What can you do for the environment?
What can be done to ensure sustainability, protection and reconstruction of our demanding Mother Nature as much as possible? How can we as individuals make an appropriate contribution? Where is the best place to start?
Many companies and corporations are already dealing with these questions and the "go-green" trend has also arrived in the whisky industry a few years ago. The water of life has occupied mankind since 1494, when whisky was first mentioned in a document. Since then, things have changed over the millennia, both in terms of sourcing and production. We have investigated some distilleries and producers and taken a closer look at the pioneers in environmental protection and sustainability in the whisky industry.
Table of contents
It is well known that Glengoyne celebrates Scottish cosiness. Those who know the whisky specialists from near Glasgow know that the slowest distillation in the entire industry takes place in their stills. Namely with 5 litres instead of 20 litres per minute and also the preceding fermentation is with 56 hours somewhat longer than with other whisky producers (from 48 hours). However, it would be a mistake to assume that the distillery is just as slow when it comes to sustainability and environmental awareness because of its slow fermentation or distillation: Glengoyne is one of the most sustainable whisky producers in the world and has its own biotope surrounding the distillery.
Since 2011, Glengoyne has been an exclusive partner of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), helping to bring the marshes and wetlands more into the focus of environmental policy. The water for production does not come from the pure and clear river that flows past the distillery as a waterfall, but rather from a mountain spring. As the water from the river would not be sufficient for the production volume, it is only used to cool the distillation plant. Glengoyne is the first distillery to introduce its own wetland treatment plant, which processes 100% of the distillery's liquid waste and returns it to nature in a purified form. The liquid used in production makes its way through twelve collection basins overgrown with dense reeds. The reeds slow down the flow of the pretreated wastewater and remove anything that could affect the delicate balance of the local stream and the surrounding flora and fauna. The water cleaned by this process is then clean enough and is returned to the small stream, which makes its way into the River Blane Water and continues to wind its way to Loch Lomond.
This produces less waste, uses less energy and preserves more of nature. The wetlands reduce the distillery's waste by 25% and since the introduction of the ecological treatment plant and its twelve plots in total, over 14,500 plants of 20 different varieties have grown up, providing home and shelter for many insects and wildlife. Like the wild geese, the distillery also uses wind power: wind-driven generators provide electricity and, since 2022, solar energy has also been used to generate 100% of the energy it needs itself.
Whyte & Mackay introduced the Fettercairn 200 Club in June 2022. The aim of the partnership launched by Fettercairn is to source 100% of the barley processed there from just 200 farmers within a 50-mile radius of the production facility. This means that all the raw material for Fettercairn Single Malt Whisky is to be grown locally.
The short transport routes are ideal, as they not only strengthen local agriculture, but also protect the environment at the same time. The initiative was launched together with the malting company Bairds Malt so that the strategy of producing single origin single malt whisky for the next 100 years can be made possible in the long term for this generation and many generations to come.
One of the aims of the partnership is also to work more closely together, enabling more innovation and exchange between farmers and producers. Stewart Walker, the distillery manager, emphasises that the proximity of farmers and distillery on the one hand strengthens the local community and on the other hand ensures the best possible quality of the barley. The village of Fettercairn is located in an area that is also called "the garden of Scotland", because there are ideal growing conditions due to fertile soil and a very suitable climate.
With the Fettercairn 200 Club, the distillery underpins its ambitious striving for resource-saving whisky production. Last year, the Fettercairn Forrest was introduced, a project for the reforestation of Scottish oaks right next to the distillery. More than 13,000 s aplings were planted on the grounds around the whisky production, at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains. This means that in the long term, Scottish oak from sustainable cultivation can be used for whisky production on the 'Fasque Estate' in Scotland. At the distillery's recently reopened visitor centre, you can't miss a dram or a talk on Fettercairn's sustainability initiatives.
The young distillery Nc'nean, which was only founded in 2017, also sets a good example in terms of resource conservation and environmental protection. It also calls itself Scotland's first organic whisky distillery. In the spirit of Neachneohain, who according to legend is a protector of nature, the distillery uses 100% organic barley and its own pure spring water.
