It is readily apparent that the Industrial Revolution has adversely affected the Earth. Plastics, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals and greenhouse gases are but a few of the toxic stew that we’ve unleashed on our unsuspecting planet. Frankly, reversing the process seems almost impossible. What can one individual or company do to affect change?
For a growing number of distillers the answer is to make their tequila, vodka, gin or rum entirely out of 100% USDA certified organic ingredients. It’s no small undertaking. Across the board, the production process necessary is more costly and labor intensive than what’s done conventionally. Despite the challenges and elevated costs involved, more and more producers are looking to lower their spirits’ carbon footprint, and in a small way, improve the sorry condition of the environment.
One such spirit is Tequila Alquimia 100% de Agave. This family-owned and operated spirit brand is handcrafted entirely from USDA certified organic blue agaves grown on the family ranch in Arandas. The family patriarch, Dr. Adolfo Murillo, has for more than 20 years been dedicated to eliminating all use of toxic chemicals and helping other ranchers throughout Mexico to subscribe to environmentally responsible growing practices.
“We are mindful that every decision we make will affect many generations in the future and accept the responsibility for producing our tequila in such a way that leaves the environment better for our efforts,” says Murillo. “There have been significant challenges along the way, but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved with Tequila Alquimia.”
The portfolio’s elder statesman is award winning Tequila Alquimia Reserva de Don Adolfo Extra Añejo 100% de Agave. This ultra-sophisticated añejo is aged a minimum of 6 years is charred, American white oak barrels. During its protracted stay in wood, the tequila develops a wafting bouquet and a luxurious and thankfully long-lasting array of flavors. The Reserva is a most impressive spirit that deserves to be savored leisurely.
There’s something reassuring about consuming organic products, not the least of which is the assurance that they’re eco-friendly and arguably of a higher quality. The following cross-section of the organic segment well illustrates the allure. You can drink some of the best spirits of their type, and by voting with your dollars, encourage more producers to follow suit and take the high road less traveled.
123 Organic 100% Agave Tequila — Here’s an artisanal brand that respects Mother Earth. The blue agaves used to make these stylish tequilas are USDA and EU certified organic, meaning they were cultivated without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Not only that, the packaging is made from ecologically sustainable materials. Drinking responsibly never tasted so good. These Lowland gems are made at Tequila Las Americas [NOM 1480] in Amatitán, Jalisco. The 123 Reposado is aged for 6 months in American white oak barrels, while the añejo is barrel-aged for up to 18 months.
Casa Noble 100% Agave Tequila — Casa Noble Tequilas are certified organic and crafted with the utmost care. Produced at La Cofradia Distillery (NOM 1137) in the town of Tequila, Casa Noble tequilas are triple-distilled in traditional copper pot stills. The aged marques—reposado and añejo—are matured exclusively in French Limousin white oak casks rather than ex-bourbon barrels. Famous for it role in aging cognacs, Limousin is an extremely fast-growing tree, resulting in the widest grain pattern of the species. Its loose pores allow a spirit to extract more flavors from the wood.
Crop Harvest Earth Organic Artisanal Vodka — The folks at the Crop Harvest Earth have created a line of craft vodkas with light carbon footprints and reputations for quality and taste. The grain used in production is USDA certified organic grown free of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals. Each batch of 80-proof vodka is column-distilled to remove impurities and the flavors they impart. The vodka is distilled so efficiently that no carbon treatment or charcoal filtering is required. The Crop range also includes Cucumber, Tomato, Meyer Lemon and Spiced Pumpkin flavors.
Crótalo 100% Agave Tequila — The ultra-premium range of tequilas is handcrafted at Tequila Embajador [NOM 1509] using organic agaves in Atotonilco cultivated in the red volcanic soil of the Jalisco Highlands. Crótalo Añejo is double barreled for just over 2 years. It is aged in French Limousin oak barrels and then finished for another year in proprietary oak barrels. The showpiece of the portfolio—award-winning Crótalo Extra Añejo Reserva—is double barreled for 5 years. Both are snifter-ready artisanal gems well worth tracking down.
Death’s Door — Established in 2007 in Middleton, Wisconsin by Brian Ellison, Death’s Door produces all of its handcrafted spirits from organic, locally sourced ingredients. For example, Death’s Door Gin is made on a base of triple-distilled winter wheat and malted barley. Master distiller John Jeffery then infuses the spirits with only 3 botanicals—organic juniper berries, organic coriander and fennel seeds. The botanicals are placed in a chamber in the neck of the still such that the rising alcohol vapors pass through the botanicals and imprint the vivacious, 94-proof gin with their aroma and flavor.
Farmer’s Botanical Small Batch Organic Gin — Batched and bottled in Minnesota, the gin is made on a foundation of neutral spirits distilled entirely from USDA certified organic grain. The spirits are, in turn, infused with a proprietary blend of juniper, elderflower, lemongrass, coriander and angelica root. Its elevated strength of 46.7% alcohol (93.4 proof) is evident in the lip-tingling entry, which quickly expands filling the mouth with waves of juniper, zesty citrus and a fair amount of baking spice. The finish is long, dry and spicy warm.
Greenhook Ginsmiths — Greenhook Ginsmiths opened their doors in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY, with the release of critically acclaimed American Dry Gin. The small batch marvel is handcrafted from organic wheat and a botanical mix that includes Tuscan juniper, chamomile, Thai blue ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, orris root and elderberry. Brothers Steven and Philip DeAngelo make their 94-proof gin in a custom-made, vacuum copper pot still, which allows the gin to be distilled at low temperatures. This helps prevent the delicate aromas of the botanicals from being diminished by excessive heat of distillation.
Mad River Distillers — Appropriately enough, Mad River Distillers is situated in the Mad River Valley in the bucolic Green Mountains of Vermont. It affords an idyllic setting for distilling spirits made from organic, non-GMO products. Founder and CEO John Egan outfitted the operation with an advanced, steam-heated, copper pot still from Germany that’s specifically designed to provide maximum flavor transference. That it was a good purchase is evident in Mad River Distillers Maple Rum, a spirit distilled from local cane, matured in fresh charred American oak barrels and then finished in casks used previously to age Vermont maple syrup.
Punzoné Organic Vodka — Italian import Punzoné Vodka is made at the family-operated Cantine Sgarzi Luigi winery in Piemonte, Italy from certified organic wheat and spring water drawn from the nearby Alps. No additives or artificial flavors are added. The winery distills the vodka with a continuous, fractional five-column still that removes all undesirable compounds. Punzoné is an elegant spirit with a light, semisweet bouquet and a creamy, lingering finish. It is so smooth it’s hard to tell the vodka is actually 80 proof.
Square One Organic Vodka — Made in Rigby, Idaho, Square One Organic Vodka is handcrafted in limited production from certified organic rye grown in Montana, while the all-important water used in production is drawn from a 200-foot deep aquifer of the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. The grain is fermented organically using natural yeast. Afterwards the fermented mash is passed only once through the distillery’s four-column still and then lightly filtered to best preserve its flavor profile. The range also includes Cucumber, Basil, Botanical and newly released Bergamot flavors.