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A decent drop

Article appeared in issue 2, 2022

 A new campaign highlights the sustainability credentials of the Irish whiskey industry 


The Irish Whiskey Association has launched a campaign to profile the sustainability credentials of the Irish whiskey industry. Reducing water usage, supporting barley growth, and using renewable forms of energy are some of the measures Irish whiskey distilleries are introducing to promote sustainability across the industry .

Commenting on the announcement, John Quinn, chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association said: “Building on centuries of heritage, the Irish whiskey industry is now looking to the future and leading the way when it comes to sustainability. Irish whiskey producers are employing a range of innovative and cutting-edge technologies to reduce energy usage, reduce water use and  reduce waste, while increasing the use of renewable energy, increasing the use of Irish barley and malt, and supporting biodiversity. 

“It’s not just about the environment. As the number of Irish whiskey distilleries has grown from four to 40 over the past decade, new distilleries have supported urban regeneration and rural development, reusing vacant buildings and sites, employing and buying locally and attracting visitors to communities across the island of Ireland.” 

Each week the campaign will focus on a different company and one of their key sustainability achievements. 

The first companies to be profiled in January and February include: 

Rademon Estate Distillery – who source energy from their on-site wind and hydro turbines; 

Terra Spirits and Liqueurs – a company that has achieved a 30% net energy reduction since 2018 through switching to biogas and solar PV; 

Slane Distillery – a distillery that collects rainwater for treatment and use in processing; and has restored a section of Harlinstown Stream, including construction of a salmon ladder; 

Boann Distillery – who planted 2,000 oak trees in recent months at Swainstown Estate in Co Meath as part of their barrel sustainability programme; 

Great Northern Distillery – who have reduced their Biological Oxygen Demand discharge to the wastewater system by 80% per LPA since 2016. 

Ireland’s largest producers of whiskey, Irish Distillers, have a ‘Sustainable GreenSpring Barley Scheme’. This aims to support the long-term viability of the springbarley sector in Ireland by incentivising farmers to continually improve theirsustainable practice. Irish Distillers’ brands include Jameson, Powers and Redbreast.

Conor McQuaid, CEO and chairman, Irish Distillers said: “At the core of everything we do is a passion for our craft and an ambition to create drinks that can be enjoyed the world over. None of this is possible unless we protect the environment and communities from which we have grown. From the water and energy we use, to the sourcing of our cereals, we aim to surpass the highest environmental standards and will always look for new ways to make a positive impact.”

Teeling Whiskey Distillery recently won the award for Most Sustainable Irish Whiskey Distillery at the Icons of Whiskey Awards. Teeling Small Batch is sold in bottles made using 75% recycled glass. Other initiatives to date include the installation of a rainwater harvesting system in their distillery; the use of an onsite well to reduce water consumption; and energy optimisation measures such as the harnessing of excess energy produced during the production process to heat their visitor centre.

In 2021, Irish Distillers participated in a trial led by leading glass supplier Encirc to create the world’s most sustainable glass bottle. The trial involved manufacturing glass using biofuels, rather than fossil fuels, and increasing the recycled glass content to 100% to reduce the carbon footprint and overall environmental impact of glass manufacturing. Tommy Keane, production director, Irish Distillers told magazine at the time: “We felt that this project was a great example of how, through partnership and innovation, we could be part of an initiative exploring how our industry could ultimately reduce its environmental impact. Given the  carbon intensity associated with glass production and our supply requirements, this is a priority area for Irish Distillers, and we are keen to support our suppliers in initiatives like these where we can. “The trial produced 3.5 million bottles – across a range of our most popular SKUs – which are now in circulation. By using biofuels to produce the glass and increasing the recycled content to 100%, the carbon footprint of each bottle produced in the trial was cut by up to 90%.”

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