Climate researchers at University College London (UCL) have found that the looming heat and drought stress caused by global warming could have a dramatic impact on the three ingredients needed to make a dram in Scotland, namely water, barley and yeast.
The report, commissioned by Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, suggests Scotland will face more intense droughts over a longer period by the 2080s.
This will result in a reduced and intermittent water supply in some parts of the country, forcing some distilleries to “cut back or stop production” as they are “heavily dependent on a continuous water supply”.
Researchers claim that whiskey distilleries use around 61 billion liters of water per year, with a single liter of whiskey requiring 46.9 liters of water.
The report draws on evidence of drought conditions in the summer of 2018, when five of Islay’s 10 distilleries and the Blair Atholl and Edradour distilleries in Perthshire were forced to stop production.
In the same year, Glenfarclas in Speyside reported an entire month’s loss of production, amounting to 300,000 liters of whiskey, due to warm weather conditions.
Although the report reveals that barley is considered a relatively drought tolerant crop, the negative consequences of the warmer weather on the grain variety have also been observed over the past decade.
Researchers said the 2018 heat wave caused a 7.9% drop in UK spring barley production, pushing the value of crops up to £ 179 per tonne, from £ 145 per tonne the previous year.
As the production of Scotch whiskey requires around 800,000 tonnes of spring barley per year, a price increase of this magnitude would cost the industry around £ 27million, they said.
The report suggested, however, that a rise in temperature could lead to a resurgence in the use of corn by distilleries, once “a full-fledged ingredient in Scotch grain whiskey”.
But hotter summers and mild winters would also increase populations of invasive species, pests and diseases.
Carole Roberts, lead author and researcher on climate change at UCL, said: “Scotland is assumed to be a humid and rainy place with a constant supply of water.
“Climate change is changing when and where it rains, and it’s going to create shortages and change the character of the water, affecting our favorite drams, so planning is essential to protect our whiskey.”
The report says the flavor of Scotch whiskey could also be strongly affected by 2080 due to climate change.
The stages of its production, including malting, fermentation, when yeast is added, distillation and maturation, have all been developed to suit the region’s temperate maritime climate.
But warmer air and water temperatures, according to the report, would all have the potential to lead to inefficient cooling in traditional distilleries, creating challenges for the retention of character, consistency and quality. some cash.
Barbara Turing, Brand Manager at Glengoyne, said: “The threat of climate change is very real and we all have a role to play in combating its effects.
“At Glengoyne, we still have a long way to go, but we are committed to reducing our own impact on the environment and working with the Scotch Whiskey Association to achieve their goal of net zero emissions by 2040.”
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In time with the publication of the report, the distillery announced the launch of its Wetlands Single Cask to represent its continued relationship with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) since 2011.
The distillery has adopted a wetland facility for its liquid waste, with a percentage of the profits going directly to further climate emergency work carried out by the conservation charity.
Ms. Turing added, “Our partnership with WWT has been at the heart of our sustainability work and we want to continue to support the valuable work they do. “
Professor Mark Maslin, professor of climate change at UCL who worked on the report, said: “The work Glengoyne is doing to reduce its carbon emissions and protect whiskey production from climate change is essential.
“But the whiskey industry is just a fish in a big pond, and we need the support, investment and infrastructure from government to get all of us to be net zero emissions as soon as possible.”