Building a Distillery for the Future
A single malt like Rosebank is a wholly natural product of malted barley, pure water and a little yeast. The origins of such whisky are as natural as the ingredients with the spirit being distilled after the harvest and the draff fed to cattle whose manure helped grow the next crop of barley. This connection with the land continues to this day, even if whisky-making has become a year-round business.
Rosebank’s owners, Ian Macleod Distillers want the new distillery to be as sustainable as its other distilleries of Glengoyne in the Campsie Fells and Tamdhu on Speyside. Caring for the environment genuinely matters to this family firm and not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also enlightened self-interest since the long-term future of Scotch whisky depends on having an abundance of fresh water and grain.
When Ian Macleod took over Glengoyne in 2003, the residue other than draff was being taken away in thirty tankers a week. Robbie Hughes, then distillery manager, suggested the family to try something different and plant a series of reed beds to filter out the impurities in the effluent. “It’s a biological system that uses no chemicals, just a 1.5kw pump and gravity does the rest,” he explains. While to pollinate all the flowers and provide some honey, a pair of beehives have been installed.
As well as being a brilliant natural solution to a man-made problem, the Glengoyne wetlands has been great for biodiversity. Sadly, there’s no space for reed beds at Rosebank, but Robbie, now group distillation manager, is determined that the distilling will be as green as possible. “We have sourced the most efficient boiler we can possibly buy, and it’s the same for the cooling tower that requires the least amount of water,” he says. “We’re also looking for the draff and pot ale to go to a biofuels plant that is just four miles from the distillery.”
Apparently, the biofuels created by Rosebank’s by-products may eventually power lorries and if those lorries ever carried cases of its single malt, it would be a real virtuous circle. Whisky-making uses a lot of energy, so every responsible distiller has to strive to be as efficient as possible, capturing every bit of waste heat and recycling every drop of water it can. It’s a responsibility taken seriously by Robbie Hughes and everyone involved with Rosebank.