Conservation has always been part of the whiskey industry, even when it was driven by economic realities rather than environmental concerns. Just look at those thrifty Scots, who’ve been practicing all three R’s with their barrels for generations: Recycling the bourbon industry’s castoffs (who only use them once before getting rid of them – the American way!); reducing the space their barrels occupy by making larger hogsheads; and reusing barrels three or four times before they meet their final reuse as fuel for smoking fish.
Today, of course, distillers from all around the world are taking their impact on the environment seriously, and that’s something we should celebrate. Here are a few interesting (and commendable) conservation efforts from distillers around the world.
Deanston Distillery in Stirling, Scotland, is the only distillery we know of that’s totally independent from the electric grid. Instead of using municipal power, Deanston’s facility runs on electricity generated by an onsite hydroelectric system powered by the adjacent River Tieth. There’s a satisfying resonance here, since the Deanston property was a textile mill before it was a distillery, and during the 1830s it had the largest waterwheel in Europe.
Bainbridge Organic Distillers
Located on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Bainbridge Organic Distillers uses 100% organic Washington-grown grain to produce its line of whiskeys, vodkas, and gins. Why organic? Bainbridge explains on its website: “by using organically and sustainably grown ingredients we are preventing the release of synthetic fertilizers and dangerous chemicals into the environment. These compounds eventually wind up in our rivers and ground water, where they endanger people, wildlife and our way of life.”
They also think organically grown grain just tastes better – and it’s possible they have a point. Their whiskey is excellent, and they just took home Craft Whiskey of the Year from Whiskey Advocate for their outstanding Yama Mizunara Cask Single Grain.
Big corporations don’t always have a reputation for doing the right thing, but drinks giant Diageo deserves some credit for its environmental conservation programs, which are pretty remarkable. They’ve set themselves some ambitious goals around waste product and wastewater management, including reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and achieving zero waste to landfill by 2020.
The George Dickel Distillery in Tennessee already manages 100% of its wastewater onsite, while their Valleyfield Distillery in Quebec no longer sends any waste to the landfill.