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A blog post by Ronald Daalmans, Environmental Sustainability Manager

Investing in water for the future of whisky 

A blog post by Ronald Daalmans, Environmental Sustainability Manager 

In my past five years working at Chivas Brothers, I have been right at the centre of whisky production and have seen water resources become a more prevalent issue within the industry. A sustainable, good quality water supply is critical for safeguarding the production of Scotch whisky for the future and we cannot take water availability for granted. With the steady growth the industry is seeing, it’s even more important for us to invest in and support research to preserve this important ingredient.

Having assessed the flow levels expected in our catchments in future, there is a need to prepare for or mitigate against periods of low flows, which will occur where the frequency and duration of warm and dry spells increase or change, especially across rural uplands. Less is know about what will happen to water temperatures, as monitoring has been limited in the past but this could limit Scotch whisky production during warmer periods, as we rely on water of a consistent temperature.

Forearmed is forewarned and through our partnership with the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute, we will be looking for the most effective techniques to help combat the impact of climate change on distillery water resources. This is not only important for us as a business but can also be passed on as best practice and used by other distillers.

 As we need help to develop and test novel solutions we have been looking at opportunities to support further research, which is why we are enabling a PhD student to embark on a four-year Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) industrial studentship. During the project they will develop an understanding of our water needs for process and cooling, as a part of our environmental sustainability team. Their field research will take place at The Glenlivet distillery, which has two water gathering areas, allowing for comparison research to take place. Much of their work will centre around identifying and testing the effectiveness of novel solutions to manage water flow. This will include identifying the best locations to use these techniques as this may vary depending on the type of soil, ground cover and land gradient.  The scale at which these measures are needed to have a suitable effect will also be assessed, using computer models of the area. 

Our ambition is that this research will provide a solid foundation for further development in the future, and will take us – and the wider industry - one step closer to securing sustainable water resources in the long term. We hope that we will set the example for others within the industry and will be working collaboratively to ensure we protect an ingredient that plays such a vital role in the development of quality Scotch whisky.

You can read more about our PhD support here:


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