This past week, my Florida town was hit with Hurricane Irma. Needless to say, climate change has been on my mind a lot lately. While we were evacuating north, a dangerous thought came into my mind: what's going to happen to the love of my life, whiskey, if the world gets warmer and sea levels rise?
Thankfully, I was able to get home safely to a relatively unscathed house. But as soon as I did, I started researching that all important question.
First, let's take a look at Scotch.
Barley harvest in coastal Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Scotch relies on barley for its delicious flavor, and thanks to global warming, Scotland will be able to grow barley better than ever before. Score one for climate change! According to ScotchWhiskey.com,
SEPA reports that Scotland has already begun to see its growing season start earlier and last 30 days longer than in previous years.
That means healthier, more favorable barley! For most of the country, anyway.
But it's not all good news.
In fact, most of it is pretty bad. Let's start off easy: Rising seawater means that many coastal distilleries (which are a staple in Scotland) will lose ground.
This is not to mention the thousands of delicate ecosystems that could be destroyed. Already, we are seeing this with colony collapse for bees (very worrying to the mead industry), and other biological plagues and pestilence. With less snow comes less groundwater, which is essential in whiskey production.
And rising temperatures mean that grain whiskey will have a much harder production. While barley reaps the benefits, wheat will suffer. This will be particularly bad in the US, where wheat is king in the production of bourbon and blended whiskeys. In fact, many bourbon companies are starting to get pretty worried about exactly that. The Commonwealth of Kentucky even recently funded a study from American University to figure out what they needed to do to keep this valuable industry alive.
Maine's Split Rock Distillery makes a low carbon footprint organic bourbon (photo via epicureandculture.com)
Unfortunately, unless you have power over the winds and weather, there isn't much we can do to combat this. Distilleries can work to control their carbon footprint and prove they have done their part. And we, as consumers, can support companies that do this over companies that don't. But aside from moving towards living greener and greener, that's really it.
Our advice? Save some good bottles from recent years. Keep them locked away in a cellar or storage unit, and don't even think about touching them. They could be worth a lot of money when everything we know about whiskey production changes. Or they could simply be a reminder of what we once had.