Oban and Islay distilleries win gold

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Two local whisky distilleries have been awarded the UK’s highest eco-tourism award.

Oban Distillery, and Lagavulin Distillery on Islay, operated by Diageo, have both received the prestigious gold certification from the Green Tourism organisation.

The awards recognise environmentally-friendly best practice both in visitor experiences and distillery operations.

Also receiving accreditation this time was the company’s distilleries at Blair Athol, Perthshire, and Clynelish, Sutherland.

They now join sister distilleries Glenkinchie, East Lothian, and Royal Lochnagar, Royal Deeside, which have already been awarded Green Tourism accreditation.

Just eight distilleries in Scotland hold the distinction with Diageo holding six of those.

Barbara Smith, managing director of Diageo’s Scotland Brand Homes, said: ‘To receive the Gold Green Tourism award for not just one, but six of our Scottish whisky brand homes and distilleries in just under six months, is an incredible achievement.

‘These awards are credit to the people at our distilleries and all the work they’ve done to build the environmental sustainability of our business.

‘This is just the start of our journey and we will be going for gold accreditations at our other distillery brand homes and will continue to raise the bar for sustainable whisky tourism.’

Assessors praised achievements such as sending zero waste to landfill, biodiversity enhancement, energy efficiency, local sourcing, community engagement and plastic reduction.

Diageo said the Oban Distillery had been key to helping raise standards in sustainable practice across the industry.

It switched to biofuels in 2018 – reducing its carbon footprint by 98 per cent.

Last year it introduced a new water reduction initiative allowing the site to save approximately 80,000 litres of water a week.

The distillery is also working with the world’s leading Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker.

A total of 189,000 trees will be planted in Ballygowan, across 85.5 hectares, to restore woodland and promote wildlife diversity in Argyll.

It is part of Johnnie Walker’s commitment to plant a million trees across Scotland by 2025.

On Islay, which is world-renowned for its smoky, peaty whiskies, Lagavulin has led the preservation of peatlands through a partnership with RSPB which is working to restore and conserve almost 700 acres of peat bog on the island.

Andrea Nicholas, chief executive of Green Tourism, said: ‘The investment and support from Diageo in incorporating green technology and operations has been impressive and one of the best examples of corporate commitment that we have ever seen.

‘This along with the dedication, hard work and creativity of the on-site teams at all of these distilleries has been crucial to achieving their well-deserved gold awards.’

Diageo said its commitment to sustainability is part of a wider 10-year sustainability action plan to make a positive impact on the world by 2030.

It includes a target of being net-zero from its operations by the end of the decade.

The global drinks company is also currently investing £185m in its Scotch whisky tourism experience.

It will see the opening of the state-of- the-art Johnnie Walker Princes Street whisky experience in Edinburgh this summer, investment in 12 of its Scotch brand homes, and the revival of lost distilleries at Port Ellen and Brora.