At Highland Park, we source the peat we use to smoke our barley from an area of Hobbister Moor located approximately seven miles west of our distillery in Kirkwall, Orkney. Rich in heather, this peat creates complex floral aromas in our kilns, delivering the distinctive sweet smoky flavours only found in Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky.
Hobbister Nature Reserve is a mosaic of internationally and nationally important habitats including saltmarsh, sea cliffs and peatlands. We own and manage this land under license from Orkney Islands Council and we work in close collaboration with the RSPB for the benefit of wildlife, including red-listed species such as Hen Harrier and Curlew. As such we are required to operate in accordance with the strict regulations associated with nature reserve designation that Hobbister Moor has held for almost 50 years.
The way we manage our peat aligns with the Scotch Whisky Association’s Commitment to Responsible Peat Use (CRPU) Strategy and we actively commit to all four of the steps outlined in their framework, which require us to develop and deliver plans for the responsible extraction, reduction, restoration and protection of peat.
Below, we detail the existing processes, projects and practices relating to these four peat-related activities.
RESPONSIBLE EXTRACTION AND REDUCTION PROCESSES
- We have made good progress across the first two distillery-controlled processes of reduction and extraction. Our ability to directly control our own extraction methods, conducted in a site designated as a nature reserve under licensed regulations, means that we are already operating to high industry standards.
- Our distillery team will be working with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to support the development of their Framework for Best Practice for Peat Extraction, due to be published in 2025, by sharing case studies of our extraction and restoration work on Hobbister Moor.
- We have driven efficiencies in our kilning process to a level where we have been able to significantly reduce the amount of peat that we extract from Hobbister Moor without changing the distinctive character and taste of our whisky. Typically, we extract around one third of the volume of peat per year that is permitted under our license.
- Our Distillery Manager works directly with the SWA and contributes to their own Peat Action Plan. She will continue to contribute to industry-shaping policies, regulations and advancements by sharing best-practice experiences developed at Highland Park, providing an under-represented perspective of smaller scale, island-based, self-supplying operators.
PEATLAND RESTORATION PROJECTS
- To date, the Highland Park distillery team has completed several peatland restoration pilot initiatives on Hobbister Moor, including returfing, water retention trials and geo-jute matting.
- Over the course of 2023-2024, we are turning our attention to how we will meaningfully scale our restoration and regeneration initiatives and investments.
- We will undertake this work in close collaboration with the RSPB, and with independently appointed ecological consultants and academics, to ensure that any scalable projects are developed in ways that are directly specific to the protected habitats on Hobbister Moor, and best adapted to our uniquely exposed, heather-dominant peat bogs.
PEATLAND PROTECTION PRACTICES
- We operate a close custodial role on Hobbister Moor alongside the RSPB with a focus on our responsibility to the land and natural habitat, which also sits adjacent to a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
- Engaging with Nature Scotland and continuing to develop protection plans with the RSPB, we will fulfil our ongoing role as custodians of Hobbister Moor and continue to manage, protect and enhance the unique ecology and rich biodiversity of the Orcadian landscape.