11 Aug Swifts, bats, pine martens, and owls – the unexpected inhabitants that make the habitat around Tomatin Distillery so special.
By Fiona Birkinshaw, HSQE Director, Tomatin Distillery
As part of my role as Health, Safety, Quality and Environment Director at Tomatin Distillery, I sit on the environment group of the Scottish Whisky Association and together with other members, we meet regularly to collaborate and discuss steps we can take to ensure a sustainable future for our sector and steps to protect habitats around our distilleries.
Tomatin Distillery is committed to maintaining and continually improving on its sustainable practices in production and the day-to-day operations of the business. From installing an environmentally efficient wood pellet fuelled steam boiler and a new coanda screen off take weir from the burn, to sending draff (by-product resultant from the mashing process) to a biogas plant in order to generate a green sustainable fuel, using 60% electric and hybrid vehicles and ensuring all packaging (with the exception of the gold capsule on the 36-Year-old) is recyclable – these initiatives have had a fundamentally positive effect on lessening the business impact on the environment.
But what about wildlife living in the sensitive habitat that surrounds the distillery? Well, a number of initiatives have been implemented in recent years that focus on this and aim to protect and enhance habitats for the species who make the land around Tomatin Distillery their home.
We’re lucky to have swifts at Tomatin Distillery when nesting, and in December 2021 the common swift was added to the UK’s red list of endangered species, so it is imperative that we take action to protect them.
We’ve partnered with the Huntly Swift Group to gain knowledge on how to best care for the endangered swifts that inhabit the roofs and wall spaces of some of our outbuildings and warehouses.
We’ve been working on a swift nesting box project, with advice from the Huntly Swift Group, where a member of our team has hand made swift nesting boxes that will be placed in safe areas that will not be disturbed.
Next year we will take measures to encourage swifts to use the boxes created for them.
From time-to-time we need to repair buildings around the premises or better insulate them from the elements. When doing this we spend time identifying any species inhabiting the roofs and walls spaces before planning and commencing work. Where possible, we will carefully re-home species such as owls and pine martins and work around nesting species such as bats and swifts so as not to disturb them.
Summers are getting warmer and winters drier, so we have had to prepare for water scarcity.
In 2019 we installed a new coanda screen water off take weir to help prevent over abstraction and to ensure that the downstream water environment is healthy, and in 2021 we introduced new distillation condenser control valves which have cut water consumption by more than 50%.
These changes have meant that we can better protect the waterways around the Distillery for species such as otters, dippers, various fish and water invertebrates.
I’m proud that Tomatin Distillery puts nature and wildlife high on its list of priorities. In the future we hope to take further steps to enhance habitats around the site. In addition, the team is also discussing running educational nature experiences/ nature days for the families of our team and the local community and setting up wellbeing trails around the site for staff and visitors to enjoy.