Most sustainable whisky in the world
In late 2019, Bus Whisky was successfully launched as a new Dutch whisky label. In just three years, Bus grew from a small start-up in Brabant to become the second whisky producer in the Netherlands and one of the most sustainable whisky distilleries in the world. At the Global Green Awards in Hong Kong, Bus Whisky was rewarded with a gold sustainability medal. Read more here >>
But how do you actually distill a sustainable whiskey? In practice, we do this in the following ways:
One of the main ingredients of Bus whisky is malt, which is made from malting barley. The malting barley for this craft whiskey is grown in-house. Part of it is grown on small fields and overgrowth from Landscape Management and municipalities in the region. And we exchange land with farmers in the region. The malting barley is grown without the use of artificial fertilizers or chemical pesticides. We are experimenting with undergrowth of clover under our malting barley to retain moisture, suppress weeds and add biodiversity and CO2 to the soil. The fields are also planted with flowery field margins to contribute to the ever-decreasing biodiversity in the countryside.
Eye for heritage & culture
The malting barley is grown in-house with the help of the antique machines of the local dorsclub de Stofvreters. The dorsclub is rooted in the region and consists of hobbyists and collectors of old agricultural machinery. The club tries to preserve these machines by restoring them and keeping them in their original state. The dust collectors sow the flowery field edges for us with antique tractors and sometimes help with the harvest with an antique combine. At the moment, these tractors still run on fossil diesel and the old engines are not known for their fuel efficiency. There is certainly room for improvement. Environmentally, but also in terms of persuasion. What a farmer doesn't know he doesn't eat, and what his old tractor doesn't know he doesn't drink 😉 But we think it's a sympathetic club with sympathetic people and it's a relatively small part of the whole business. Bus Whisky also very actively involves artists and designers in various projects and parts of the production process. The plan is to even create an artist in residency for this in the newly built distillery.
Our distillery's tractor is fueled with blue diesel. Blue diesel is another name for an HVO. That stands for Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil. Blue diesel is made entirely from renewable and sustainable resources, such as waste vegetable oil. Among other things, the frying oil from the Bus Whisky restaurant is processed in the biodiesel plant, where diesel is made from 88% waste and residues (cooking oils, animal fats) and 12% renewable vegetable oils, from certified plantations.
Energy-neutral whisky distillery
The distillery of Bus Whisky runs on green power from 400 solar panels on the roof, solar boilers, heat pumps, biomass and biopropane. In addition, we try to use residual heat as much as possible. In the wood-fired distillery, the hot alcohol vapor is cooled down with water, so that the alcohol becomes liquid again in the end. The cooling water thus becomes warm. Even so hot that we can fill our boiler with it just fine for mashing. But we have much more cooling water 'left over' than we need for mashing (brewing). So when the boiler is full, the hot cooling water is redirected respectively to first the floor heating of the building, then to the solar boiler and then to a buffer tank which is connected to the source of one of our heat pumps. And finally the last cooled water is used to water the garden or runs into one of the large ponds on our estate, so it does not end up in the sewer.
If we don't have enough hot water when the sun isn't shining hard enough, for example, we always have a backup supply with a gas boiler that runs on bio-propane. In this way we are assured of continuity. And this biopropane is in turn a by-product of the blue biodiesel. In the production of biodiesel, it remains as a residual product. If we were not to use it, it would be lost. About 5% of the by-products of biodiesel is biopropane.
Whisky distillation is done in 3 steps: the pre-run, the mid-run and the post-run. During the pre-flow, a small amount of methanol is released. We take it out periodically and process it into coolant for our heat pump, antifreeze for the car windshields, and house-fired lighter fluid for the Bus Whisky Restaurant BBQs. So nothing is thrown away.
At Bus Whiskey we drive all electric. All company cars are electric and are charged by our own solar panels. We also have 10 electric 4x4 jeeps, so you can combine a visit to our distillery with a sustainable ecotrail through the beautiful surroundings.
Beer mash concrete and straw construction
Whisky has one pretty big residual stream and that is "beer mash" or "brewers grain". Most distilleries and breweries dispose of this residual stream to livestock farms where it is fed to the animals. We do the same and get back brewers grain fed beef carpaccio for the Bus Whisky restaurant or bacon bits for the BBQ, bake bread and make granola for overnight guests at the Bus Whisky B&B and Bus Whisky farm campsite. But drying brewers' grains takes a lot of energy and is therefore not sustainable.
