Tomatin Distillery

Case Study

Situated 25 miles south of Inverness, in the village that bears the same name, Tomatin distillery has been producing highland malt whiskies for over 120 years. Once Scotland’s biggest malt whisky distillery, it now produces around 2.5 million litres a year.

While around 80% of its production is used to create premium blended brands, The Antiquary and Talisman, the distillery is also building an award-winning reputation for its highland single malts and Cù Bòcan – a lightly peated single malt. The area’s rich heritage of whisky production stretches back to the 1700s and the team at Tomatin are keen to ensure that their sustainable approach will protect whisky production there for many centuries to come.


As a relatively small whisky producer, Tomatin are deeply aware of the need to leverage the power of the whole industry to achieve their own ambitious sustainablilty goals and drive improvement along the full length of the whisky supply chain. Tomatin is an active member of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and is pursuing the progressive targets the SWA has set for water, use of non-fossil fuels and energy efficiency, packaging, and sourcing of sustainably produced casks. Tomatin has also embraced the SWA’s collaboration with Scotland’s Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to ensure that their environmental targets are met and that they play their part in protecting Scotland’s environment.



Recognising the potential of harnessing the power of the whole sector, Tomatin turned to the environmental consultants who had created the SWA’s sustainability strategy. Using their extensive knowledge and experience of the sector, Ricardo was able to help Tomatin create a bespoke action plan that will, ultimately, enable them to achieve carbon zero. The first step was to establish baseline carbon measurements which would form the basis of a long-term master plan.  


On the surface, Scotch whisky might seem like the most natural of products – created simply using water, yeast and grains. However, our processes also use significant amounts of energy and labour and our success as an international brand depends on the efficient operation of a global supply chain. All of those things have a significant impact on climate change, and all have to be reduced, and ultimately neutralised, to ensure that the whisky industry has a sustainable long-term future.


One of the biggest impacts facing the business was energy use. Reducing it was a key priority and a wide range of technical improvements have been undertaken across the distillery. New pans were fitted to the stills to deliver “smarter” heat and improved efficiency with heat exchangers deployed throughout the system to minimise energy loss.  Water is also critical to the production process and, while a significant proportion was drawn from a gravity fed supply from their burn, energy was also being used to pump water up from the river below. By introducing new valves and controls to the cooling system, the distillery was able to reduce water use by 50%. Maximising reuse of barrels is another way to reduce carbon impacts. As well as using old port and sherry barrels themselves, Tomatin supply barrels they no longer need for use by craft brewers on the Black Isle. 


The whole team at Tomatin are all on board with the company’s plans to reduce their carbon footprint and bring in packaging they receive with home deliveries to reuse for dispatch while the visitor centre has moved from single use plastics to biodegradable alternatives.


Switching to a renewable energy source was a critical part of Tomatin’s plan. They were the first Distillery in Scotland to invest in a biomass boiler and they source all of their wood pellets from a local forestry company who plant two trees for every one used to make their renewable fuels. The boiler now provides 80% renewable energy for their production process with top-up supply now coming from LPG rather than heavy oil. 


The environmental assessment revealed that Tomatin’s waste management and transportation both had significant carbon impacts, so they have sought out productive local uses for their waste streams. The draff is now taken to a nearby anaerobic digestion plant, where it is used to make 100% renewable biogas which can be fed to the gas grid, while their pot ale is used locally as a soil conditioner. 


Tomatin have already switched over half of its vehicle fleet to electric, with banks of charging points for both staff and visitors being installed at the distillery.


Tomatin are keen to avoid the need to offset and to generate sufficient renewable energy to meet their own requirements. Plans are underway for solar and PV to further enhance the site’s sustainability. They are working with the SWA to ensure that suppliers across the sector adopt all the measures necessary to deliver a carbon neutral supply chain. Tomatin is also supporting SWA measures to ensure that the relatively small quantities of peat used in the sector are mitigated with restoration projects around the world.


Tomatin is determined to achieve the goals laid down in both the SWA’s and their own sustainability plans. For smaller companies and organisations, they would point to the value of being a member of an active trade body to accelerate the pace of change and wield sufficient influence to drive improvements in supply chains. They are also keen to look beyond carbon and are examining ways to tackle the biodiversity crisis with innovations on site such as reed beds that would also assist with effluent management.  

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