Sustainable Distilling to Promote Ecotourism in Ireland

Ireland has a long history of distilling and this is a major draw for tourists, attracting around 600,000 visitors each year(1). The chance to try locally produced spirits is highly appealing, but with a growing interest in protecting the environment, travellers are increasingly looking for sustainable experiences from their holiday. Ireland’s spirits’ industry is adopting more sustainable practices not only in response to customer demand, but also to protect the natural environment that we are blessed with here and to benefit local communities. From use of natural resources to packaging the finished product, it is possible to take responsible steps to minimise the environmental impact of producing whiskey and other spirits.

Distillers big and small are taking measures to make their practices more environmentally friendly. For instance, Irish Distillers, who are behind brands such as Jameson’s whiskey, are investing 20% of their funds for expansion into projects that will allow more efficient use of energy and water(2). Another step the company has taken is to ensure that all the barley and malt for its Middleton Distillery meets minimum standards set by the Irish Grain Assurance Scheme, which promotes environmental protection and safety from growing the grain to its transportation. Redesigning their bottles for Jameson whiskey has also allowed a 30% reduction in the glass used for their manufacture, saving both raw materials and energy. The distillers additionally make recycling a priority, with 98% of waste packaging from their Dublin bottling plant recycled.

While large distillers can take steps to reduce the footprints they leave, responsible distilling on a smaller scale is truly sustainable, as the new distillery at Slane Castle demonstrates. Although the distillery will not be open to the public till 2016, the family have ambitious plans for creating what will potentially be the most sustainable distillery in the world(3). With fears of the impact that climate change will have on agriculture, concerns have been raised by the Government about the increasing use of valuable agricultural land across Ireland to grow non-essential crops for distilling(4), but traditionally barley has been grown and milled at the Slane Castle Estate. The close proximity of the barley to the distillery means that food miles are not an issue either(5) and its use continues to support local growers(6). Nothing will be wasted either, as the spent grains will be fed to cattle on the estate. The destruction of natural habitats is also a key concern when it comes to the production of items for our enjoyment(7). Loss of peat habitats in Ireland is currently a problem(8) and while some whiskey producers use peat in the malting process to produce a smoother finish, this is something that the Slane Castle Distillery will avoid. The estate also have plans for theirs to be the first organic whiskey from Ireland.

Beyond reducing their environmental impact, the Slane Castle Distillery will also help to support the local community, creating 25 full-time jobs. The Slane Castle Estate already works closely with local businesses to help promote them. For example, Rock Farm Slane appeared at the castle’s wedding fair earlier this year. Not only does the farm offer a natural setting for a wedding ceremony and reception, but it also offers eco camping and has plans for an eco guesthouse. Rock Farm is also committed to producing organic produce, and while they recommend local caterers to provide the food for weddings, they provide organic breakfast and BBQ packs for guests(9). Organic meat packs are also available to purchase, featuring produce from their free range Tamworth pigs that are reared in Slane Castle’s woodland, with organic farming offering a more environmentally friendly option(10). Once open, combining a visit to the Slane Castle Distillery and Rock Farm is ideal for visitors looking for a sustainable experience.

Resources:

1 “The Irish spirits industry,” Irish Spirits Association, accessed 27 October 2014
2 “Environmental sustainability,” Irish Distillers, accessed 27 October 2014
3 “Slane Castle whiskey granted permission for 12 million Euro distillery,” Slane Castle, accessed 27 October 2014
4 “The future of Irish whiskey,” Irish Food Board, accessed 27 October 2014
5 “Food miles: all you need to know,” Irish Independent, accessed 27 October 2014
6 “Address by the Chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland,” Houses of the Oireachtas, accessed 27 October 2014
7 “Environmental impact of human addiction,” Steps to Recovery, accessed 27 October 2014
8 “Habitat loss of peatlands,” Irish Peatland Conservation Council, accessed 27 October 2014
9 “Organic farm food,” Rock Farm Slane, accessed 27 October 2014
10 “Organic farming: an overview,” Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine, accessed 27 October 2014
Article written By Steve Brownlie