Nc'nean champions a sustainable philosophy, and the distillery runs entirely on renewable energy. Founder, Annabel Thomas, and her team are driven to push the whisky sector forward and are committed to sustainable production.
While most distilleries use a harsh cleaner on their wash stills, fermenters and mash tun, Nc'nean discovered an enzyme called Enzybrew, initially designed for the beer industry. The team experimented across their vessels and found it was a great cleaning product for their wash still. Consequently, using the eco-friendly enzyme has halved their chemical usage.
The team looked at other opportunities to reduce waste, including caustic soda which comes in throwaway drums. Instead, they've invested in returnable drums to reduce their impact on the planet.
Made from organic Scottish barley, which helps create a distinctive flavour, Nc'nean whisky is certified organic.
"There is real richness and depth that comes from the organic barley," Annabel says. "If you're growing organic, you get much lower yields. So I think you get much more flavour in every grain."
The team also forage for local botanicals. The Botanical Spirit by Nc'nean includes locally foraged sorrel, heather, bog myrtle and wild thyme. The botanicals which are handpicked by the team are sourced in areas where no chemicals or fertilisers are used. The Botanical Spirit is certified organic.
Taking care while foraging is also considered by the team, and they make sure to never over pick from areas they visit.
The team searched for six months to find the right supply of a recycled vessel to embody their sustainability philosophy. Most suppliers offered bottles with a 20% recycled content, but no suppliers could offer more than that.
As Annabel explained, distilleries in Scotland regularly call for clear bottles for their whisky (which can also mean a large amount of rejected stock), which requires at least 80% virgin raw materials.
Annabel came to the end of her search when she discovered a relatively new company that could offer a 100% recycled clear glass bottle. By using these 100% recycled bottles, the Nc'nean distillery reduces their carbon footprint by 40% on every bottle.
All energy used on the Nc'nean site is renewable. The biomass boiler, fuelled by timber from the local forest, and electricity is supplied by renewable green energy provider Bulb.
The distillery received a low carbon footprint, 1/10 of an equivalent fossil-powered distillery. But the fermentation emissions meant they produce lots of C02. Annabel remains dedicated to sustainable production and considers her options to reduce these emissions, suggesting a soda water company could be the answer.
The distillery's natural cooling pond provides rainwater to cool the stills, which is then recycled. This is unique for a distillery in Scotland, Annabel adds, and means the distillery does not need to extract water from a river, which can disturb the river's ecosystem.
The leftover barley (the draff) is fed to the cattle and the pot ale gets spread in the fields as fertiliser.
The Nc'nean distillery reuses or recycles 99.97% of all waste. Their mission is to reach 100%.
Wood chip to feed the biomass boiler