Green spirits – The whisky distilleries driving positive environmental transformation

By Climate Champions & Scotch Whisky Association | May 20, 2024

Scotch Whisky production, a process that is steeped in tradition, is rooted in three natural ingredients – cereals, water, and yeast. With a complex process from grain to glass, the industry is determined to reduce the impact of energy-intensive distilling operations, and preserve the natural environment that produces Scotch Whisky for another 530 years and further.

Across Scotland, large and small whisky distillers are re-examining and revising their production patterns and identifying where they can be more efficient with their resources. By adopting cutting-edge technologies, and working more collaboratively, these distilleries are not just adhering to stricter environmental standards but are also leading the way towards a sustainable and accountable spirits industry.

Building on this foundation, members of the Scotch Whisky Association, who are partners to the Race to Zero, are working hard to secure a sustainable future for the Scotch Whisky industry – ensuring its products are produced sustainably, traded globally and enjoyed responsibly.

Distilleries like Bruichladdich, Glentauchers, and Ardmore are not only moving towards net zero emissions but are also pioneering projects that leave a positive environmental footprint. The examples below highlight the industry’s commitment to creating a net zero and nature-positive world, showcasing innovative practices that go beyond compliance to benefitting the health of our natural world.

Bruichladdich – Packaging

On a mission to use less and to use better, Bruichladdich Distillery redesigned their flagship Classic Laddie bottle, taking a number of steps to reduce their impact and lower packaging emissions. The secondary tin was removed the optimised bottle design means that it is 32% lighter than the previous version, while still keeping the iconic aqua colour – now with an organic ink coating. The recycled glass content of the bottle has also risen to an average of 60%.

This lighter bottle means shipping is more efficient, with more bottles on every pallet that enters or and leaves the distillery – further cutting transport CO2 emissions when shipping on and off Bruichladdich’s home on Islay. By optimising a number of design choices, the new bottle reduces packaging CO2 emissions by 65%, and the distillery will continue reviewing all elements of the production process to reduce its impact across the entire value chain – from grain to glass.

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Chivas Brothers (Glentauchers) – MVR

By incorporating Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR) technology in combination with its existing Thermal Vapour Recompression (TVR) systems and hot water generation, Chivas Brothers’ Glentauchers Distillery in Speyside is able to recycle close to 100% of the steam produced in the falling film condenser and halve energy usage and carbon emissions.

The next step on Chivas Brothers’ journey towards achieving carbon neutral distillation by the end of 2026 is the rollout of these integrations across all its viable sites, including Glasgow’s Strathclyde Distillery. In the spirit of putting collaboration ahead of competition, the learnings from the integration have also been made ‘open source’, with the intention that they benefit the Scotch whisky industry on its journey towards a sustainable future.

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Suntory Global Spirits (Ardmore) – Peatland water restoration

Suntory Global Spirits launched the Peatland Water Sanctuary™ initiative, committing to replenish as much peat as is used to create their peated whiskies by 2030, and doubling this target by 2040.

The programme is investing over $4.4 million into the restoration and conservation of a minimum of 2,600 hectares of peatlands by the end of the next decade, which will help protect high quality water sources across Scotland. With 14 hectares already restored near the company’s Ardmore distillery, 70 hectares near its Bowmore and Laphroaig distilleries on Islay, and another 160 hectares of restoration in progress in East Ayrshire, Suntory Global Spirits is working with local partners such as the RSPB, Forestry and Land Scotland and the James Hutton Institute to further Scotland’s sustainability and biodiversity ambitions and net-zero goals.

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Main image: Bowmore whisky casks in warehouse.

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