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Black Grouse Goes Green

by Gavin D Smith, 07/08

As environmental concerns gain an increasingly high profile in the public consciousness, Scotch whisky distillers are keen to promote their 'green' credentials, and both the new Port Charlotte distillery on Islay and the projected Huntly distillery in Aberdeenshire have been designed with 'eco-friendliness' in mind.

According to Euan Shand, who is masterminding the Huntly venture, "We plan to use a woodchip/biomass process and space heating, along with rain water harvesting, which will add around 1 million to the cost of the project."

The Edrington Group is already offering the public the chance to buy an oak tree on the historic estate at its Macallan distillery on Speyside, where 1,000 oak saplings are being planted in the grounds as part of a major woodland regeneration.

For 95, it is possible to purchase a package which includes a sapling bearing a commemorative plaque and a limited edition bottle of The Macallan single malt. Proceeds will be invested in ongoing woodland regeneration and purchasers can even visit their tree once planting is complete!

Now, in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Edrington is going a step further and for every bottle of its Black Grouse blend sold, 50p is being donated to a conservation campaign to save black grouse across Britain.

The Black Grouse is new to the UK this month (see July's Recent Releases), and according to Lee Walker, brand manager for Maxxium UK, the global sales, marketing and distribution partnership of The Edrington Group, "The launch of The Black Grouse in the UK not only marks an exciting brand extension for the Famous Grouse, but thanks to our partnership with the RSPB we are helping to stem the decline of its feathered namesake, the black grouse."

   Edrington's partnership with the RSPB heralds the beginning of a long term, fund-raising relationship in the UK. Black grouse are found in upland areas of Wales, the Pennines and most of Scotland, but it is an endangered species, which is under real threat of extinction. During the 1970s, it was estimated that there were 25,000 'lekking' males in Britain, but by 2005 that number had fallen to just 5,000.

While over 90 per cent of bird species are monogamous, the black grouse is notably promiscuous, and 'Lekking' is the black grouse's distinctive courtship ritual, with the term being derived from an Old Norse word for 'dancing.' Each spring male black grouse gather to display their distinctive plumage in the hope of attracting a mate and fight to occupy the best territory. Just 10 per cent of the males are responsible for more than 80 per cent of all matings.

Positive habitat management is essential to the future of the bird, and revenue from the sales of the new blended whisky will help the RSPB to fund over 85,000 acres of UK land for conservation purposes.

Lee Walker says "Environmentalism is increasingly becoming a touchstone issue for consumers, and The Black Grouse's partnership with the RSPB offers individuals a simple way to help make a difference and secure the future of this iconic bird."

Stuart Housden, director of the RSPB in Scotland, says "We are absolutely delighted that The Famous Grouse has chosen to support black grouse conservation by funding our work for protection, creation and restoration of the special natural habitats they depend on. This commitment will ensure that this spectacular bird, with its remarkable mating behaviour, will continue to enthral people and contribute to the rich natural history of the UK for many years to come."


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