Around 700 acres of precious peatlands on the world famous whisky island of Islay, are to be restored by a new partnership between one of its distilleries and a leading conservation charity.

There had almost certainly been many other illicit stills before, but since it was founded in 1816 Lagavulin Distillery has been making the distinctive Islay-style of single malt Scotch whisky legally through the traditional method. This meant burning peat to dry the malted barley for distilling. Imparting the pungent smokey flavour which has made Islay whiskies renowned worldwide.

So in recognition of the vital role peatlands have had in creating Islay’s unique landscape and distilling heritage, Lagavulin is investing £60,000 of its legacy fund to help RSPB Scotland to enhance and protect large areas of peat for future generations.

RSPB Scotland owns and manages two nature reserves on Islay, The Oa and Loch Gruinart, where large areas of peatland are in need of restoration. Drainage of the peatlands, prior to RSPB ownership, had dried out the peat, offering very little benefit for wildlife and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Georgie Crawford, Lagavulin Distillery manager, said it would be impossible to have created the distinctive character of Lagavulin for 200 years without using peat. "We are working to be as sustainable as we possibly can in our peat use to ensure we can continue to make Lagavulin for the next 200 years.We recognise that peatland is a vital part of Islay’s eco-system and we are delighted to be working with RSPB Scotland to restore and conserve these areas with all the benefits that will bring to wildlife diversity, which in turn adds another element to Islay’s rich tapestry for locals and visitors alike.”

Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy at RSPB Scotland, added: “RSPB Scotland is very pleased to be working with Lagavulin to restore and enhance Islay’s iconic peatlands. This is an important contribution from the whisky industry towards meeting Scottish Government targets for restoring peatlands and ensuring they continue to provide benefits for biodiversity, carbon and people."