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Scotch Whisky

How whiskey is shaped by the weather and climate

While some are sceptical that the effect will be pronounced – Barrie says, “We have a very temperate atmosphere and, you know, I don’t see that changing” – others are less certain.

Annabel Thomas is founder and chief executive of the net-zero distillery Nc’nean on the west coast of Scotland. In a place like that, the dank, mild climate is a key feature of the location. But it might not remain so.

“If things get really, really hot and we see sustained really high temperatures on the west coast of Scotland,” says Thomas, “I think we’d get a different flavour.”

In a statement to BBC Future, Ruth Piggin, director of industry sustainability at the Scotch Whisky Association, said future environmental changes do have the potential to affect whisky-making: “Changing rainfall patterns due to climate change can already impact production with suspension of distilling due to low water availability in some areas.”

She added that the industry was committed to minimising its own environmental impact.

And in geographies where hot weather is more common, such as India, parts of the United States, or China – a country that is home to many recently opened distilleries – the impact could be even more noticeable.

The truth is that no-one can yet say how much this will hamper whiskey production. And it could lead to some interesting new products. A whiskey that takes merely a year or two to reach levels of maturity previously unthinkable in such a short time, perhaps?

For Himstedt, the prospect of climate change is certainly not a pleasant one. “As things get crazier, more intense, hotter and drier… It’s going to be difficult for almost every living thing on the planet,” he says.

But he is determined to use data as a defensive weapon. The plan is to find out how the weather and climate affect production today so that he and his colleagues can respond deftly to environmental changes tomorrow. It’s know-how that he hopes will help the industry as a whole.

“Things are going to change and hopefully this is some of the groundwork for what the future looks like – that benefits everybody,” he says.

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