Dram inconvenient – Heatwave dries up Highland distillery's water source

Whisky production was halted at a Highland Perthshire distillery because the heatwave dried up its water source.

Published 6th Aug 2018
Updated 11 th Oct 2023

Staff at Blair Athol distillery were forced to stop making whisky at the plant, near Pitlochry, for four weeks because of a lack of sourced water required from a nearby burn, the Allt Dour.

Diageo, which runs the ­distillery, confirmed that operations had been “impacted” due to the Allt Burn ­running low. A spokeswoman said that production would resume today.

However, she refused to comment on whether staff had been laid off or if it had led to a loss in revenue for the company.

During what has been one of the warmest heatwaves on record in the UK, the scorching weather also led to nearby Edradour distillery running low on water supplies needed for their operation.

The weather has affected ­several distilleries in ­Scotland’s Western Isles, which were also forced to halt ­production because of water shortages.
Half of the ten distilleries on the Isle of Islay were hit earlier this summer.

The Diageo spokeswoman said: “Production was impacted at the Blair Athol distillery due to the Allt Dour burn ­running low due to low rainfall and we were unable to draw down water for a period.

“Over the past decade we have worked hard to improve water efficiency at our distilleries across Scotland. This means we are better placed to manage periods of low rainfall with minimal impact on production.

“We are also able to flex our annual routine maintenance schedules to coincide with low rainfall periods to further reduce any impact.”

Andrew Symington, owner of the Edradour distillery in Pitlochry, said: “We almost ran out of sourced water last Friday. However, the thunderstorm that evening and heavy rain over the weekend filled up the cooling pond enough to allow both sites to continue production.”

Councillor Mike Williamson, SNP representative for the Highland ward, said it was “a shame” that Blair Athol distillery had been forced to cease production for a period due to “climate change”.

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It was the ready supply from the Allt Burn – Gaelic for burn of the otter – that attracted John Stewart and Robert ­Robertson, to found the Blair Athol distillery on moorland south of Pitlochry in 1798.

• READ MORE: 5 of the most beautiful Scottish whisky distilleries


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