Bunnahabhain becomes first Islay whiskey producer to aim for net zero distillation

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Bunnahabhain is set to become the first Islay distillery to have a net zero emission distillation process, following the installation of a biomass-based energy center – powered entirely by spent malt and biomass forest from 15 miles away.

The combination of wood chips from low value timber felled on Islay and distillation by-products should help promote biodiversity, as existing coniferous forests are replanted with a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees.

Some currently planted peatlands will also be restored. The ash from the biofuel will then be used as a natural fertilizer for the replanted forest, creating a circular pattern of sustainability.

The £ 6.5million project was funded by AMP Clean Energy, which will own, manage and operate the biomass system. It is currently being built by Dallol Energy, AMP Clean Energy’s designated contractor and project developer, and is expected to be operational by next spring.

The facility aims to save approximately 3,500 tonnes of carbon per year, equivalent to the emissions of 1,800 diesel cars, or more than the total number of Islay-based vehicles.

Julian Patton, Director of International Supply Chain at Distell International, owner of Bunnahabhain, said: “The Scotch Whiskey Association has set a net zero target for 2040 and a lot of work is being done by our team to achieve this. goal long before that.

“The biomass center makes Bunnahabhain Islay’s first distillery with a zero net distillation process, and we are extremely proud, not only of the scale of the project, but also of the completely local supply system, which supports the forests. and the economy of the island. ”

Richard Burrell, Managing Director of AMP Clean Energy, added: “The biomass energy center under development in Bunnahabhain is a historic low-carbon project that sets the bar for how manufacturers can reduce their emissions. of Scope One carbon, which will be essential to achieve net zero. . “

Separately, a group of eleven distilleries on the River Spey have achieved certification for their management of precious water resources.

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), which sets a global benchmark for water sustainability, awarded the award to 11 Diageo-owned distilleries, ahead of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow next month.

One of Scotland’s longest rivers, famous for its fishing and whiskey, about half the Scotch whiskey distilled on the Spey.

The whole river is protected by European legislation as a special area of ​​conservation, in recognition of its importance for the protection of biodiversity such as wildlife, including Atlantic salmon.

The water management work of the Diageo Spey Catchment Group, which includes world-renowned distilleries such as Cardhu, Mortlach and Cragganmore, has earned it the International Water Stewardship Standard certification.

This recognizes continuous improvement and a commitment to continuous action in response to the ever-changing nature of water and climate-related threats.

To achieve certification, a team from Diageo engaged with local communities and stakeholders to launch projects on the River Spey, designed to take care of water use and improve water efficiency. water, as well as to protect against climate-related impacts by improving the sustainability of the water balance.

This included engagement with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, the Spey Catchment Initiative, the Spey Fishery Board, the Scottish Canoe Association, Spirit of the Spey and others, during the certification process.

The work with the RSPB to restore the peatlands of Abernethy Nature Reserve in Cairngorm National Park is a recent example of efforts, where water retention in the watershed has been identified as a key issue for the ‘improvement of biodiversity and business continuity.

In the summer of 2018, some Speyside distilleries were forced to stop whiskey production after a heat wave caused them to run out of water.

Ewan Andrew, Director of Sustainability at Diageo, said: “Water is an absolutely crucial ingredient in our whiskey, but it is also a precious shared resource that is under increasing pressure in many parts of the world, including Scotland.

“The certification of our Speyside distilleries recognizes the efforts we have made in the watershed, to ensure sustainable and high quality water management, so that our natural landscape is preserved for all. “

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