Nc’nean: the UK’s first net zero whisky distillery – and so much more!

Nc’nean: the UK’s first net zero whisky distillery – and so much more!

Distilling since 2017, Nc’nean is a pioneer in sustainability both within the Scotch whisky industry and further afield! Here’s what it’s all about. 

Sustainability is becoming increasingly central in the Scotch whisky industry – and we’ve sampled a few whiskies from distilleries that are shouting about it more, from the renewably-run Deanston to Aber Falls. The most recent of these delicious delights is from Nc’nean, a relatively new, pioneering Scotch distillery created with sustainability in mind. 

Founder and CEO Annabel Thomas left her London city job eight years ago, and established Nc’nean in 2013 on the Morvern peninsula, on the Drimnin Estate on the west coast of Scotland in the Highlands. It’s only been distilling since 2017, but made quite the splash with a record-breaking auction of its inaugural single malt, selling for an astounding £41,004 in August 2020.

Up until recently, it was emitting 25.72 tons of CO2 per year through distillery production – which is still incredibly low! Nc’nean’s 2020 carbon footprint was the first to be verified by Environmental Strategies as net zero in the UK, meaning that the distillery is removing more emissions from the atmosphere than it’s producing. Given that the Scotch whisky industry has a net zero emissions target set for 2040, this is incredible stuff from Nc’nean – 20 years ahead of schedule.

So, how has it achieved this?

The distillery had the head start of being built from the ground up, meaning it could be tailored to Thomas’ exact wants and needs. One such example is its water usage – the Nc’nean is designed to use 80% less water than a traditional distillery, through a water recycling system. Thanks to a natural cooling pond, the same water can be reused without using energy to cool it.

Waste isn’t something that’s often found at Nc’nean. An impressive 99.97% of its waste is reused or recycled. Leftover barley is fed to cows, and all by-products are used on the farm as feed or fertiliser. The stills are powered with woodchip from a local forest, and all the trees that are harvested are replanted. Where the team can’t create the energy they need themselves, they source it from a zero carbon electricity company. 

The distillery is also certified organic, and its whisky is made from organic Scottish barley. There’s no pesticides or fertilisers to be found here – the barley is bought from 10 certified organic farms over in east Scotland (as the terrain on the west coast, where the distillery is based, isn’t suited to growing). The brilliant liquid is then bottled in a 100% recycled clear glass bottle. Just this step alone reduces the typical carbon footprint of a whisky bottle by 40%!

You might think that, after all of this, the Nc’nean team would be precious about their whisky, but they actually favour it in a Highball serve, the Whisky Six; two parts whisky (50ml) and four parts soda (100ml). Combine both parts in a short glass over ice, and garnish with a sprig of mint. Let us know if you try it! 

Until next time,

Jess 🥃

P&S digest home

Pour & Sip video