Cheers to that: Five sustainable spirit brands for guilt-free drinking

The climate crisis is seeping into every aspect of our lives. From locally sourced ingredients to distilleries run on bio-energy, Jo Aspin rounds up the spirit brands using trailblazing techniques to minimise their impact

Jo Aspin
Saturday 23 October 2021 07:00 BST

Amid the forest fires, flash floods, and global climate crisis talks that 2021 has brought us, it’s no surprise that many of us are worried about the impending doom of the end of the world. As an individual, it’s easy to feel helpless in the plight we face to protect the Earth and combat the damage that has already been done. However, every little helps and if you’d like to imbibe with an eased conscience, these five spirits brands are working hard to minimise their own impact.

Avid rum fan and scientist Russ Wakeham always knew he wanted to put his PhD in organic chemistry to good use and spent many years studying carbon capture and utilisation technologies. He sought to create a product that would give him a platform to talk about sustainability and raise awareness of the issues around CO2. When he settled on the idea of a drinks brand it was always going to be rum. On the subject of rum he says: “I love the history, the ingredients, the chemistry, the process and the liquid!” Now here’s the techy bit – Two Drifters attempt to avoid creating CO2 wherever possible. To date, the distillery has avoided 35.29 tons of CO2, while removing a further 16.72 ton. Their Devon-based distillery is run on electric 100 per cent renewable energy. They’ve recently rebranded to make their packaging as sustainable as possible too. Their bottles have a natural cork with a certified wood top, 100 per cent compostable tamper seal and paper labels (made from 95 per cent sugarcane fibre, 5 per cent hemp and linen with a plant-based adhesive). They’ve even launched a new low emissions website to match. Just as it says on the website, this is “Feel Good Rum” at its finest.

This Finnish vodka brand is new to the UK this month and their mission is clear. Through their production methods, they aim to restore CO2 while farming, with plans to become carbon neutral by 2025. Koskenkorva Vodka Climate Action is a smooth single-estate vodka made with barley, sourced from local farmer Jari Eerola. Their regenerative farming methods remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the ground, creating carbon sinks that reduce the impact of climate change. The process improves biodiversity, stops nutrients leaking into water bodies and provides better crops at the same time. The distillery in western Finland runs predominantly on bio-energy and has an impressive 99.9 per cent recycling rate. Even the husks of the barley left over during the distillation process are used to power the plant. We all know we must drink responsibly but Koskenkorva is urging us to drink sustainably too.

This mythically inspired spirit brand from the Isle of Wight is making big waves in all things sustainable. Mermaid gin’s lead botanical is rock samphire, foraged from the island’s shores. Other locally sourced ingredients include handpicked elderflower, and Boadicea hops harvested from the nearby Ventnor Botanic Gardens. Their Mermaid Pink Gin further minimises impact, infusing local “wonky” strawberries that would otherwise have gone to waste. The distillery carried out their own carbon footprint exercise to understand their impact on the environment and have since adopted sustainable practices to achieve net zero carbon emissions. They use biodegradable materials wherever possible in their packaging, a natural cork stopper and tamper-proof seal made from corn and potato starch, which composts in food waste recycling within 6-12 weeks. They’re also working with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to support the restoration of seagrass meadows, of which an estimated 92 per cent have been lost due to pollution, human activity and the effects of climate change over the last 100 years.

Founded in 2017, the Oxford Artisan Distillery is the city’s first ever distillery. It has been founded on the ideals and principles of traditional agriculture, distilling and engineering. They produce Oxford Rye, the only rye in Britain made with heritage grains that were commonly used until the late 19th century. Oxford Rye’s grains are grown in vibrant, genetically diverse fields overseen by head of farming and sustainable development John Letts. Letts is an organic farmer, archaeo-botanist and plant breeder who has spent over 30 years studying and growing heritage grains. The distillery’s farmers embrace gentler methods of land management such as using clover to suppress weeds and sequester carbon. Ploughing is a “no-no” for the distillery, as it breaks up crucial eco-systems created by worms and other organisms, releases carbon into the atmosphere and depletes the build-up of organic matter that can naturally nourish a crop. Each year’s harvest produces a totally unique rye dependent on the natural and unforced evolution of the grains.

Silent Pool Distillers launched Green Man Woodland Gin earlier this year. It’s the first spirit in the world to be packaged in a cardboard bottle. Here’s some number crunching: the bottle is made from 94 per cent recycled paper, is 100 per cent recyclable and has a carbon footprint six times lower than a glass version. The London Dry gin features 23 botanicals all with distinctly outdoorsy aromas. Birch, rowan and hawthorne all make an appearance. These plants are steeped in magic and have links to the Pagan season of Beltane, the celebration of spring, where the Green Man is a central figure. Birch being the tree of love and Hawthorne to encourage fertility, so choose wisely whom you drink this with! For every bottle of Green Man sold, Silent Pool plants a tree too, via Tree Nation. You can track the amount of CO2 they’ve offset on their Tree Nation Page.

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