Whisky Magazine Issue 111
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To begin at the beginning. The most crucial requirement for any distiller is a reliable source of pure water, and the location of every distillery in Scotland is predicated upon such a source. Water is essential for malting barley and for mashing, while it is also required in large quantities for cooling purposes. Indeed, some 80 per cent of all water used by Scotch whisky distillers is ‘borrowed' for cooling activities and is ultimately returned to watercourses. Water for whisky-making is sourced from boreholes and wells, from surface locations or the public supply, with rivers often supplying cooling water, and the water-related activities of Scottish distillers are overseen by The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). As Alan Winchester, Distilleries Manager for Chivas Brothers Ltd, notes, “Early distillers located their distilleries beside rivers and burns to give them water power to drive machinery as well as for cooling, but today we only use it for cooling.
There are tight controls by SEPA about how much we can abstract and the temperature at which it has to be returned. “As a big company with 14 distilleries we are very aware of water usage. The Scotch whisky industry has been around a long time and water is not wasted. We are always looking to keep water use at a minimum. In the past, water was not considered precious to distillers, except in the dry summer months, and the distilleries were usually silent then, anyway.
Today, where possible we reus...