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Beam Suntory Aims To Restore, Preserve Scotland’s Peatlands And Watersheds

Beam Suntory, the maker of Teacher’s, Laphroaig and Bowmore Scotch whiskies, recently launched a new Peatland Water Sanctuary initiative.

The initiative looks to ensure the long-term sustainability of whisky production in Scotland, and the first project is due to begin at Ardmore distillery this month, followed by subsequent projects at other sites across Scotland.

It will be a large-scale series of peatland restoration and conservation and watershed conservation projects in Scotland representing a significant expansion of Suntory and Beam Suntory’s work in watershed protection. This follows their establishment of Natural Water Sanctuaries in both Japan and the US.

Peatland Water Sanctuary
Ardmore will be one of Suntory’s peatland conservation projects (image via Beam-Suntory)

According to a joint statement, Beam Suntory and Suntory Holdings plan to invest more than $4 million in the restoration and conservation of 1,300 hectares of peatlands by 2030, enough to produce the same amount of peat that Beam Suntory harvests every year in making its Scotch whiskies on an ongoing basis.

Once restored and conserved, peatland naturally accumulates by 1mm per year, and that 1mm growth spread across 1,300 hectares will equate to Beam Suntory’s annual use. Suntory and Beam Suntory will also undertake new watershed conservation projects at various locations in Scotland.

Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory holdings, said in a prepared statement the Peatland Water Sanctuary initiative is inspired by Suntory’s Mizu to Ikiru (Living with Water) promise, “which is underpinned by our mission to create harmony with people and nature. We believe that water flowing through peatlands is suited for whisky production and by restoring and conserving peatlands we hope to not only contribute to preserving whisky production as an indispensable part of Scotland’s culture, but also fulfil our responsibility as a company that relies on the blessings of nature and water.”

In the first phase, nearly 15 hectares of peatland in the Ardmore Knockandy Hill north side slope will be restored, with more to follow in 2022. Restoration will also potentially include Malsach Burn Valley as early as 2022.

This initial restoration project at Ardmore will be undertaken in partnership with the James Hutton Institute, who are assisting with the research, planning, and execution of the restoration, and Forestry and Land Scotland, which owns the land.

Initial assessments for new projects are already under way on Islay, where Beam Suntory’s Bowmore and Laphroaig distilleries are located, and surveys on potential watershed activities near Beam Suntory’s Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch distilleries are also being planned.

Beyond 2030, Suntory and Beam Suntory look to have restored sufficient peatlands by 2040 to equate to twice the volume of peat that Beam Suntory harvests to make its Scotch whiskies.

The conservation work will also support carbon sequestration and biodiversity in the local area, helping to maintain and protect the important role of peatland ecosystems in Scotland’s natural environment.

David Hunter, chief supply chain officer for Beam Suntory, said, “As part of our Proof Positive sustainability strategy, we believe it’s our responsibility to make a positive impact on the environment in which we operate, which is why we are committing to restoring and conserving as much peat as we harvest by 2030, as well as conserving crucial watersheds across Scotland. By protecting peatlands and preserving local watersheds, we will also help to enhance and ensure the production of the highest quality whisky in Scotland for future generations.”

Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, said healthy peatlands help build resilience into water supplies and restoring them allows nature to recover from the impact of climate change and promotes long-term carbon sequestration.

“These natural assets are essential for sustaining one of Scotland’s most important industries, and it is truly a pleasure to work with partners who have such a well-developed philosophy around the protection of our natural environment,” he said.

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