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Meet Nc’nean, Scotland’s Net Zero Whisky Distillery
“Whisky making is an act of cooperation between the blessings of nature and the wisdom of man.”
~ Masataka Taketsuru
“Made by nature, not by rules” is the motto of Nc’nean, an independent and organic whisky distillery that’s on a mission to shake up Scotland’s famous dram. Based on Drimnin Estate on Scotland’s rugged west coast, the young distillery promotes low impact whisky production through the use of organic Scottish barley and renewable energy. The company also reuses 99.97% of all site waste and bottles its whisky in 100% recycled glass bottles.
For far too long there’s been a certain snobbishness surrounding whisky, namely who should drink it and how to drink it. But these strict attitudes are changing thanks to brands like Nc’nean. The distillery is led by a woman, founder and CEO Annabel Thomas, and it’s even named after an ancient Gaelic goddess called Neachneohain, who was the Queen of Spirits and a fierce protector of nature. DLISH recently spoke to Nc’nean’s Head of Marketing Sasha Holt to find out more about this exciting start-up and its philosophy.
“Our main mission is to bring together a new generation of Scotch drinkers,” explains Holt. “To make sure that Scotch doesn’t become a faded drink, and that means bringing it into the 21st century by not having strict rules about who should drink it or how. There are some brilliant things tradition brings to the table, but also some things which need to move forward.”
“We aren’t necessarily trying to change the minds of people who believe in tradition – when it comes to how they drink whisky anyway! Of course, we are always trying to change people’s minds when it comes to sustainability but I think that is another question. We are chuffed if traditionalists join us on our path, and are delighted if they think our whisky is delicious.”
On the subject of sustainability, the distillers have proven that it's more than just a buzzword. In 2021, Nc’nean became the first whisky distillery in the UK to achieve net zero carbon emissions from their own operations, as verified by Environmental Strategies, and in January 2022, the company officially became a B Corporation.
“The B Corp certification is awarded to companies who have met extremely high social and environmental standards, representing their commitment to goals outside of simply trying to make money,” Holt tells DLISH. “The best part of B Corp is that it has an incredibly rigorous certification process, meaning that your business has to go through an intense assessment to eke out ways you can improve environmentally, ethically and socially. Half the work of B Corp is making huge improvements before you can even begin to get certified. As B Corp gets bigger and more well recognized, their logo communicates to consumers clearly that they are choosing a better brand. There isn’t currently any other logo like this in the sustainability space.” In its journey to create sustainable scotch, the distillery has even published an in-depth report for total transparency.
While striding ahead of other single malts on the market, Nc’nean hopes that Scottish distilleries will follow its lead. “Part of our mission is to bring the rest of the Scotch industry along with us into a more modern way of producing,” says Holt. “Using as little energy as possible to create a delicious spirit. We are only small at the moment but we hope we are inspiring some of the bigger distilleries in Scotland and beyond.”
And now to the important part, just how does this organic whisky taste? Well, Nc’nean describes its single malt as “smooth and elegant” with notes of citrus, peach, apricot and spice. The company also has a whole list of cocktail recipes to enjoy with its dram – look away water dropper traditionalists! Of course, DLISH also had to ask how Sasha takes her Nc’nean, “I hadn’t necessarily thought of myself as a whisky drinker previously, I’d perhaps dabbled in a whisky sour on occasion, but now I tend to enjoy it in many ways. My favourite – a whisky highball.”
Click here to discover the world of Nc’nean whisky.