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Recoverable resources from pot ale and spent wash from Scotch whisky production.

Edwards, Christine; McNerney, Calum C.; Lawton, Linda A.; Palmer, Joseph; Macgregor, Kenneth; Jack, Frances; Cockburn, Peter; Plummer, Amy; Lovegrove, Alison; Wood, Abigail


Calum C. McNerney

Joseph Palmer

Kenneth Macgregor

Frances Jack

Peter Cockburn

Amy Plummer

Alison Lovegrove

Abigail Wood


Scotch Whisky is an important global commodity which generates extensive co-product known as pot ale or spent wash (> 10 L co-product per L whisky). Whilst this is often used as fertiliser or animal feed, a proportion requires disposal resulting in cost to the distillery along with the negative impact on the carbon footprint due to transportation. This study examined the composition of the soluble fraction of pot ale from twenty-two distilleries in Scotland in order to assess the potential for resource recovery and transition to a more circular economy. The results reinforced previous studies, demonstrating that pot ale is an excellent source of protein with a potential for recovery >150, 000 t per annum in Scotland based on Whisky production data. Lactic acid, an important industrial platform chemical, was the major organic acid produced with concentrations ranging from 0.3 to 6.6 g L−1, representing a potential opportunity for recovery for applications such as manufacture of biodegradable polylactic acid for plastics (> 15,000 t per annum based on mean values). Other important platform chemicals, succinic acid and lysine were also identified and considered in sufficient amounts for future use. Pot ale was also shown to contain significant amounts of critical raw materials, magnesium and phosphate, which could be reclaimed for use in fertiliser/feed supporting the development of a new circular economy whilst at the same time reducing the burden of mining and transportation on the environment. The data in this study demonstrated a potential 13.8 kt recoverable phosphate per annum representing more than half of the annual fertiliser consumption in Scotland. Whisky co-products can contribute to sustainable energy, food and platform chemicals with the added value that metal concentrations are not sufficiently high to prevent its utilisation.


EDWARDS, C., MCNERNEY, C.C., LAWTON, L.A., PALMER, J., MACGREGOR, K., JACK, F., COCKBURN, P., PLUMMER, A., LOVEGROVE, A. and WOOD, A. 2022. Recoverable resources from pot ale and spent wash from Scotch whisky production. Resources, conservation and recycling [online], 179, article number 106114. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 12, 2021
Online Publication Date Dec 20, 2021
Publication Date Apr 30, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 20, 2021
Publicly Available Date Dec 20, 2021
Journal Resources, conservation and recycling
Print ISSN 0921-3449
Electronic ISSN 1879-0658
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 179
Article Number 106114
Keywords Pot ale; Resource recovery; Lactic acid; Magnesium; Critical raw materials; Phosphate; Whisky industry
Public URL


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