Whisky for the Environment

OK, for the most part, the distilling process is pretty much environmentally unfriendly. The spirits industry comes in for a serious beating with Gin, tequila, and rum being the worst for the environment. The problem is that the distillation process requires loads of energy. American bourbons are aged in virgin-oak barrels that are used only once, most of those barrels end up being reused by other liquor makers. And while some of those liquor makers may produce single malts, think of the energy involved in distilling the liquor and transporting it. In terms of distillation, vodka requires more energy and water than most spirits. Now, it seems that the Speyside distilleries byproducts will fuel a local biomass energy plan.

“Waste products from around 16 of the area’s 50 distilleries will be used at the site, including well-known brands such as Glenlivet, Chivas Regal, Macallan, and Famous Grouse,” the Guardian reports. Vast amounts of “draff”, the spent grains used in the distilling process, and pot ale, a residue from the copper stills, are produced by the whisky industry each year and are usually transported off-site. The Rothes project, a joint venture between Helius Energy and the Combination of Rothes Distillers (CoRD) will burn the draff with woodchips to generate enough electricity to supply 9,000 homes. It will be supplied by Aalborg Energie Technick, a danish engineering company. The pot ale will be made into a concentrated organic fertiliser and an animal feed for use by local farmers.

The £50m Rothes project is the latest bioenergy venture from the Scotch whisky industry, but it is believed to be the first to provide electricity for public use. A bioenergy plant at Scotland’s largest distillery in Fife is close to completion. The project by Diageo will provide 98% of the thermal steam and 80% of the electrical power used at the Cameronbridge distillery. And last year, scientists at Napier University announced they had developed a method of producing biofuel from the by-products of the whisky distilling process which could power cars and even aircraft. The new fuel, they said, could be available at petrol pumps within a few years.

This isn’t just a Scottish happening either, and Maker’s Mark, a whisky with a green reputation is also getting on the Green Energy bandwagon. Maker’s Mark tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible in their production process. “We do many things that are eco-friendly including recycling the majority of our waste, in particular glass, cardboard, paper, plastic, metals, and barrels. Right now we recycle approximately 95% of all our waste. We are looking to go to 0% waste discharge in the next 3 years. Other projects that may not be “unique” include forest stewardship, habitat improvement/sustainability, community outreach, and biodiversity (we do not use any genetically modified grains),” Master Distiller Kevin Smith said in an email to Inhabitat.

It’s good to see that the distilling industry is trying to be more environmentally conscious. It’s even better to see that waste from the distilling process is being used to offset the processes environmentally unfriendly aspects. As I said in a previous post, I strongly suggest when buying distilled spirit products from enviornmentally friendly distillers if you choose to drink spirits. It also might be a good idea to write your fav distiller and ask them what they are doing to cut their carbon footprint?

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