The company behind the Laphroaig and Bowmore whisky brands has said the island home of those Scottish distilleries will likely be next in line in its ongoing efforts to restore the country's peatlands.

Alistair Longwell, head of distillation and environment at Beam Suntory, revealed the news as the company yesterday unveiled the second phase in its Peatlands Water Sanctuary (PWS) initiative which is working towards the conservation of the equivalent amount of peat used annually to make its single Islay malts.

Beam Suntory owns approximately 130 hectares of land on Islay from which it harvests some 240 tonnes of peat each year. This is used to smoke the malt used in the distillation process, and gives the whiskies their distinctive flavour.

The group has committed to the restoration and conservation of 1,300 hectares of peatlands in Scotland by 2030. Beyond that, there is a longer-term aim to restore boglands by 2040 equal to twice the volume of peat that Beam Suntory harvests annually.

Mr Longwell said the company is looking at potential projects in areas such as Speyside, the north-west and the north-east of Scotland. This follows confirmation yesterday of a partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for the regeneration of approximately 160 hectares at the Airds Moss reserve in East Ayrshire.

The Herald: Alistair LongwellAlistair Longwell (Image: Euan Cherry/Beam Suntory)

"We’ve got a few irons in the fire – it takes a bit of time to bring these things to fruition," he said.

"There’s quite a lot of preparation that needs to happen, and quite a lot of species surveys and peat bog surveys required, but yes, probably the next one to come to the table will be in early 2023 and will be on our own land over on Islay."

Launched last year, the PWS initiative is a joint $4 million (£3.5m) conservation project sponsored by Beam Suntory and its parent company, Japan's Suntory Holdings. PWS will provide approximately $435,000 (£385,000) of funding to restore and regenerate peatland at Airds Moss.

The work will take place over four years covering land owned by RSPB Scotland. It follows on the first stage of the PWS initiative which began with work to conserve peatland near the Ardmore distillery in Aberdeenshire in November 2021.

READ MORE: Whisky giant announces major peat restoration project in Ayrshire

"We’re now a year in since launching our PWS initiative and it’s rewarding to be using our accumulating knowledge and expertise to make a significant impact to Scotland’s ecosystems," Mr Longwell said at yesterday's launch event.

"Working across the Airds Moss Reserve in partnership with RSPB Scotland represents a great step forward in our goal to restore 1,300 hectares of peatland by 2030."

Anne McCall, the director of RSPB Scotland, welcomed the whisky group's support for the work in East Ayrshire where, like other locations across the country, peatlands have historically been drained to make way for agriculture and forestry. It has been estimated that more than 80 per cent of the 1.7 million hectares of peatland in Scotland have been cut for fuel or otherwise degraded.

"We are delighted to be working in partnership with Beam Suntory to restore peatland at our Airds Moss nature reserve," Ms McCall said. "Peatlands are incredibly special and fragile habitats, with an enormous importance in the fight against climate change.

READ MORE: Whisky giants’ peat bog pledge, net zero distillery

"RSPB Scotland Airds Moss is of international importance for its blanket bog habitat and supports some wonderful species, including hen harrier, golden plover, fantastic carnivorous sundews and large heath butterfly."

Peatland also plays an important role in flooding control, and are capable of absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide.

"Peatlands and heather are what makes Scotland’s landscape so special, particularly within my constituency of Kilmarnock and Loudoun where the restoration and protection of this land is taking place," MP Alan Brown said.

"The environmental benefits of peatland as a carbon store are well known so this helps combat climate change."