Whisky gets greener as Scottish distillers burn waste byproducts

Fri Apr 4, 2014 7:16am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Nina Chestney

SPEYSIDE (Reuters) - Scotch whisky distillers are burning their unwanted grain byproducts, wood chips and other types of biomass for a source of energy in remote areas of the Highlands, where gas links are scarce and fuel oil is pricey.

The production of Scotch whisky has evolved over more than 500 years and is steeped in tradition. It is also a big business, generating 4 billion pounds ($6 billion) a year in exports - a quarter of all Britain's food and drink sales abroad.

New distilleries are being built to meet demand from over 200 countries around the world including new markets in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Family-run, centuries-old distilleries are trying to minimize operational costs.

Most distilleries in Scotland have relied on heavy fuel oil to generate heat for distilling processes, but biomass such as wood, plant-based material or organic waste is now an increasingly attractive and reliable option.

"As we expand capacity, biomass will be an integral part of what we are doing going forward," said Gerry O'Hagan, operational excellence director of spirits and wine for Diageo, the world's biggest spirits company.


In the whisky-making heartland of Speyside in north-east Scotland, Diageo opened a 45 million pound distillery four years ago at Roseisle. Barley fields surround the modern industrial building, with glistening glass walls enclosing huge copper stills.

The distillery, which has no access to a gas line, produces 10.5 million liters a year, which is matured for a minimum of three years before being used in brands such as Johnnie Walker.   Continued...

The museum room is seen at the Diageo Cardhu distillery in Scotland March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne