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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 12:54 GMT
Green move for Scotch whisky firm
Diageo's Billy Mitchell assesses water quality at Cameronbridge Distillery
Diageo's Billy Mitchell assesses water quality at Cameronbridge Distillery
The maker of Johnnie Walker and Bell's Scotch whisky is investing 4m in a major environmental project at one of the world's biggest distilleries.

The project at Cameronbridge Distillery at Windygates, Fife, promises to transform the initial stages of the distillery's production process.

The owner, Diageo, said the change would deliver several environmental benefits and save 500,000 a year.

Distillery manager Billy Mitchell said the move was a significant one.

He added: "We are borrowing a technology from breweries and adapting it to improve our energy efficiency and competitiveness.

This new development and the investment we are making will enable us to improve our competitiveness still further
Billy Mitchell
Cameronbridge Distillery
"This system will change the way we handle our raw materials so we can dramatically reduce our energy usage as well as the amount of water we need to turn into whisky."

The distilling process at Cameronbridge uses large amounts of energy in the form of steam to cook the cereals that are its source of fermentable sugars.

The new development will replace the cooking process with mills that will crack the hard grain open to enable the starch inside to be converted to sugar.

The process will increase the amount of spirit that can be produced from each ton of grain and, by converting from steam energy to electricity, is expected to save nearly 500,000 per year in costs.

Leading brands

Mr Mitchell said: "Because of our knowledge of distilling and the flexibility of what we do here, Cameronbridge has grown to become the largest plant of its type within Diageo and the industry worldwide.

"This new development and the investment we are making will enable us to improve our competitiveness still further."

Cameronbridge was built on the banks of the River Leven in 1823 by the famous Haig distilling family.

Originally producing a Lowland malt whisky using the single-batch traditional copper pot stills, it was the first major distillery to switch to the newly-developed continuous still in the 1820s which led to the rise of blended whisky.

The distillery was progressively expanded and upgraded over the next 170 years and continued to produce the grain whisky used to create Diageo's leading brands of blended Scotch whisky such as Johnnie Walker, J&B and Bell's.

It also produces Smirnoff Vodka and Gordon's Gin and in the late 1990s the company transferred all its UK gin and vodka production to Cameronbridge and this significantly increased the size of the distillery and the complexity of its operation.

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