Scotland. An unknown time in the future. Following the early 21st Century boom in demand for whisky, production is at an all-time high. Competition from on-trend new world producers has taken its toll, and over the years the SWA have been forced to gradually relax the rules which govern the production of Scotch whisky – tradition is slowly sacrificed on the altar of global competitiveness. Age statements are, for all but the most wealthy, a thing of the past. Automation and efficiency are vital to capitalise on the hungering needs of the modern, connected and educated consumer – with an abundance of choice and no regional styling to guide tastes – you snooze, you lose. Deliver or die – or someone else will take your place.
Having spent the past decade working around peer-reviewed scholarly endeavour I’m always a little cautious when I read an announcement that suggests that the boundaries of science are being pushed. In the world of whisky marketing, usually the only thing that’s being pushed out is the boat. Increasingly, the press releases crossing my desk are littered with tenuous claims of innovation. The word has become all too frequently overused, but also regularly misrepresented as synonym for anything remotely new. Then there’s actual real genuine science. And things start to get really muddy at this point.
The sustainability of the whisky industry is a topic rarely given as much attention as it deserves on the pages of whisky blogs. Despite the core ingredients of whisky being seemingly limitless, the impacts of their convergence within distillation are often far from neutral. Whilst not listed on environmental shit list alongside fuel producers, transportation companies and fashion production – virtually all aspects of the production of spirit require inputs that result in by-products – some of which are not easy or cheap to deal with in an ecologically-minded manner.