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SUSTAINABILITY SPOTLIGHT: BIODIVERSITY AND NURTURING AN ESTATE WITH THE MACALLAN

The journey to net zero is a collective one, with the destination out of reach without the open sharing of information and collaboration between brands. To help facilitate that process, we recently spoke to the Butterfly Mark-certified single malt whisky brand The Macallan, whose approach to biodiversity is ahead of the rest of the industry.

We caught up with The Macallan team to learn more about how they manage their Estate and their holistic approach to the environment.

Nurturing The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate has been the home of the iconic whisky brand for almost 200 years. The 485-acre Estate hosts a rich and varied natural ecosystem populated by over 60,000 trees and more than 70 species of wildlife, birds and fish, including 7 identified European Protected Species such as red squirrels, badgers, otters and pine martens.

As part of their plans to nurture the Estate, The Macallan has recently engaged specialist ecologists to undertake a site Land Management survey. The ecological study will produce a detailed Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Map of the natural and built environments indicating current biodiversity, and this will inform a Land Management Strategy for the Estate Stakeholder Team and provide a framework which they will measure potential land-specific projects and developments against.

The Macallan has also recently established an Estate Stakeholder Team to draw together and maintain full visibility of all natural and built Estate-based projects.  A key purpose of the team will be to apply an ‘environmental & sustainability appraisal filter’ to all proposed projects and oversee planning and delivery of their Habitat Management Plan. This will ensure the maintenance, development and implementation of ecosystem services and conservation and restoration plans, leading to net gains for biodiversity on the Estate.

The Macallan’s Habitat Management Plan

The Macallan’s relationship with farming, wildlife, water and woodlands is vital to their distillery production process. Their Habitat Management Plan oversees a rolling programme of protection, regeneration and enhancement projects that ensure the wildlife, landscape and ecology of their Estate flourishes for generations to come. Their focus over the next year is on the conservation and regeneration of Atlantic salmon.

The Macallan has a single-minded commitment to support the conservation of Atlantic Salmon. For almost 2 miles, the majestic River Spey flows alongside the Estate on which The Macallan hosts an exclusive catch-and-release fishing beat operated by their Ghillie, Robert Mitchell. The River Spey is renowned as one of the greatest salmon fishing rivers in the world, however, salmon numbers are in dramatic decline. The brand recognises that we have reached a turning point for this keystone species and for this reason, they support the Atlantic Salmon Trust and the Spey Fishery Board in their critical protection, research and project-work.  The Atlantic Salmon Trust protects wild salmon and sea trout by tracking their migration across thousands of km from their native dominions – such as the River Spey – to the open oceans. As a guardian of one of the last sanctuaries of Scottish salmon, The Macallan is supporting The Trust’s vital conservation work on the River Spey and beyond.  Closer to home, in 2022, our Ghillie and Estate team will be undertaking projects in consultation with the Spey Fishery Board to study and support the health and ecological habitat of the Atlantic Salmon population.

In addition to this work, The Macallan is collaborating with the Spey Fishery Board, Cairngorm National Park and eco-engineers CBEC to re-meander the Delliefure Burn on the border of the nearby Tulchan and Seafield Estates.  The burn is an important tributary of The River Spey, and this project will restore the natural flow of the burn while also creating a floodplain around it.  The principal ecological benefit will be restoring a vital stretch of water for spawning and juvenile salmon.  By slowing down the flow of this stretch of burn they are reintroducing a natural ‘nursery’ space for these young fish.  The creation of wetland habitats around the burn will also improve the habitat of wading birds as well as preserving and increasing areas of carbon-rich peaty soil in the flood plains which are currently being washed downstream.

Cherishing self-sufficiency

By 2025, 100% of The Macallan’s passenger vehicle fleet on the Estate will be electric.  Currently, the brand has converted 20% of their working Estate fleet and supported this fleet with installation of 10 electric car chargers for complimentary use by their teams and guests. From 2021 onwards, guests arriving in Electric Vehicles will be able to use one of four available complimentary charging points. And, through their partnership with Bentley, The Macallan have also replaced the vehicle used for exclusive guest-Estate tours – a Range Rover – with a Bentayga Hybrid.

The Macallan Estate makes the most of the by-products of their distillation process. The residue from their distillery effluent treatment plant is used as an agricultural fertiliser and is spread onto local fields including those used for Estate grown barley, while their pot ale and draff co-products are used for both animal feed and to generate electricity at a local combined heat and power plant.

Process water used in the production process for The Macallan Distillery is sourced from boreholes on the banks of The River Spey.  Cooling water used in their distillation process comes directly from the river and is returned to the river, with minimal evaporative loss.

The River Spey is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Environmental aspects of water use are carefully managed, and an onsite treatment plant processes distillery wastewater to the standard required for return to the water environment.   Water use is authorised with Licences issued by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).  The Macallan licences were classified as Excellent for the most recently published assessments.

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