How will climate change affect Scotch whisky? – research

Glengoyne Wetlands Highlands scotch whisky

A new study commissioned by Ian Macleod’s Glengoyne distillery has outlined several threats to Scotch whisky as the climate continues to change.

The study, by professor Mark Maslin and researcher Carole Roberts from University College London, found that projected temperature increases and changes in rainfall patterns pose a threat to distillery production over the next fifty years.

According to the report, impending heat and drought stress caused by global warming could “drastically impact the volume and quality of spring barley in Scotland”. Glengoyne said 800,000 tonnes of barley are required annually in Scotch whisky production and a reduction in yield, as seen in 2018, could “cost the industry up to £27million a year”.

With a decline in summer rainfall of up to 18% and a 2˚C annual rise in temperature by 2080, the study also found that summer droughts would likely occur more often.

Climate change in the next 50-100 years may also alter the flavour profile of whisky in Scotland, the study suggested. “Stages of its production, including malting, fermentation, distillation, and maturation, have all been developed to suit the temperate maritime climate of the area,” the research said. Warmer air and water temperatures, the report found, would all have the potential to lead to inefficient cooling in traditional distilleries, “creating challenges for conserving the character, consistency, and quality of the liquid”.

Researcher Roberts said: “There’s an assumption that Scotland is wet, rainy place with a constant water supply. Climate change is changing when and where it rains, and this will create shortages and change the character of the water – effecting our favourite drams – so planning is essential to protect our whisky.”

As part of its sustainability programme, Glengoyne also announced the release of The Wetlands Single Cask (pictured above), which recognises the distillery’s 10-year relationship with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).

 Barbara Turing, brand manager at Glengoyne Highland Single Malt, said: “The threat of climate change is very real, and we all have a role to play in combatting its effects. At Glengoyne, we still have so much more to do but we are committed to reducing our own impact on the environment and working with the Scotch Whisky Association to achieve their net zero emission target by 2040.

 “We’ve been on an incredible journey over the last ten years – finding ways to use water more efficiently, introducing renewable sources of energy and using a local anaerobic digestor for 100% of our liquid waste. Our partnership with the WWT has been at the heart of our sustainability work and we want to continue to support the valuable work they do. So, when customers raise a dram of this special release, they’ll know they are supporting the important and necessary work of the charity." 

The Wetlands Single Cask release comprises 300 bottles from a European oak sherry hogshead that was laid down in 2011. The 59.1% abv whisky is £120. 

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