The New World of Whisky: It’s not good enough to just be tasty and affordable.

When you think of single malt whisky, I’d bet you don’t think of sustainability. The funny thing is whisky producers have always had an intricate connection to their land as well as the communities that support them. There’s even one brand of Scottish whisky that supports golden eagle conservation, the Ardmore, as well as initiatives like Bruichladdich’s field to bottle initiative where you can trace the ingredients of every bottle based on the product number of that unique bottle. They love the farmers that make producing their expressions possible, and want you to too!

We have some great fresh water in Victoria!

Those are all Scottish examples, but what about here in Australia? As the next wave of whisky production in Australia is gaining fantastic momentum since it all started back in 1992, distilleries here know they can’t keep doing things the same way they’ve done them for centuries past. Times they are a changing, a great man once said. So, whisky production is incrementally changing over time as well. Well some things will never change (great water, copper stills, the best barrels and barley). The intensive use of water, energy and other community resources can’t go on unchanged.

A look at the distillery floor (the old one though).

One of our local whisky distilleries is out to fix that. The daring folks over at Starward Whisky launched their sustainability initiative at the Sustainable Living Festival a few weeks ago. It takes a holistic view of sustainability; incorporating the natural resources on which we all rely (aka, ‘the environment’), its own team, and the wider community in which it operates. This is not a flashy PR campaign, it’s a stake in the ground with the declaration that New World practices can and should be better. They shared their current numbers with the attendees in an effort to be transparent. They are asking that their customers, community and the wider distilling community not just hold them accountable to their goals but contribute ideas to help them get there.

Ideas aren’t just entertained, they’re encouraged and supported.

At the launch event there were a lot of tough questions from the savvy audience about the costs of changes, resource procurement decisions and the societal impact of alcohol. They didn’t shy away or divert from any of them. While the CEO opened up the afternoon and supported from the sidelines, this initiative was internally initiated and driven. I find that extremely refreshing to see in a fast growing company like Starward.

A new way forward for Australian distillers?

This is just the very beginning of the road for Starward’s impact on whisky production and to both whisky and natural sciences nerd like myself, it’s really exciting. It’s not good enough for them to scale up the production of their award winning whisky but to do it in a way that is less taxing on precious water and energy resources. It begs the question, who else is doing this and maybe not talking about it? What other distilleries might see this step and follow suit? It would be amazing if Australia could have a meaningful impact on the future of whisky production in terms of environmental and community sustainability. Who knows. Twenty years ago the world didn’t even take the modern Australian whisky industry seriously, now look at it.

What do you think? Have you had Starward before? Do you know the founder David Vitale’s story? He’s a pretty fascinating guy. If you’re in the greater Melbourne, Victoria region I highly suggest stopping by the distillery and tasting room. If you know about other whisky distilleries making changes like this, I’d love to hear about them!

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