The smooth smell of two fingers of Highland Park 18, one of my favorite single malt whiskeys, on a cold night is perfection. This unique bouquet is a credit to an integral piece of Scottish history that dates back to the 18th century. But despite being steeped in tradition, this old school industry is embracing the future by making huge strides toward sustainability.
Traditionally, 90% of the water and all of the grain used in the production of whiskey ends up as waste, not to mention the enormous amount of power needed to continually run the distilling process. All this results in a rather large cost not only to distillers but to the planet as well. But fear not all you whiskey lovers, your ecological conscience need not be too offended. The Scottish whiskey industry made its first climate change agreement with the UK Government in 1999 and in 2009 the industry launched an Industry Environmental Strategy in which they committed to reduce water and packaging usage and set a 20% renewable energy goal by 2020 and 80% renewable energy by 2050.
Most of the energy used to fire up the giant stills (which start the distilling process) was traditionally done by burning fossil fuels. But with much thought, and I’m sure a few glasses of whiskey, the industry started getting creative. One of the main byproducts of making whiskey is the leftover, or spent, grain called draff. In the past, this would be spread out in the fields as fertilizer or used as feed for livestock. But producers found that after drying the draff they could burn it as fuel for the stills, or mix it with pot ale (also produced during distilling) to create methane thus allowing them to drastically cut down on their fossil fuel dependency.
Along with slashing energy use, all new casks brought into the Scottish industry are being sourced from sustainable oak forests, 40% of all packaging is being made from recycled materials with 100% of packaging being reusable or recyclable.
For a drink that defines itself on the beauty of its surroundings, the Scottish whiskey industry knows its reputation and future depend on the health of its land. Being sustainable is good business…and tastes heavenly.
My tasting tip: Never…ever…ever put ice in your nice scotch or whiskey. Add just a dash (about ½ to 1 tablespoon) of fresh, room temperature water to your straight drink, it will open up the bouquet. You will taste the difference, I promise.
Cheers to ecoluxury.