Sustainability in drinks is a dynamic and complex issue, one in which increasing numbers of brands are innovating and implementing pioneering practices – from distilling spirits using surplus and waste produce to carbon-negative production processes and regenerative farming. Here are a few of the best eco-minded spirits to try.
12 sustainable spirits to try
HYKE’s first (delicious) gin was made from surplus table grapes and it's continued the theme for its next release, using English wine grape pomace (crushed grape seeds, stems and skins left over from wine-making) to make its base spirit. There’s also a secret ingredient – a tiny drop of specially aged brandy in each bottle. This is a full-bodied and aromatic gin, heady with juniper and black pepper, and subtle floral notes.
A typically innovative release from this zero-waste spirit brand, grape pomace (crushed skins, stems and seeds left over from wine-making) is distilled to make a spirit and blended with the flavourful alcohol produced from making alcohol-free wine. The resulting vodka is one of the most full-bodied we’ve tried, with a complex, lasting finish. With fruity notes of apple, pear and guava, it’s delicious sipped neat over ice, or try in a simple highball with tonic or sparkling water.
A fruity, floral, sustainable and organic tipple from a Brazilian gin maker, made with a blend of hibiscus, cranberry and blueberry, which gives a soft pink colour. Coriander seeds, lime and cranberry are the strongest notes.
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This carbon-neutral micro-distillery creates spirits from unwanted produce and by-products, such as gin made with surplus fruit from local farms, and moonshine distilled using surplus beer from breweries. Try Raspberry Ghost, an eau de vie (fruit brandy) made using Kentish raspberries considered too imperfect for sale in the supermarkets.
Dorset farmer Jason Barber uses milk from his herd of dairy cows to make this distinctive vodka. Or, to be specific, left-over whey from the cheese-making process (the curds get turned into Jason’s award-winning cheddar). With distinct lactic notes, it has a lusciously silky texture and is soft and smooth enough to drink on its own at room temperature. At just £25, it’s also a great-value vodka.
Inspired by the Norfolk coastline, this is the gin equivalent of a fresh sea breeze, with a subtle salty, savoury profile and complex notes of sea vegetables, citrus and fennel. We were also impressed with its eco-friendly refill service, which offers 700ml pouches of gin to top up bottles (and you can post the pouch back to Bullards free of charge for recycling).
An apple brandy from Normandy, calvados starts as a cider that is then distilled and aged for at least two years in oak. It's been made for centuries but the past few years have seen it creep on to drinks menus. Avallen is a modern new calvados that describes itself as carbon negative – every bottle made removes 2.73kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. This is because the apple trees that supply the raw material for the calvados act as potent carbon sinks that lock away CO2. Avallen is bright and easy to drink, with gentle spice and warming apple flavours. Try mixing it with equal parts Cointreau and lemon juice for a delicious sidecar.
This sustainably minded Finnish spirit is made used regeneratively farmed barley, which removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in the ground, as well as having other beneficial environmental effects, such as improving biodiversity. The vodka itself is a delicate affair, smooth and sweet with grassy hints, vanilla and lemon notes.
A carbon-negative gin, this top-quality spirit is hand-distilled using 100% renewable energy. Every bottle removes 1kg more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits, and plants a square metre of native UK woodland. Plus, the striking bottle makes it ideal for gifting.
Produced using distilled pinot noir grape skins left over from vineyard Chapel Down’s grape harvest, this is a smooth, juniper-led number that has a delicate nose and a rounded flavour with light fruit and vanilla notes. One to choose if you prefer a classic gin rather than a flavoured one.
A vibrant spiced rum from carbon-negative Devon distillery, Two Drifters. It's got bags of aromatic flavour, with masses of fresh, tangy pineapple, plus caramel, vanilla, baking spice and a candied hint of foam banana sweets. Despite the hefty ABV – 63% – it's smooth enough to sip neat but would also work beautifully mixed with ginger beer or cola.
Nc'nean uses organic Scottish barley to make its whisky, in a distillery powered by renewable energy. It recycles almost all of its waste, and each bottle of whisky is made of 100% recycled glass. This modern single malt is smooth, clean, light and refreshing, with a floral, subtly sweet aroma (think dried apricots) and herbaceous flavours with peachy overtones. Try in a highball.