Family-owned Arbikie Distilling Ltd is aiming to be one of the world’s most sustainable distillers.
The Arbikie Highland Estate distillery is a genuine field-to-bottle operation – the ingredients for all their spirits are planted, sown, grown and harvested on the farm within a stone’s throw of the distillery. Records show distilling on this site dating back to 1794 – it is the field-to-bottle culture used by these ancient distillers that inspired Arbikie’s distilling ethos. Premium spirits can only come from the highest quality ingredients and drawing from decades of farming experience, they grow all the raw materials to make their award-winning range of whisky, vodka and gin.
The Arbikie Highland Estate has always been farmed with absolute respect for the land. The addition of a distillery has not changed their commitment to minimising any environmental impact.
The soon-to-be hydrogen-powered distillery at their Angus farm has always had a focus on sustainability. Production began in 2014 with the goal to add value to the potatoes which were deemed to be too ‘wonky’ for the farm’s bigger customers. Tattie Bogle Potato Vodka was born and from there they have gone on to release a range of award-winning gins, vodka and whisky including their climate positive Nàdar spirits made from peas.
The Scotch Whisky Association has set an ambitious target for the Scotch Whisky industry to reach carbon neutrality by 2040. In order for the industry to reach this goal it is vital that sustainability is improved across the supply chain, including both agricultural practices and malting.
To reach these sustainability goals Arbikie needed to look beyond the distilleries four walls and consider both upstream and downstream emission sources. A major contributor to the carbon footprint of barley-based alcoholic beverages such as Scotch Whisky is tied within agricultural practices (e.g., the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers) and in the processing of raw barley into malt. Conservation barley varieties have been introduced into the farm rotation as they are known to have the potential to reduce emissions, whilst utilising low input agricultural regimes. The challenge addressed here was to look further down the production chain and producing malt from these varieties in a more sustainable way.
Funding through The Scottish Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund, from Scotland Food and Drink, administered by Interface allowed the collaboration between Arbikie Distilling Ltd and Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD), to take place.
The project focused on characterising the behaviour of conservation barleys upon exposure to industry-typical malting regimes and sought to exploit some of the known resilience present in such barley to reduce water and energy input into malt production. Within its scope, the project successfully identified conservation barley varieties that could be used to produce malt of favourable quality. Further, the results indicated that malt quality was similar between the typical and low input regime, highlighting potential for reduced input malt production.
Bringing together Arbikie’s knowledge of agriculture with Heriot-Watt’s malting expertise has resulted in the inherent qualities of older barley varieties being applied to the malting process to successfully develop lower input regimes.
- The project successfully identified conservation barley varieties that could be used to produce malt of favourable quality. In addition, the results indicated that malt quality was similar between the typical and low input regime, highlighting potential for reduced input malt production.
- Bringing together Arbikie’s knowledge of agriculture with Heriot-Watts malting expertise has resulted in the inherent qualities of older barley varieties being applied to the malting process to successfully develop lower input regimes.
- The project has allowed for continued development of expertise in conservation/heritage barley variety processing at HWU. This has led to a demonstrable benefit for teaching and research at Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD).
- From a research perspective the work has allowed for development of additional research projects in the area that are anticipated to lead to publication of peer-reviewed journal articles. With regards to teaching, the project has contributed to on-going efforts to grow research-led teaching and is benefitting development of student laboratory skills through multiple undergraduate and postgraduate student thesis projects that continue to explore the theme.
The Scottish Food and Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund
This project benefitted from The Scottish Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund, a key initiative of the Scottish Government’s Industry Recovery Plan, first launched by Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and Interface in October 2021, with the aim of encouraging businesses to take action on their environmental impacts through collaborative projects with Scottish universities in order to accelerate their journey to net zero. The fund supported 17 projects across a range of sustainability themes and companies.