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Issue 125 - Whisky and the Environment

Whisky Magazine Issue 125
January 2015


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Whisky and the Environment

The seeking of a sustainable strategy

Energetic business, distilling. Not necessarily in the sense of big sweaty blokes hauling sacks of malt about, but in the sense of bringing five billion litres of wort up to mashing temperature, holding it there while the sugars are extracted, cooling it down to pitching temperature, then heating it up again in the still, then... you get the picture. So you can see why cleaner, cheaper energy is a priority.

And then, too, 90 per cent of the water and all of the grain used in the process ends up as waste. And since it made sense to site the factory near the raw materials, many distilleries were built in isolated glens; so all of the fuel (except the peat, where applicable) has to be shipped in and all the product has to be shipped out.

Simple waste reduction measures such as feeding spent grain (‘draff') to livestock and using the protein-rich pot ale left over after distillation as soil conditioner have long been the norm. But tentative efforts at mitigating the waste of energy started only in wartime, when Deanston was converted to hydroelectric power. In the 1970s Glengarioch briefly used its waste heat to warm greenhouses (as seen on Tomorrow's World, no less!), while since 1990 Bowmore's waste heat has made a tropical spa of the swimming-pool in the community-owned Mactaggart Leisure Centre sited in a former warehouse at the distillery gates.

But it took the slowly-unfolding emergency of climate change to trigger a co-ordinated attack on energy consumption and was...

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