As another year comes to an end, many of us are looking forward to kicking back with an indulgent tipple. Unfortunately, from the vast amounts of water and energy used in the distillation process to excessive, non-recyclable packaging, the drinks industry has a tendency to be both wasteful and polluting.
Rather than splurging on something that’s going to literally cost the earth, why not treat yourself to a drink from one of the growing number of distillers now working to eliminate their impact on the environment? Some spirits can even now claim to be ‘climate positive,’ offsetting more CO2 than they create.
As with most agricultural products, a key aspect of managing your own personal sustainability is to buy as locally as possible, so we’re highlighting some fabulous British businesses now meeting the sustainability challenge with an inspiring creative flourish.
The Cooper King Distillery in North Yorkshire employs a mind-boggling list of sustainability strategies. Its gins are made using locally-sourced ingredients, and packed in plastic-free, lightweight glass bottles. Operating on only green energy, it also uses vacuum stills to reduce it’s consumption of both energy and water. Waste water is re-used in a closed-loop system, conserving 26 tonnes a year. Spent botanicals from gin production go to a local bakery for re-use in glazes, while used whisky grains are fed to local cattle. What’s more, they plant a square metre of woodland in the Yorkshire Dales, offseting 50kg of CO2, for every bottle they sell, and also contribute to other sustainability projects via 1% For The Planet.
Their classics are a fresh and vibrant, multi-award-winning Dry Gin, redolent of cardamom, citrus and floral local honey, and the transcendent Cooper King Herb Gin, with it’s tantalising notes of basil, lemongrass and clove. You’re probably going to need both for your festive drinks cabinet. A whisky made to similar standards is currently being aged.
This carbon-neutral Kent distillery also uses an impressive range of methods to lessen its environmental impact. Using only renewable power and storing waste heat for reuse, it also sources its ingredients locally. A new project, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, aims to build a wildlife pond to supply all its cooling water.
The eight botanicals in its smooth and delicately balanced, multi-award-winning London Dry Gin include locally-sourced oak moss, gorse and cobnuts. Other offerings use surplus local farm produce. The Raspberry Ghost eau de vie, for example, gets its natural hit of rich fruit from Kentish rasperries which fail to meet supermarket standards. With it’s green, earthy base notes, it’s a treat with tonic, the perfect post-shopping pick-me-up. The range also includes a rum and a brandy.
Isle of Wight Distillery
The only distillery on the Isle of Wight was founded by Xavier Baker and Conrad Gauntlett with sustainability in mind. Mermaid Gin is flavoured with 10 ethically-sourced botanicals, including locally-grown elderflower, Boadicea hops from the Botanic Gardens in nearby Ventnor, and locally-foraged ‘mermaid’s kiss’ rock samphire. The gorgeous, award-winning mermaid-esque bottle, created so pretty in the hope that customers will repurpose it, is certified plastic-free by the A Plastic Planet campaign, and has a sustainably sourced natural cork with a compostable seal. Nevertheless, it’s fully recyclable, and locals can also make use of a refill scheme.
With it’s salty hints, crisp lemon notes and earthy minerality, this would make a fantastic gift for a friend or relative commited to mainstream G&Ts. They’ll be so thrilled, they won’t even notice you’re converting them! A yummy pink gin and a salt vodka are now also available in the mermaid bottle, while the range also features heritage, navy-strength HMS Victory gin and rum.
Russ and Gemma Wakeham’s Devon distillery only makes rum. Set up in spring 2019 to be carbon-negative, it distills 100% molasses, with waste molasses later donated for reuse to a local farmer. Its bespoke facility near Exeter runs on only zero-emission energy, and every detail has been carefully considered, right down to the business cards, which are made from recycled T-shirts. Working in partnership with Swiss offsetting company, Climeworks, who capture CO2 from the air, turn it into stone and store it underground, it actually removes more carbon dioxide from the air than is generated in its supply chain or distribution process.
The range includes a white rum, a dark rum, and a barrel-aged gold rum, but its most popular product is the non-barrel-aged Spiced Rum, which is flavoured with burnt sugar, vanilla, mixed spices and star anise. It’s soft, velvety, fruity and slightly dry and, topped up with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime, makes a festive accompaniment to the traditional telly binge.
Being more sustainable doesn’t have to be about self-denial. Why not raise a glass to the planet?