Scottish Researchers Have Turned Whisky to Fuel

There are dozens of different biofuels out there, many of which purport to be the be-all, end-all of the fuel industry. But can your fuel make a great Manhattan?

Yes, Scottish researchers, according to the BBC, have achieved their goal of turning whisky into biofuel. The project cost £260,000 and was funded by the Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept program. According to the team, the whisky biofuel “gives 30% more output than ethanol.”

The hope is to bring the whisky petrol to consumers as soon as possible.

And I have to admit, I really like the thinking behind this project. Many biofuels out there are dependent on some rather questionable environmental practices, but not so in this case. As Director of the biofuel research centre at Edinburgh Napier University, where the whisky biofuel was created, explains:

The EU has declared that biofuels should account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020. We’re committed to finding new, innovative renewable energy sources. While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them.

If, like me, this article has whet your appetite for all things whisky, don’t fret. I ended up reading the entire Wikipedia entry on whisky. So, in addition to lauding the advance in petrol fuel, here’s some facts you might not know about whisky:

  • Malt is whisky made from malted barley; grain is from malted and unmalted barley, in addition to other grains.
  • In its early days, whisky was not exactly a smooth drink. It could be brewed to dangerous potency!
  • Congeners and fusel oils contribute to the overall flavor of whisky. But too much of these elements can ruin a batch of whisky, and that’s where filtration comes in. Filtration uses a variety of methods including using charcoal, gravel, sand, or linen.
  • Whisky, as a term, has a somewhat uncertain coinage, but it’s believed to be derived from the Irish phrase “uisce beatha”—or, the water of life. Subsequently you might also notice variant spellings: whisky and whiskey. Whisky refers to the spirits made in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and Japan, while whiskey is typically Irish or American (but with some derivation from that rule).
  • While we might ask for a “Scotch” here to indicate Scotch whisky, that term is not used in Scotland. They just call it, well, whisky.
  • Whisky can be found all across the world, including Spain, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Russia, Sweden and France.
  • Some whisky variations in the United States include Bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, wheat whiskey, malt whiskey, rye malt whiskey, corn whiskey, and blended whiskey.
  • A “single malt” means that the whisky therein comes from one single distillery; vatted malt, includes whisky from different ones. Blended means that the whisky is both malt and grain.
  • And now, I suppose, we can add: Scottish researchers have successfully turned the famed spirits into fuel for cars, and not people.



4 Responses to Scottish Researchers Have Turned Whisky to Fuel

  1. Alcohol. Is there nothing it can't do? Leave it to the Scots to figure this one out. I've never been prouder to be Scot/Irish!

  2. The notion that whiskey is going to have any place in serious energy production is terribly flawed. More energy goes into making it than comes out of it.

  3. "Alcohol. Is there nothing it can't do?"A quote from my favourite drinking song, 'Alcohol', by Brad Paisley: "I can make anybody pretty. I can make you believe any lie. I can make you pick a fight with somebody twice your size… Well, I've been known to cause a few breakups and I've been known to cause a few births. I can make you new friends or get you fired from work… You had some of the best times you'll never remember with me: Alcohol."So, so true.

    PS – I agree on the Scottish/Irish thing, I'm a quarter of each. Gotta blame my dad's parents for the Manc/East End blood..

  4. Hey, I'm 100% Scottish, writing on the internet from Glasgow.

    Here's the thing, though. Petrol is sitting at a little above £1 a litre here. The cheapest whisky costs £10 for three quarters of a litre. Is this ever going to fly?

    About the whisky/whiskey spelling thing: Whiskey from countries with an E in the name spell it "whiskey" (IrEland, AmErica, SwEdEn…) but countries with no E (Scotland, Canada, Japan) spell it "whisky."

    And the Scots would never use "Scotch" to describe anything, apart from maybe eggs wrapped in meat and breadcrumbs, or sticky tape. "Scotch" comes from a Gaelic word meaning "burned," referring to the whisky-making process. Grains are allowed to soak and germinate then quickly heated to dry them out. But its use on whisky labels sold around the world leads many to think that it means "from Scotland." It doesn't. The word for that is "Scottish." Misusing the word to refer to the Scottish people doesn't cause offence or anything, it's just ignorant. But now you know!

    And great choice with the Bowmore btw. Great wee dram!

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