Whiskey Biofuels: A Sustainable Fuel Worth Toasting?

Having spent many of my formidable years tucked well below the Bible Belt, I have a special affinity for whiskey–bourbon to be precise. While a nip is sure to warm you up on a cold winter’s day (or cool you down when mixed with ice, simple syrup, and a squeeze of lemon) I didn’t think this delightful spirit was capable of much more.

Boy was I wrong.

I recently heard about a Scottish whisky maker (yes, the Scots prefer that you spell it without the ‘e’) who’s set out to turn the country’s $6 billion dollar industry into a boon for the environment as well.

Edinburgh-basedCeltic Renewables is using an almost-forgotten fermentation process to turn the thousands of tons of waste product left behind by the whisky into something that can run our cars. According to the company, finding a place to put all the left overdraff, the residue of the grains of barley; and pot ale, a copper-laden liquid, cost Scottish whisky makers a pretty penny. But turning the waste into a desirable resource, both distillers and drivers benefit.

How will they do it? A process calledABE (for acetone-butanol-ethanol) that uses the bacteriumClostridium acetobutylicum toorganic matter into useful industrial alcohols including biobutanol, a fuel that some say is superior to ethanol: a biofuel that, while popular, has been shown to do more harm than good.

Read more about the burgeoning whisky-waste-to-fuel industry in this National Geographic report. Then pour yourself a wee nip, and enjoy while scrolling through the infographic below and pondering this question: would American whiskey makers every consider something similar?

history of bourbon, whiskey, whisky, biofuels

Infographic via Four Roses

Image via Thinkstock


Son Y.
Son Y.7 months ago

I like that it uses biowaste.

The proper NatGeo link is:

Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H4 years ago

I forgot to add that I can spell whisky... never heard of putting an 'e' in it before. American English usually simplifies the original spellings, instead of making them longer.

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H4 years ago

Hmm.. I like a drop of whisky in coffee when it's cold, but it could be good to have something else come of whisky!

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder4 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

We've always got alternatives to what we're doing or using

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider4 years ago


Veronique L.
Veronique L4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Ruth R.
Ruth R4 years ago

'Read more about the burgeoning whisky-waste-to-fuel industry in this National Geographic report.'

Some kind of home-made back-up fuel sure would help.