Bus Whisky has therefore bet on an invention of its own: beer mash concrete. The addition of lime to brewers grains results in a durable concrete that absorbs CO2 while curing. The moisture from the brewers grains is very useful in this process. This gives us a CO2-negative building material which, moreover, can be used in a completely circular way as organic fertilizer after demolition. A patent for this application has already been applied for and TU Eindhoven has started further research into the application and possibilities of brewhouse concrete. The intention is to give this new building material a major role in the construction of a new distillery. The straw - a residual product of barley cultivation - will also be given a prominent role in this. Straw is a good insulating material. A building made of straw is very energy-efficient or even energy-neutral. The primary energy required to produce the straw is virtually zero. Straw is the dry stem of cereal crops. The crop absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere during growth and stores it in the stalks. Building with straw is therefore building with "conserved" CO2, it remains extracted from the atmosphere at least as long as the building exists.
Most sustainable whisky distillery in the world
Bus Whisky is the most sustainable whisky distillery in the world. We aspire to a leading role in making the production of whisky more sustainable and are constantly looking for innovation and renewal that can contribute to increasing circularity. We therefore also participated in the 2018 design competition Bread & Games, for example, with the entry 'point water & whisky'. This competition by Floris Alkemade (Chief Government Architect) and Berno Strootman (Chief Government Advisor on the Landscape) appealed to farmers and enterprising landowners: Develop perspectives for the countryside together with designers, architects and designers with innovative ideas. Read more >>
Is there actually anything to improve at Bus Whisky in terms of sustainability? We certainly do! We still have plenty of ambitions. Coming soon, the following improvements are on the agenda:
1) We want to capture the CO2 released during fermentation to feed an algae reactor. After the brewing process (mashing), the sugars in the brew are converted to alcohol and CO2 by yeast cells. This is a crucial step in the process that we need to produce alcohol. We cannot and do not want to reduce these emissions, but what we can do is capture the CO2 and use it as an alternative. We are fascinated by a brewer in Australia who uses it to feed an algae reactor, so that seemed like a good idea to us as well. We were already building a tea plantation and we could blow the CO2 between the tea plants, so we could market that as CO tea. Anyway, maybe we'll do both a little bit. We do like an experiment. Are you a student who would like to do an internship or graduate project for this? Let us know!
2) We are in the process of building a biomeiler in which we want to compost organic material, brewers grains and barley straw, and use the heat generated by the brewing as a heat source for our heat pumps and gradually create compost for the grain fields and food forest. Are you a student who would like to do an internship or graduation project for this? Let us know about it!
3) We are also very excited about our latest new plan to make alcohol-free beer from the residual stream of our whiskey production. To make whiskey you first basically brew a beer of about 8% without hops during the mashing process, which you then extract the alcohol from in the still, but just throw the rest away. But what do you actually end up with if you think carefully...? Exactly, non-alcoholic beer! That non-alcoholic "beer" is still pretty sour right now. But if you adjust the brewing process a bit, you get a nice blond beer without hops. So we have to change the brewing process and add hops to non-alcoholic beer afterwards. This requires new innovative process steps that are quite demanding. But we should be able to reduce our footprint even further by preventing food waste and adding value to an enormous waste stream, knowing that alcohol-free is the growth market for the coming decades, so the potential impact is huge. If successful, our innovation can be copied by others and is scalable, because we do not patent sustainability innovations. Are you a student who would like to do an internship or graduation project for this? Let us know about it!
4) We want to start growing mushrooms on beer malt. Super sustainable, great story and unique, and already proven in Belgium as a working concept, so that saves. We are going to find out which mushrooms like our beer malt best and which cultivation technique suits best. Are you a student who would like to do an internship or graduation project for this? Let us know!
5) We are going to involve our partners and suppliers in our sustainability ambitions across the board. Think of transporters, the malt factory, the glass factory, the contractor, the cork manufacturer, the barrel makers, the packaging manufacturer, etc. First, we will put our own footprint in order and the next step is to also involve partners and suppliers to reduce our footprint earlier in the chain. Are you a student who would like to do an internship or graduation project for this? Let us know!
And of course we are open to even better, more beautiful or other (experimental) ideas to make Bus Whisky even more sustainable. Do you have a great suggestion, would you like to do an internship or are you looking for a sustainable graduation project? Please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bus Whisky is the most sustainable whisky distillery in the world. Will you get on our Bus? Your passion and interests are our starting point. A tailor-made job. Getting the most out of your work in beautiful harmony with home.
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