Thanks to the Net Zero process, the distillery produces entirely with renewable energy. What is Net Zero? Net Zero means that the distillery produces fewer emissions in the production of your whisky than those taken out of the atmosphere by the production process, which the distillery has demonstrably had certified by Environmental Strategies Limited. In addition, the distillery works according to the waste avoidance principle. The remains of the barley are fed to the cows on the farm and the bottles are also made from 100% recyclable materials. But that's not all: both copper stills are heated exclusively by a biomass boiler with wood chips from the local forest. All trees felled for this purpose are replanted and thus the distillery participates in the reforestation of the forest.
What 's more, Nc'nean gets its electricity from Engie, a global low-carbon energy provider committed to accelerating the transition to a carbon-neutral world. Together with all the emissions associated with the supply chain, the total carbon footprint from the distillery for an entire year is less than a round-trip flight from London to New York.
The name GlenWyvis is an amalgamation of the lost distillery names Ben Wyvis and Glenskiach, both of which closed in 1926. On 16 April 2016, GlenWyvis launched its first crowdfunding campaign - their target was to raise £1.5 million through donations, but they actually went on to raise £2.6 million. Construction began in January 2017 and was completed in November of the same year.
GlenWyvis, based in Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands, is the world's first 100% community-owned whisky distillery with over 3,000 shareholders from the Dingwall region and around the world. But the distillery also stands out for being powered entirely by green energy. It is located on farmland owned by John Mckenzie, the founder and managing director of GlenWvyis. The farm has previously invested in renewable energy systems, which are now shared between the distillery and the farm in exchange for spent grains. Treber is a by-product of the mashing process and is used to feed the cattle on the farm.
In addition, GlenWyvis has its own biomass boiler to supply steam to the stills. There are three different solar installations on the site. Two on the roof of the cattle barn and one on the ground. Together they have a capacity of 40kW. On the roof of the GlenWyvis office building, a 3kW solar thermal system provides hot water and a 12kW dam, installed on the farm in 2010, is located at the confluence of the Tulloch Spring and the Dochcarty Burn (which is fed by the River Skiach).
The GlenWyvis office currently receives its heat from a 30 kW block biomass boiler. Steam to heat the stills is provided by the distillery's own 500kW biomass boiler, which is fuelled by woodchips. An 11kW wind turbine is located on the farm and GlenWyvis ' company car is an EREV (Extended Range Electric Vehicle), which can be charged on site and travels 50 miles on a full charge.
The distillery is always looking for new energy alternatives to further improve its environmental performance. All electricity from wind, water and sun is fed into the farm's system, where it is blended and metered before entering the distillery. Surplus electricity generated is fed into the local grid.
Maker's Mark also has a proven commitment to the environment and sustainability. Under the statement "Make Your Mark. Leave no trace", all waste is reused or recycled at the distillery from Kentucky in the USA. For example, used bottles are pulverised and used as sand for hiking trails on the distillery grounds at Star Hill Farm. In addition, Maker's Mark has created the world's largest white oak research lab to preserve the source of all bourbon barrels for many generations of distillers to come, and in the traditional "dry house" the spent grain produced after mashing is dried and then passed on to more than just neighbouring farmers. After drying, the spent grains can be sold to three other states as cattle feed.
The distillery was the first large distillery in the world to achieve B-Corp certification, which identifies the company as particularly sustainable and also climate-friendly. This is an absolute milestone in the history of bourbon whiskey companies, especially since strict requirements have to be met for such a certificate and Maker's Mark had to fulfil high standards in terms of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
The distillery is one of the leaders in the spirits industry, also in terms of its commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. It implements innovative programmes on the distillery's vast property to conserve the natural resources needed to produce Maker's Mark bourbon to improve the whisky as well as the process of making it. These initiatives include a distillery-wide zero landfill initiative; an on-site recycling programme, which is the first in Marion County and open to community members to participate in as well; the creation of a natural water conservation area to protect the watershed surrounding the Star Hill Farm property; and the implementation of a solar array to power the sprawling Maker' s Mark warehouse complex.
In addition, Maker' s Mark is committed to investing in the regional cultural industry, which has been a very welcome help to Kentucky restaurateurs, freelance artists, musicians and event organisers, especially in the recent days of the global lockdown.
