Nc’nean whisky distillery has become the first in the UK to reach net zero emissions for production, beating the industry target of 2040 by 20 years.
The pioneering independent distillery’s 2020 carbon footprint is verified by Environmental Strategies Ltd, confirming that the few emissions that result from its production is less than the number of emissions that have been removed from the atmosphere.
Nc’nean founder Annabel Thomas hailed the achievement at a distillery, based near Drimnin, where sustainability has been the watchword from day one.
Annabel Thomas said: “This feels like our greatest achievement so far. From the moment we started out on this adventure, there have been plenty of people who told us that using renewable energy would be too hard and that organic barley would be impossible to work with. Many even said that using a 100% recycled glass bottle just wasn’t the done thing in premium spirits.
“I am incredibly proud of our small team, who have put their hearts and souls into overcoming all of these barriers to create a delicious whisky with the lowest possible footprint – and 20 years ahead of the industry’s target.
“But this is just the beginning. In a year where Scotland is hosting COP26 and sustainability is such a hot topic, it is my hope that our work will inspire others in our industry. We want more companies to look at their mode of operating and make improvements where they can, as we will also be continuing to do across our business.”
Rewarding journey for Nc’nean
Nc’nean’s head of sustainability, Amy Stammers, said the journey to this point has been a difficult one, but most rewarding.
She added: “Sustainability has been at the heart of our mission since inception and it really is at the core of everything we do.
“Working to produce our first full carbon footprint has been tough but rewarding, and it is my hope that others in the industry will follow in our footsteps and publish theirs too. It is only by measuring emissions that companies can really focus on reducing them. There is still more to achieve.”
Net zero status has been accomplished by powering Nc’Nean with 100% renewable energy, and offsetting the remaining few emissions through partner Highland Carbon.
The distillery uses woodchip from a commercial forest two miles from the distillery to power its biomass boiler, which in turn heats its copper stills – all trees are replanted. The small amount of electricity that is used is 100% renewable and verified zero-carbon, supplied by Bulb. The residual carbon emissions have been offset via a sustainable forest planting project with a verified carbon standard hallmark.
The brand is also bucking the industry trend of using “extra-flint” (super clear) glass for premium spirits. Nc’nean whisky is bottled in a 100% recycled clear glass bottle which reduces each bottle’s carbon footprint by a staggering 40% and reuses raw materials in line with the circular economy.
But Nc’nean’s sustainability credentials don’t stop with carbon emissions. The distillery is certified organic and only sources organic Scottish barley for its whisky production. Nc’nean believes biodiversity is key to a healthy planet and is resolute that regenerative organic agriculture is the best way to increase biodiversity, protect water, sequester carbon, and improve soil health.
This ethos is evident throughout the business with its commitment to zero waste – 99.97% of waste is recycled or reused. Leftover barley (draff) is fed to the cows on the farm.
And specifically designed to use 80% less water than a traditional distillery, Nc’nean’s cooling water is continuously recycled via a natural cooling pond, which means the distillery can use the same water over and over without the need to use energy to cool it down, or chemicals to keep it clean.