‘World-first’ hydrogen whisky distilling trial completed at Beam Suntory

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The trials were conducted at Yamazaki distillery’s pilot facility in Japan. Credit: Getty / Leon Harris
The trials were conducted at Yamazaki distillery’s pilot facility in Japan. Credit: Getty / Leon Harris

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Beam Suntory has announced that it has successfully completed a “world-first” hydrogen-powered whisky distilling trial in partnership with Supercritical Solutions.

The spirits manufacturer described the achievement as a “milestone moment”​ for the UK Government funded WhiskHy project, which aims to show that hydrogen is a viable fuel source for direct-fired distillation.

The trials were conducted at Yamazaki distillery’s pilot facility in Japan, where researchers from Beam Suntory and Supercritical used 100% hydrogen to directly heat a whisky still.

Part of the distilled spirit will now be transported to Glen Garioch distillery in Scotland to be casked, before being assessed for quality as it matures.

Direct-firing is regarded as a traditional method of distilling where a direct flame is used rather than an indirect heating by steam coils. This process is key to the WhiskHy project, as it offers the potential to cut carbon emissions by up to 100% if using green hydrogen, thus rendering the process net-zero.

As part of the project, Supercritical has advanced its proprietary technology, the first ever ultra-efficient, high pressure electrolyser, which would enable a distillery to produce and store hydrogen on site, powered by local renewable power sources.

Trial is ‘significant step in hydrogen fuel advancement’

Commenting on the milestone, Supercritical CEO Matt Bird said that the WhiskHy project is “testament to the engineering prowess and dedication to net zero innovation”​ within the group.

“This landmark trial not only marks a significant stride in hydrogen fuel advancement but also sets the stage for ongoing progress and collaboration,”​ Bird added.

“Our partnership with Beam Suntory is poised to remove the premium of green hydrogen, leveraging our cutting-edge technology for a sustainable future.”

Meanwhile, head of distilling and environment at Beam Suntory Alistair Longwell said that the firm was keen to keep pushing the “boundaries of green innovation”.

Longwell continued: “We have an ambition to achieve net zero emissions across our entire value chain by 2040, and it is through unique collaborative projects such as WhiskHy that we will get there.

“We are thrilled to have achieved this new milestone and look forward to continuing our progress with Supercritical as we pursue a more sustainable, resilient future for our industry.”

In other news, a mushroom producer has been fined £73,333 after an employee’s leg became trapped in a machine and was later amputated.

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