Climate crisis: Temperature changes could halt whiskey production in Scotland by 2080, report warns

Temperature changes caused by global warming could limit or halt whiskey production at some Scottish distilleries over the next 60 years, a report has warned.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) have found that the looming heat and drought caused by the climate crisis could have a dramatic impact on the three ingredients (water, barley and yeast) needed to make whiskey in the country .

The report, which was commissioned by Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, suggests Scotland will face more intense droughts over a longer period of time by the 2080s, resulting in reduced and intermittent water supplies in some regions.

Whiskey distilleries use around 61 billion liters of water per year, with a single liter of whiskey requiring 46.9 liters of water, meaning that droughts would force some distilleries to “cut back or stop production”, according to them. researchers.

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.

The researcher also found that the 2018 heatwave caused a 7.9% drop in UK spring barley production, which raised the value of the crop to £ 179 per tonne, from £ 145 per tonne the previous year.

A price increase of this size could add costs of around £ 27million to the Scotch whiskey industry, as production requires around 800,000 tonnes of spring barley per year, according to the report.

“Scotland is assumed to be a humid, rainy place with a constant supply of water,” said Carole Roberts, senior author and climate change researcher at UCL.

“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 also states that the flavor of Scotch whiskey could change dramatically by 2080 due to climate change, as the stages of its production have been developed to adapt to the region’s temperate maritime climate.

However, warmer air and water temperatures could lead to inefficient cooling in traditional distilleries, creating challenges for maintaining the character, consistency and quality of the liquid, according to the report.

In January, the Scotch Whiskey Association launched a sustainability strategy that commits the industry to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and reducing the environmental impact of beverage production.

The association said it aims to achieve net zero in Scotch whiskey operations five years ahead of the Scottish Government’s Net Zero 2045 target and ensure all new product packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

At the time, then Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham noted that whiskey production was “vital for prosperity and employment, especially in rural and island communities” in Scotland then. that it welcomed plans to reduce carbon emissions in the sector.

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