Carnegie PhD Scholar awarded Robertson Medal 2022-23
Project Title: Future proofing Scotch Whisky
Scotch Whisky is a major contributor to the Scottish economy, annually generating around £5.5 billion. Despite the vast arrays of flavour available among the hundreds of different Scotch Whisky brands, the basic ingredients are few: water, yeast and malted barley. One of the most characteristic features of many Scotch Whiskies, particularly those from Islay, are smoky flavours and aromas. These are imparted into the spirit through the burning of peat which is used to malt the barley at the beginning of the manufacturing process with the additional benefit of simultaneously infusing it with smoky flavours and aromas. The scale and growth of the Scotch Whisky industry means that significant quantities of peat are now being used for this purpose.
In this project, we seek to find alternative, more sustainable sources for the characteristic flavours associated with ‘peated’ whiskies. Powerful tools for chemical analysis, principally, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry (MS) will be employed to help us understand the composition of the replacement materials and the smoke that they produce, when burned. Several possible candidates have been identified, one being spent coffee grounds (SCG), a common waste product (6 million tons are discarded yearly to landfill) whose chemical composition has some similarities to peat.
Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship
University: Heriot-Watt University