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Nc’nean becomes first UK distillery to reach net zero emissions

The distillery leads the charge in Scotland’s biggest year for sustainability, beating the industry target by 20 years
The independent Scottish whisky maker Nc’nean is the first distillery in the UK to reach net zero emissions for its production, meaning it has beaten the Scotch whisky industry target by 20 years.

The Nc’nean team is leading the charge in what is set to be Scotland’s biggest year for sustainability. The distillery’s carbon footprint is now verified by Environmental Strategies Ltd, confirming that the few emissions that result from its production is less than the amount of emissions which have been removed from the atmosphere.
Nc"nean Distillery from above

Nc’nean founder Annabel Thomas comments: “This feels like our greatest achievement so far. From the moment we started out on this adventure, there have been plenty of people who told us that using renewable energy would be too hard and that organic barley would be impossible to work with. Many even said that using a 100 per cent recycled glass bottle just wasn’t the done thing in premium spirits!

“I am incredibly proud of our small team, who have put their hearts and souls into overcoming all of these barriers to create a delicious whisky with the lowest possible footprint – and 20 years ahead of the industry’s target!

“But this is just the beginning. In a year where Scotland is hosting COP26 and sustainability is such a hot topic, it is my hope that our work will inspire others in our industry. We want more companies to look at their mode of operating and make improvements where they can, as we will also be continuing to do across our business.”
Founder, Annabel Thomas

Nc’nean’s head of sustainability, Amy Stammers, added: “Sustainability has been at the heart of our mission since inception and it really is at the core of everything we do. Working to produce our first full carbon footprint has been tough but rewarding, and it is my hope that others in the industry will follow in our footsteps and publish theirs too. It is only by measuring emissions that companies can really focus on reducing them. There is still more to achieve.”

The achievement of reaching net zero status has been accomplished by powering Nc'nean with 100 per cent renewable energy, and offsetting the remaining few emissions through partner Highland Carbon. The distillery uses woodchip from a commercial forest two miles from the distillery to power its biomass boiler, which in turn heats its copper stills – all trees are replanted. The small amount of electricity that is used is 100 per cent renewable and verified zero carbon, supplied by Bulb. The residual carbon emissions have been offset via a sustainable forest planting project with a verified carbon standard hallmark.

Nc’nean’s whisky is bottled in a 100 per cent recycled clear glass bottle, which in turn reduces each bottle's carbon footprint by an impressive 40 per cent and reuses raw materials in line with the circular economy - another tick in the box for conscious consumers.

But Nc’nean’s sustainability credentials don’t stop with carbon emissions. The distillery is certified organic and only sources organic Scottish barley for its whisky production.

This ethos is evident throughout the business with its commitment to zero waste - 99.97 per cent of waste is recycled or reused. Leftover barley (draff) is fed to the cows on the farm. Specifically designed to use 80 per cent less water than a traditional distillery, Nc’nean’s cooling water is continuously recycled via a natural cooling pond, which means the distillery can use the same water over and over without the need to use energy to cool it down, or chemicals to keep it clean.