Sustainable spirits changing the world
Sustainability is more than just a trend with producers upping their game when it comes to their environmental footprint. We look at the spirits brands that have placed a greater emphasis on going green.
Major drinks groups such as Diageo, Bacardi and Pernod Ricard are working towards their sustainability goals by exploring how to make their supply chains more eco-friendly.
Last month, a report from Bacardi said “purpose-driven” spirits have come to the fore as brands make “long-term commitments” to support important issues. The report also said “sustainability is at the forefront of every consumer’s mind” and that the industry has “barely scratched the surface of this movement”.
Smaller players are also taking great strides to introduce products that make use of ingredients that would go to waste including banana peel, table grapes and unsold baked goods.
Meanwhile, a number of spirits brands have also gained Fairtrade certification, such as Fair and Flor de Caña rum.
Click through to the following pages to read about the spirits brands upping their game when it comes to sustainability.
In 2018, William Grant & Sons released its new Discarded brand which follows the ethos “don’t discard”.
Its first product, which launched in July, was a sweet vermouth made with cascara, the outer fruit of the coffee berry.
Cascara is a waste product in coffee production and each year billions of tonnes of the by-product are either sent to landfill or recycled as fertiliser.
Discarded Spirits Company added a Caribbean rum infused with banana peel to its range in December 2019, an “overlooked ingredient” that is usually binned.
Hyke Gin is created using grape spirit produced from internationally sourced, fresh table grapes that are surplus to the requirements of the supermarket supply chain.
Foxhole Spirits partnered with UK fruit importer Richard Hochfeld to “reinvent” the equivalent of 1.4 million punnets of surplus grapes per year.
The grapes are used to create a gin that is flavoured with botanicals inspired by the grapes’ African and South American origins, including coriander, myrrh and rooibos.
The brainchild of bartender Whit Rigali and agricultural economist Samuel Chereskin, Misadventure & Company is founded upon the concept of “hedonistic sustainability” – the idea that doing good doesn’t have to be a punishment.
The San Diego-based distillery used unsold baked goods from a nearby food bank to produce its inaugural spirit, Misadventure Vodka.
The company said: “Every year American consumers, companies and farmers spend US$218 billion, or 1.3% of US gross domestic product (GDP), growing, transporting, and disposing of 50-60 million tonnes of food that never gets eaten. Every drink you have of Misadventure Vodka is directly part of the solution.”
Founded in 2009 by Alexandre Koiransky, Ethical Wine & Spirits’ Fair brand is a collection of ethically-produced spirits and liqueurs from France, crafted by master brewer and distiller Philip Laclie.
The brand’s Fairtrade ingredients include organic quinoa from the 3,000-metre-high Altiplano Plateau and hand-picked juniper berries in Uzbekistan.
The range features Fair Vodka, Rum, Extra Old Rum, Gin, Café Liqueur, and a number of other liqueurs.
Fair Café Liqueur is made from Fairtrade Arabica coffee beans from a co-op of more than 1,900 independent farmers in the Huatusco region of Veracruz, Mexico. The sugar used to make the liqueur is also Fairtrade-certified and comes from various co-ops in countries, such as Belize and Paraguay.
Canaïma Gin is produced by Destilerias Unidas, Diplomático Rum’s distillery in Venezuela.
In making the gin, the brand has worked with indigenous people experienced in harvesting different Amazonian botanicals in ways that limit environmental impacts.
Canaïma is working with Saving the Amazon, which uses technology, mobile applications and the “human potential of indigenous communities” to tackle the destruction of the Amazon and plant trees.
The brand will donate 10% of sales to both initiatives to help “preserve their deep-rooted culture, heritage” and help reforestation of the Amazon region. It will also contribute to food, security and changing the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous communities.
Flor de Caña
Rum brand Flor de Caña became one of the first spirit brands in the world to receive Fairtrade certification in 2018.
The certification with Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of Fair Trade products in North America, covers areas like safe working conditions, protection of fundamental human rights and environmental best practices.
Flor de Caña is committed to sustainable practices – the rum has been distilled using 100% renewable energy for more than a decade.
For the past 12 years, Flor de Caña has planted 50,000 trees annually to help protect the environment.
The brand’s global cocktail competition is centred around Flor de Caña’s dedication to sustainability and Fairtrade products.
Launched in the UK in November 2016, Freya is created using “only sustainable methods”, distilling birch sap that is harvested once a year, in the spring, from birch forests in Northern Europe.
It claims to be the “world’s first” spirit distilled from birch tree sap. The sap is distilled in handmade copper pot stills by Dr John Walters at the English Spirit Distillery in Great Yeldham.
According to brand owner Pure Wild Spirits, Freya “answers the demand from both on-trade and consumers for new products that balance sustainability and innovation”.
In November 2017, Pure Wild Spirits launched the first line extension for its birch tree sap spirit Freya, called Freya Woodsmoke.
In March 2018, Pure Wild Spirits aimed to raise £750,000 (US$1.04m) worth of investment through Growthdeck.
Reliquum Apple Brandy
In December last year, UK producer Reliquum launched an apple brandy made using fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste.
Each 500ml bottle of Reliquum Apple Brandy is made from 28kg of Essex-grown waste opal apples.
To make its Apple Brandy, Reliquum presses opal apples and ferments the juice to make a cider. The alcoholic liquid is then distilled to create an eau-de-vie at the English Spirit Distillery. Afterwards, the brandy is aged in red wine barrels made from French Trombais Oak for four months.
Reliquum founder Pete Thompson launched the brandy following the release of apple juice Cotchel, which uses waste apples and pears to make fruit juices. The third-generation farmer and fruit grower hopes the brand will help him “get rid of all food waste on his farm”.
Described as “not whisky, not gin”, Nc’nean Botanical Spirit is made from the Highland distillery’s new-make malt spirit, which is redistilled with botanicals.
The distillery is based on the west coast of Scotland and was founded by Annabel Thomas and Derek Lewis in 2013. What makes Nc’nean so special is that the site runs entirely on renewable energy.
Nc’nean, said to be Scotland’s first 100% organic distillery, launched the expression in September 2018 as it waits for its whisky to come of age.
The new make is distilled twice at Nc’nean, before it is distilled for a third time at west-coast gin distillery Beinn an Tuirc using a range of botanicals including fresh grapefruit, bog myrtle, heather, coriander and juniper.
In December last year, Nc’nean raised £1 million (US$1.3m) through crowdfunding to help accelerate its growth.
Cooper King Dry Gin
Yorkshire-based Cooper King Distillery launched its inaugural gin in June 2018.
The self-built distillery’s first expression is made using honey from on-site beehives, as well as lemongrass and locally grown lavender.
It was the first distillery in Europe to join international environment initiative, 1% for the Planet, which sees 1% of the distillery’s sales go towards environmental non-profit organisations.
Cooper King Distillery will plant one square metre of native woodland for every bottle sold through a partnership with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.