Brown Forman (Jack Daniel's)
The producer of renowned whisky brands (including Jack Daniel's, Old Forester, Woodford, Glendronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh), as well as gin and vodka brands, is taking a net-zero approach to greenhouse gas emissions from its global production sites and supply chains. An ambitious target to be achieved by 2045. Brown-Forman feels it has a duty to produce and work in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and forward-looking way. By 2030, the company aims to reduce greenhouse gases by half by generating 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.
In 2021, for example, it converted to wind and solar power in Lynchburg at Jack Daniel's. In 2020, the company was already listed in the US Environmental Protection Agency's top 100 largest consumers of green electricity. Some of the trees used to make the barrels at Jack Daniel's are only felled after 60 years and then processed into barrels. When a barrel has reached the end of its useful life, it is sold on (depending on its condition), dismantled into its individual parts or completely recycled . For example, furniture is made from old barrels that are unsuitable for storing raw spirits. But it is not only the barrels that find their way to reuse, the glass bottles are also 100% recyclable and become new bottles for new whiskey.
100% of the leftover grain is sold on to local farms in Lynchburg, 60% of which is fed to animals. Moore County cattle are considered the healthiest and hardiest animals in all of Tennessee.
At Brown-Forman, employees are also involved and actively contribute to environmental protection. Workplaces are equipped with a "dumpster dive", a tube that leads to a collection point on the level below. There, the waste material is sorted daily and the waste from the office and the remaining waste from the distilleries is separated into plastic, paper, glass and wood. When the procedure is complete, it is decided what can be reused, what will be recycled and used again elsewhere, and what actually has to be disposed of. This also gave the staff something to think about. As a result, the staff themselves produced significantly less waste. For example, they are increasingly doing without the morning caramel-vanilla frappé iced coffee from the disposable cup or the plastic-wrapped sushi for lunch.
Also worth mentioning
Other distilleries are also devoting more and more attention to the topics of environmental protection and sustainable production. In doing so, they rely on innovative ideas that are subsequently elaborated, precisely calculated and pushed. Simply flipping a switch is not easy for many distilleries, which have often been carrying on their traditions and experience for centuries. They continue to explore the subject matter and create smaller projects in order to conserve resources and do something good for the environment at the same time.
Bowmore, for example, heats the local swimming pool with the waste water from the production process, Raasay grows the barley for their whisky exclusively in cooperation with neighbouring farmers on the island and the Americans from Buffalo Trace have joined forces with the University of Kentucky to promote the long-term sustainability of white oaks. Glenmorangie reforests oyster reefs, operates its own biomass power plant to treat the water needed for whisky production, and even released a bottling without any outer packaging in 2020. At Bruichladdich, they deal with the sustainable cultivation of barley and peat, and in the world of Canaima gin, everything revolves around the reforestation of forests in the Amazon, taking into account the indigenous population living there.
There is clearly more behind many distilleries in terms of nature conservation, sustainability or resource-saving production that we have not (yet) mentioned, but that would go beyond the scope of this article. If you want to satisfy your curiosity further, we recommend you to visit the websites of your favourite whisky, because the distilleries and companies that really make an undeniable contribution to environmental promotion do not hide their commitment from the public. There is a lot to be found and read on their websites, but there is also a lot to discover about the whisky companies' commitment on Whisky.de's video platform, which regularly features tasting videos and distillery tours.
What does Whisky.de do for the environment?
As an online mail order company, we also contribute to environmental protection in various ways. We see energy saving and environmental protection as our duty, which is why we are constantly working to improve. We set ourselves a high goal here: 100% CO2 neutrality.
It is generally known that the operation of web servers (for the provision of e.g. online shops) is normally not possible without CO2 emissions. Therefore, we work together with a provider who provides us with a CO2-neutral internet server that is 100% powered by renewable energy. The entire power supply at Whisky.de also comes from renewable sources.
In order to compensate our mail order business and to conserve resources, we use the GOGREEN programme of Deutsche Post (by the way, without any surcharge for you as our customers). The popular Whisky.de catalogue is made exclusively from recycled materials and from renewable trees.
Find out all the details about our measures in our environmental protection section.