Beam Suntory: Hydrogen distilling for whisky production

Beam Suntory, in partnership with Supercritical Solutions, has successfully trialed direct-fired distillation using 100% hydrogen, as part of its WhiskHy project. Conducted at the Yamazaki distillery’s pilot facility in Japan, this innovative trial marks significant progress toward decarbonising whisky production and aligns with Beam Suntory’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2040.


Beam Suntory: Hydrogen distilling for whisky production

At a glance
Who: Beam Suntory and Supercritical Solutions
What: World-first direct-fired distillation using 100% hydrogen
Where: Yamazaki distillery, Japan
Why: To decarbonise whisky production and achieve net-zero emissions
When: Successful trial conducted in 2023

The challenge

The whisky production industry relies heavily on traditional fossil fuel-powered distillation processes, contributing significantly to carbon emissions. The challenge was to find a viable, sustainable alternative that could maintain the quality and characteristics of the whisky while reducing environmental impact.

The solution

The WhiskHy project, funded by the UK Government’s Green Distilleries Competition, aimed to demonstrate that hydrogen could be a viable fuel source for direct-fired distillation, reducing carbon emissions and paving the way for net-zero whisky production.

How the project works

The trial at Yamazaki distillery utilised 100% hydrogen to directly heat the still, a traditional method known as direct-firing. This approach has the potential to eliminate carbon emissions entirely when green hydrogen is used.

The process involves burning hydrogen to produce the necessary heat for distillation, which is then used to create steam. The hydrogen fuel is produced and stored on-site using Supercritical’s proprietary high-pressure electrolyser, powered by local renewable energy sources.

This method not only cuts emissions but also enhances the spirit quality through maillard reactions, which are essential for developing the depth of character in whisky. Part of the distilled spirit from the trial will be casked at the Glen Garioch distillery in Scotland, where it will undergo quality assessment as it matures.

The results

The trial demonstrated that hydrogen is a viable fuel source for direct-fired distillation, significantly reducing carbon emissions and maintaining the quality of the whisky produced. The project is a crucial step towards Beam Suntory’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2040.

Business benefits

This initiative enhances Beam Suntory’s sustainability credentials, providing a competitive advantage in an increasingly eco-conscious market. It also supports compliance with environmental regulations and positions the company as a leader in sustainable whisky production.

Investment/savings

While specific financial details are not disclosed, the project is part of Beam Suntory’s broader investment in sustainability and green technology. The anticipated long-term savings from reduced carbon emissions and energy efficiency are expected to offer a positive return on investment.

Industry context

The food and beverage sector, particularly whisky production, is energy-intensive and reliant on fossil fuels. This project represents a significant leap toward decarbonising the industry, contributing to broader efforts to achieve sustainability targets.

The UK food and beverage industry’s carbon footprint was 165 million tonnes in 2019, highlighting the urgent need for innovative solutions such as the WhiskHy project to reduce emissions.

© Faversham House Ltd 2024 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

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