Six Spirits to Help Toast the Planet's Health
Sustainable operations honor the close link between agriculture and distillation
Do good and drink well—that's become the maxim of today's socially conscious spirit entrepreneurs. Sustainable operations honor the close link between agriculture and distillation. Plus, often they're cost-effective and result in great cocktails. No wonder small-scale producers and big brands alike are increasingly championing the cause. We offer a hearty salud to the following five distilleries.
Todd Hardie got his first beehive at 12 and owned an apiary for 30 years before opening CALEDONIA SPIRITS near Vermont's Barr Hill Nature Preserve. His Barr Hill Gin is distilled using raw local honey in barrels made from sustainably harvested lumber. In 2015, Hardie sold the company to his master distiller and used the profits to purchase enough land to launch Thornhill Farm, which now supplies Caledonia Spirits with local rye and elderberries. $40 for 750 ml, caledoniaspirits.com
The Souza family has been farming sweet potatoes for almost 100 years in California's Central Valley. Only recently did David Souza decide to branch out into distilling, turning the farm's sweet potatoes and rye into gin, vodka, and whiskey. CORBIN CASH's Blended Whiskey is emblematic of the brand's dedication to farm-to-bottle distilling. The spring water Souza uses is recycled for irrigation, and spent mash fertilizes fields and feeds cattle. $35 for 750 ml, corbincash.com
In the heart of bourbon country, Joe Heron is crafting a truly modern American spirit, Butchertown Reserve Casks Brandy. Louisville's pioneering COPPER & KINGS distillery relies on an aging cellar that is naturally climate-controlled to reduce energy use. Solar panels top the distillery's roof; salvaged wood tables provide guest seating; and shipping containers have been converted into a gift shop, event spaces, and restrooms. $60 for 750 ml, copperandkings.com
NOVO FOGO's zero-waste distillery is nestled into the slope of a hill in Brazil's UNESCO-designated Atlantic Forest. There, liquids flow with gravity—no plumbing required—and the sugarcane used in all spirits, including the standout Silver Cachaca, is organically grown. Leftover pulp is used as fuel for the fire in the still and as compost for the fields. The cachacas are aged in legally harvested Brazilian hardwood or Kentucky oak, thus completing the circle of mindfulness from field to still to barrel. $35 for 750 ml, novofogo.com
In a state where sustainability is in vogue, Carbondale, Colorado's MARBLE DISTILLING COMPANY stands out. The makers of a range of spirits, including Gingercello, a zesty twist on the Italian classic limoncello, employ an innovative "water energy thermal system," which saves more than 4 million gallons of water each year and captures 1.8 billion BTUs of energy. The grains used in Marble's spirits are locally sourced and, once spent, are used for livestock feed. $39 for 750 ml, marbledistilling.com
Among the world’s best-selling vodka brands, ABSOLUT is making a high-profile splash for cutting carbon emissions and reducing its distilleries' water footprint. Wheat for the company’s premium-label bottle, Absolut Elyx, is locally sourced. And Elyx has partnered with Water for People, a global nonprofit dedicated to bringing safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure to nine water-impoverished countries. For every bottle sold, Elyx will provide 140 liters of safe water. $50 for one liter, absolutelyx.com
This article appeared in the May/June 2017 edition with the headline "That's the Spirit."