scotch whisky. There are many great ambassadors out there and we need them in this ever-challenging market. The Ardgowan Distillery and our Clydebuilt series will be at the forefront of my thoughts too – we have a really exciting vision to build a world-class distillery and visitor centre in my home village of Inverkip and I would love to be closely involved in the production of the first spirit, and ensuring it finds a home in the finest first-fill sherry casks

What was your last dram?
A bottle of Clydebuilt Coppersmith is lying beside my laptop as we speak, and a dram will be poured as soon as I am finished.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
My favourite whisky and food pairing would be Highland Park 30 Year Old, with scallops and Stornoway black pudding – all fantastic natural Scottish produce.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Sitting watching sunset going down atop Yesnaby Cliffs on Orkney – stunning.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Undoubtedly blended grain and single grain casks will feature heavily in the future of Scotch whisky.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
As I created Clydebuilt Coppersmith blended malt, there will always be a bottle in my drinks cabinet!

Many thanks to Max McFarlane. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!