Distilleries all over the world are finally starting to go green, but it feels like there’s been a particular focus on sustainability in the whisky space over the last year or so. Distilling is a notoriously energy intensive process, and for a lot of large-scale heritage brands, it’s going to take a while for their sprawling industrial campuses to upgrade and retrofit, to say nothing of the global transportation and product solutions that are needed to really start putting a dent in whisky’s carbon footprint. For smaller distilleries just starting out, it’s a bit easier, and frankly economical, to be green from the get-go. Young single malt maker Nc’nean has become the poster child for Scotch sustainability of late, powered by 100% renewable energy and boasting a net zero status for carbon emissions from its own operations. Its beautifully decorated bottles (a nice flower vase when the whisky is gone) are made from 100% recycled glass, a first for the Scotch industry that saves 40% of the carbon emissions compared to new glass. In addition to counting carbon, Nc’nean is the only fully organic whisky distillery in Scotland.
All of that is certainly to be applauded, but what’s in the bottle? Nc’nean has been distilling only since 2017, but their single malt, made from 100% organic Scottish barley, reportedly benefits from longer mashing times, slower fermentation, and unusual yeasts not commonly used with whisky distilling. They mature on-site in ex-bourbon, sherry, and STR ex-red wine casks. Nc’nean’s flagship single malt is released in non age-stated batches, but their website is impressively transparent, offering details on yeast, cask mix, and fill dates (for the youngest part of the blend), among other info. Let’s see what carbon neutral whisky tastes like, shall we?
Our sample from Batch KS17 was constructed of 43% ex-American whiskey casks, 56% ex-STR red wine casks, and 2% oloroso sherry casks. On the nose, the preponderance of American oak and STR casks is evident with buttery notes of vanilla custard, hazelnut, and shortbread that form a solid foundation for fruitier, high tone notes of baked peaches, fresh cherries, and lemon peel. The palate showcases a similar complexity but with perhaps slightly less fruit. It’s light and round with a warming entry of earthy malts, pear tart, and dark honey. A bit of dark berry jam and black pepper offer a flavorful flourish on the midpalate before a medium length finish of milk chocolate, toffee, and candied orange peel accented with a healthy dash of lingering baking spice. For a young single malt, there’s a lot to admire. And if you’re a whisky drinker concerned about climate change, it’s way cheaper than buying an electric vehicle.