Many distilleries are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Arbikie Distillery saw that challenge and doubled down. The Scottish distillery teamed up with researchers at Abertay University and the James Hutton Institute to create a “climate positive gin.” Using peas (yes, peas!), the team created a gin that actually helps the environment.
According to Abertay University, the new spirit, called Nàdar boasts a carbon footprint of -1.54 kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), “meaning it avoids more carbon dioxide emissions than it creates.”
Although, the concept took five years to develop, the premise is fairly simple. Gin its made using a neutral spirit as a base. That neutral spirit is normally distilled from grains such as wheat and cereals—which require a ton of synthetic fertilizer. Conversely, peas employ a process called ‘biological nitrogen fixation’ to generate their own nitrogen from the atmosphere. In fact, peas leave the soil richer in nitrogen than it started.
For good measure, the byproducts of the process are employed as well. The waste from the peas and yeast created during distillation is known as pot-ale. The scientists worked to convert this waste into feedstock for animals. They noted that in the future they hope to make it an edible source of protein for humans as well.
The entire endeavor was actually the PhD product of student Kirsty Black. “At Arbikie, everything we do is dictated by the seasons and our geographical location. Year on year we see the weather, harvest timings and crop quality change; all highlighting the need to address the climate crisis now,” she explained. “By producing the world’s first climate positive gin, we are taking initial steps towards improving our environmental impact, while demonstrating what can be achieved when like-minded researchers and businesses come together.”
The project is ongoing and the distillers imagine some tweaks moving forward. For example, the inaugural run utilized pricey English Peas, but the team hopes to use a more affordable strain on the next try. Of course, there’s potential to apply the method to other spirits—vodka, we’re looking at you!
“The climate change crisis demands far greater respect for natural resources that has previously been afforded. We must be more efficient, and the best place to start is locally. Towards that end, this is not simply a story of a new gin but is in fact another great example of Scottish teamwork and ingenuity,” said Dr Pietro (Pete) Iannetta, an agroecologist at the James Hutton Institute. “Nàdar is fully provenanced as a sustainable Scottish product, and when purchased consumers can be assured they are also encouraging more-practical crop rotations, helping to reduce artificial fertiliser use, improve soil qualities, and most importantly, to directly reconnect the values of local consumers and farmers to help realise the most respectful and sustainable of agricultural operations at home.”