Peatland conservation boost for famous peaty whisky island

Peat conservation is a vital part of the Protecting Scotland’s Future programme.

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More than 700 acres of peatlands on Islay are to be restored and conserved under a new partnership between Lagavulin Distillery and RSPB Scotland.
RSPB is partnering Lagavulin Scotch whisky as part of the distillery’s 200th anniversary legacy to carry out conservation on large areas of peatland on the island.

Georgie Crawford, Lagavulin distillery manager, said: ‘We can’t make the distinctive character of Lagavulin, which people around the world have been enjoying for 200 years, without using peat.

‘We are working to be as sustainable as we possibly can in our peat use to ensure we can continue to make Lagavulin for the next 200 years.

‘We recognise that peatland is a vital part of Islay’s eco-system and we are delighted to be working with RSPB Scotland to restore and conserve these areas with all the benefits that will bring to wildlife diversity, which in turn adds another element to Islay’s rich tapestry for locals and visitors alike.’

Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy at RSPB Scotland, added: ‘RSPB Scotland is very pleased to be working with Lagavulin to restore and enhance Islay’s iconic peatlands.

‘This is an important contribution from the whisky industry towards meeting Scottish Government targets for restoring peatlands and ensuring they continue to provide benefits for biodiversity, carbon and people.’

Since it was founded in 1816, Lagavulin Distillery has been making the definitive single malt Scotch whisky through the traditional method of burning peat to dry the malted barley for distilling, imparting the distinctive, pungent smoky flavour which has made Islay whiskies renowned and loved all over the world.

In recognition of the vital role of peatlands in creating Islay’s unique landscape and heritage, Lagavulin is investing £60,000 of its legacy fund to help RSPB Scotland to enhance and protect large areas of peat for future generations.

Peatlands are colourful wetlands that support an array of rare plants, unusual insects, and birds such as Scotland’s iconic golden eagle. Peatlands also act as huge carbon stores by locking up carbon within their structure, helping to tackle climate change.

RSPB Scotland owns and manages two nature reserves on Islay – The Oa and Loch Gruinart – where large areas of peatland are in need of restoration. Drainage of the peatlands, prior to RSPB ownership, has dried out the peat, offering very little benefit for wildlife and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

The Lagavulin legacy project will fund RSPB Scotland to return more than 700 acres to a type of peatland known as blanket bog by reversing the impact of drainage.