The biofuel is a byproduct of the distilling process.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated July 10, 2017
celtic renewables whisky fueled car
Credit: Courtesy of Celtic Renewables

Whiskey has fueled plenty of things – wild nights out on the town, long passionate discussions, completely pointless arguments – but last week, for the first time ever, a byproduct of the booze was used to fuel a car. Honestly, it’s probably the most productive thing whiskey has ever done. (No offense to your debate over who’s better, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.)

Back in 2014, a Scottish company called Celtic Renewables announced that it had figured out a way to create a biofuel known as biobutanol from two byproducts of whiskey production: spent barley and a yeasty liquid waste called pot ale – things that Scotland, home to Scotch whiskey, has plenty of. At the time, the British government even sent over a million dollars’ worth of support the company’s way to help get “whiskey gas” off the ground. This past Thursday, founder and president Martin Tangney proclaimed success when a whiskey-fueled car finally went on a test drive. “This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues,” Tangney said according to the BBC.

What makes Celtic Renewables' work so promising is that, first, the byproducts used to make biobutanol have no value to Scotch producers, meaning this method truly does combat waste, but importantly, second, biobutanol can run on existing cars without a need to modify their engines. The car used for Tangney’s test drive was, in fact, a rentala Ford Focus, to be exact.

The next step for Tangney and company is to ramp up production of whiskey gas to get this biofuel to market. The company has already received another £9 million in government funding and is hoping to secure even more investment to help get a commercial demonstrator plant open by 2019. “The test run shows that we know we could make it,” Tangney said. “The blue print just needs to be replicated.” In the meantime, I guess the rest of us can help do our part by drinking plenty of Scotch. Just make sure that during the drinking part, cars aren’t involved.