200-year-old whisky distillery that 'wasn’t built for efficiency' goes green

A £4 million upgrade of an historic Speyside distillery has been completed, making it one of the greenest in the Scotch whisky industry.

The Balmenach distillery, just a few miles from Grantown-on-Spey, was founded in 1824 and is one of the oldest distilleries in the Speyside region. International Beverage Holdings (IBHL) has invested in a package of “innovative green technology” at the site, which produces nearly three million litres of alcohol per year for the company’s own blends as well as the blended Scotch market. It is also home to the company’s “super-premium” Scottish gin, Caorunn.

At the heart of the project is a new anaerobic/aerobic digestion (AD) plant, which uses micro-organisms to break down the liquid co-products of whisky production, allowing them to be processed on site. This process produces clean bio-methane gas which feeds a combined heat and power engine to generate power for the distillery and the wider grid, integrated with an existing biomass boiler that uses locally-sourced wood pellets to produce zero-carbon steam for the system.

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Having paused development work during the pandemic, the site is now fully operational. The Balmenach project is International Beverage Holdings’ biggest investment in sustainable whisky production to date. It represents a major step forward in meeting the company’s commitment to use only renewable energy for production by 2040.

Group distillery manager Sean Priestley said: “At IBHL there is a culture of genuine accountability for the environmental impact of our production process, which means we have been striving for cleaner, greener whisky production many years ahead of the current Scotch Whisky Association’s sustainability target of net zero by 2040. The system we’ve built at Balmenach has been challenging, but a combination of investment, innovation, partnership working and perseverance are paying off, resulting in the significant reductions we are able to report in emissions and energy use today, which will only increase over time.”

Managing Director Malcolm Leask added: “This is one of the industry’s oldest distilleries and it wasn’t built for efficiency. But nearly 200 years on, the improvements we are seeing in terms of energy use, emissions and efficiency show just what is possible in sustainability at such a historic site.”



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