As one of Scotland’s main export products, Scotch whisky is enjoyed the world over.
But perhaps we should not take a good dram for granted, as projected temperature increases and changes in rainfall patterns threaten distillery production over the next fifty years.
Climate researchers from University College London found impending heat and drought stress caused by global warming could drastically impact the volume and quality of spring barley in Scotland.
800,000 tonnes are required annually in Scotch Whisky production and a reduction in yield, as seen in 2018, could cost the industry up to £27m a year.
With a decline in summer rainfall of up to 18 per cent and a 2.0˚C annual rise in temperature by 2080, they also found that summer-droughts, which halted production at many distilleries across Islay, Perthshire, and Speyside in 2018, would likely occur with much greater frequency going forward.
Climate change in the next 50-100 years could also threaten to alter the flavour profile of whisky in Scotland.
Stages of its production, including malting, fermentation, distillation, and maturation, have all been developed to suit the temperate maritime climate of the area.
Warmer air and water temperatures, the report found, would all have the potential to lead to inefficient cooling in traditional distilleries, creating challenges for conserving the character, consistency, and quality of the liquid.
Carole Roberts, climate change researcher at University College London, explained to City A.M. that “there’s an assumption that Scotland is wet, rainy place with a constant water supply.”
“Climate change is changing when and where it rains, and this will create shortages and change the character of the water, effecting our drams,” she added.
Ahead of COP 26 in Scotland, a report by Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky stressed the pressing need for all industries and individuals to come together to combat climate change.
Moreover, the company launched a special release, The Wetlands Single Cask, which recognises the distillery’s ongoing relationship with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) which began in 2011.
Wetlands can help drastically slow down climate change, storing twice as much carbon as all the world’s rainforests combined but they too are under considerable threat from climate change, the report said.
“The threat of climate change is very real, and we all have a role to play in combatting its effects. We still have so much more to do but we are committed to reducing our own impact on the environment and working with the Scotch Whisky Association to achieve their net zero emission target by 2040,” Barbara Turing, manager at Glengoyne Highland Single Malt, told City A.M. today.
“Over the last ten years, [we found] ways to use water more efficiently, introducing renewable sources of energy and using a local anaerobic digestor for 100 per cent of our liquid waste,” she added.