Good practice

Turning whisky distillery by-products into value-added opportunities

Turning whisky distillery by-products into value-added opportunities
© Penderyn, 2018
Energy, Materials, Waste
Food processing, Other
High cost
Payback time:
For minimal initial investment and risk, Penderyn can maximise both economic and environmental opportunities
Return on investment:
For a company the size of Penderyn, a cap-ex of € 1.12 million (£ 1 m.) would be required to implement the type of system required to implement the recommendations
Total cost savings:
Recommended actions will potentially reduce effluent costs by 75 % and provide a low-cost source of heat energy for the entire site as well as delivering a pot ale concentrate worth € 11 205 (£ 10 000) per annum
Premises and operation areas:
Production processes
Size of company:
Medium (less than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Beginner, Intermediate

The spirit of enterprise

  •  Adding value to unavoidable whisky distillery by-products
  • Opportunities identified to reduce waste and provide a business opportunity

Penderyn Whisky Distillery is situated in the community of Penderyn in the Welsh Beacons. The main distillery, offices and visitor centre are in Penderyn, which operates two Faraday stills and two lantern stills. Penderyn produces its own malted barley spirit, which when matured is recognised as one of the finest single malt whiskys in the world.

WRAP Cymru provided helped Penderyn to research and explore opportunities for adding value to the draff pot ale and the spent lees by-products. The emphasis of this preliminary investigation was to identify solutions that would work well practically for a distillery which has limited space. 

Penderyn uses malted barley for its whisky production. The by-product, after the malted barley has been steeped in hot water and the soluble sugars extracted, is called draff. The malt draff is rich indigestible fibre, contains concentrated protein and oil and has a high moisture content of some 80 %. The sugar-rich liquid, called wort, is fermented and then distilled.

Around 1 080 tonnes of Penderyn’s draff is collected by a local cattle farmer each year and used to support the feeding of his stock. There is no charge for the collection.

Penderyn's spent wash is made up of pot ale, spent lees and caustic wash from cleaning out the stills and flushing the lines between production runs. The liquid effluent is combined and collected by a licensed contractor before being spread to land. This amounts to over 1.5 million litres a year.

A range of potential options was explored by WRAP Cymru, including innovative pre-commercial systems and technologies for adding value to the pot ale and spent lees.

The options appraisal identified 13 potential opportunities, some of which inter-linked in terms of treating both the liquid by-products and the draff. 

Key results

After detailed discussions with both WRAP Cymru and its board, Penderyn decided to focus on three main 'valorising' activities:

1. Initial separation of the liquid by-products (i.e. pot ale and lees from the wash)

2. Technology for separating suspended solids and liquid solubles from spent grains during production

3. Brathadair’s pot ale treatment process for SME distilleries

WRAP Cymru then helped Penderyn to develop comprehensive business cases to implement these opportunities, as further detailed in the information provided below.


“The support from WRAP Cymru has brought all of the relevant work together on waste value-added options in the whisky sector, enabling us to make informed choices at a boardroom level. The business case illustrations, provided for our favoured options, build the foundations to now move forward and bring these opportunities to life.” -- Neil Quigley, Director of Operations, Penderyn Whisky Distillery Ltd.

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