Malt whisky is a product which inspires passion, creating an industry which is expanding both in terms of volume and, geographic location where it is produced. A consequence of increased production volume is the commensurate increase in by-products which contain significant amounts of protein, but are currently under utilised, and often perceived as a challenge rather than as an opportunity.
An opening presents itself to demonstrate better values for these streams; ideally this should be one which integrates into the local bio-economy. The salmon farming industry is also expanding, with an increasing demand to satisfy the nutritional requirements of their stock. The desire of this industry to diversify their protein base, and reduce their reliance on fishmeal (produced from large quantities of wild fish) creates a higher-value market opportunity for the protein from distillery by-products.
The work presented discusses a sustainable process for protein recovery developed by Horizon Proteins at Heriot-Watt University. This process can be integrated into a malt whisky distillery providing an alternative end-route for pot ale with lower energy requirements when compared to traditional treatment technologies. The protein product is particularly suitable for salmon feed, providing a local, sustainable, reliable feed ingredient for aquaculture in Scotland.
This scalable process could be applied to the malt whisky industry in other locations such as Japan or Tasmania an would add to the overall environmental sustainability of the whisky industry, while providing a new protein feed ingredient which can be matched to the demands of the local feed sector.
Dawn Maskell is Assistant Professor in Brewing and Distilling at the International Centre for Brewing & Distilling, Heriot-Watt University. Dawn is a Chartered Scientist with a BSc(Hons) in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt, and studied for her PhD in brewing yeast ageing and stress tolerance under Katherine Smart. Dawn is a member of the IBD Board of Examiners for the Diploma in Brewing as ‘Examiner without Portfolio’. Her recent work has been in the field of by-product valorisation and is co-founder of Horizon Proteins, a spin-out company from Heriot-Watt which is connecting the malt whisky distilling and aquaculture industries in Scotland. .