Beam Suntory partnership in £3.5 million investment for peat restoration project

Beam Suntory, the whisky giant behind Laphroaig and Bowmore, has unveiled a partnership with the RSPB to protect peatlands in Ayrshire. 

The Peatland Water Sanctuary (PWS) started in November 2021 and it is now in phase two, to which the whisky giant has committed £385,000.

Peat is an essential part of the scotch whisky distillation process and Beam Suntory have committed to replenishing the same level it harvests for its whisky by 2030.

east ayrshire scotland

Details of the project

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) started this project in November 2021 with Beam Suntory, working to conserve 15 hectares of peatlands around Ardmore Distillery in Aberdeenshire. 

One year on, Beam Suntory has further invested in the second phase of the four-year project. Their £385,000 of funding will restore and regenerate the area around Airds Moss reserve in East Ayrshire.

The whisky giant along with the RSPB hopes to preserve 1,300 hectares of peatland within the next 8 years, equal to the amount of peat they harvest every year to make their Scotch whisky. Then by 2040 plan to conserve double the amount of peat they harvest.

Alistair Lonwell, head of distillation and environment at Beam Suntory had this to say: “We’re now a year in since launching our PWS initiative and it’s rewarding to be using our accumulating knowledge and expertise to make a significant impact to Scotland’s ecosystems.”

“Working across the Airds Moss Reserve in partnership with RSPB Scotland represents a great step forward in our goal to restore 1,300 hectares of peatland by 2030.”

Read more: Investment to restore the Scottish peatlands

Why is peat so important to the whisky industry?

Peat is used by the whisky industry to add a smoky taste to the alcoholic beverage. It is a natural resource in Scotland that is burnt to smoke the malted barley in the distillation process in a kiln. 

For lovers of whisky visiting the best whisky distillery tours in Scotland, digging up some peat is a fun part of the tour. However, the problem with peat is the environmental damage that peat extraction causes.

Peat is not a renewable resource. Once it is extracted the environment is damaged, habitats are destroyed and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. 

The good news is that whisky brands have recognised the effect their peat extraction has on Scotland and the wider environment. Brands like Beam Suntory are ensuring that their whisky-making activities are sustainable, with little impact on the environment.

Investing in sustainability 

The whisky industry is booming considering the economic turmoil the UK is currently experiencing. A number of large whisky companies are investing heavily in improving the manufacturing facilities and the environment around distilleries.

Last year the British government committed £11 million to distilleries to move away from fossil fuels. Also, we have seen many distilleries aim for a net zero distillation process, including Bruichladdich distillery targeting net zero by 2025.

Now is a fantastic time to invest in whisky. Sustainability is key for these industries if they are to have a future and all the big companies are investing in the environment in a big way.


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