Best sustainable spirits
Want to be eco-conscious with your drinks cupboard? We've found the best sustainable spirits to buy, from environmentally friendly gin to waste-saving vodka, tequila and more
We're more aware than ever of how our actions affect the world around us, as well as the need to make more positive choices. From learning how to eat out sustainably to shopping for sustainable produce or cutting down on plastic with sustainable picnicware, there's plenty of ways to adapt our shopping patterns. It isn’t all about reusable shopping bags and metal straws, though – sometimes sustainability can be about alcohol too. We've previously explored the best sustainable wines on the market, but there is plenty going on in the world of spirits too. Firms are finding ways to use less water, source ingredients more responsibly and power distilleries in more eco-friendly ways. Bottles are becoming lighter and plastic is disappearing from packaging. The spirits industry is really stepping up.
We’ve rounded up some of the best sustainable spirits brands on the market. With offerings ranging from carbon-negative gin to vodka that makes a difference in local communities, we’ve got a bottle to suit your taste. Brendan Hodrien is a lifestyle writer who specialises in drinks reviews. He has written drinks round ups for a variety of publications including The Independent, i and the Evening Standard, often specialising in whisky reviews. He has carefully tested the best sustainable spirits to buy – read on for his verdicts.
Best sustainable spirits at a glance
- Best sustainable tequila: Mijenta Tequila Blanco, £54.95
- Best anti-food waste gin: HYKE Gin Very Special, £34.95
- Best carbon negative gin: Cooper King Dry Gin, £34
- Best sustainable vodka: Fair Quinoa Vodka, £31.95
- Best sustainable whisky: Nc’Nean Organic Single Malt Whisky, £49.95
- Best sustainable flavoured vodka: Black Cow Vodka & English Strawberries, £26.45
- Best sustainable mezcal: The Lost Explorer Tobalá Mezcal, £104
- Best sustainable calvados: Avallen Calvados, £39.50
Best sustainable spirits to buy in 2022
Mijenta Tequila Blanco - 40% ABV
Best sustainable tequila
There's an upsurge in popularity for tequila in the UK at the moment. People are opting for a tequila and tonic, swapping a classic gin for the aloe vera-like agave spirit. Mijenta Tequila is committed to caring for the environment and the community; Mijenta is derived from the Spanish mi gente meaning ‘my people’.
Sustainable designer and environmental consultant Elise Som is one of the founders of Mijenta, and her contribution can be found in the bottle’s label and box, which are made from recycled agave waste, and all other packaging materials are bought locally in Mexico.
Maestra Tequilera Ana Maria Romero’s influence can be tasted in the final product. Ana Maria pays attention to temperature and PH levels throughout the process, and uses a handpicked yeast strain to optimise fermentation. The result is a tequila blanco that's light and creamy on the nose, vanilla lathered with butter at the fore. Candied orange is hinted on the palate with a trademark agave slickness carrying notes of cinnamon and juicy fresh melon. There’s no need to overcomplicate this one: enjoy in a tequila & tonic to fully celebrate Mijenta’s refreshing flavour.
HYKE Gin Very Special - 42% ABV
Best anti-food waste gin
Foxhole Spirits have been distilling some truly exceptional sustainable tipples since 2016. The company’s mission is to make premium spirits using ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. In the company’s first two years, the firm saved 5.2 million grapes from landfill.
The Hyke Very Special Gin is made using English wine grapes, which would have been discarded after pressing. After being distilled the grape spirit is infused with a blend of 19 different botanicals before being distilled once more. The bottle makes use of grapefruit, Earl Grey and lavender. What really sets the Very Special Gin apart is the drop of brandy added to the bottle: aged specifically for this gin, its inclusion binds the myriad flavours like a boozy bayleaf. Well balanced with a light citrus and juniper character, and earthy herbal tea notes linger before being muted by hints of ginger. For a brighter, more summery option, go for the Hyke Gin Orange, which utilises oranges rejected by supermarkets.
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Elsewhere, the company also makes use of molasses, which is a by-product of sugar cane processing. These mountains of molasses are repurposed into the Mad City Botanical Rum, which makes a mean daiquiri due to its complex flavour profile. It marries coffee and cream with nuts and bright citrus notes.
Cooper King Dry Gin - 42% ABV
Best carbon negative gin
Carbon negative gin? It may sound unusual, but it’s the incredibly admirable product coming out of the Cooper King Distillery. You name it, they’re doing it. The Cooper King approach to sustainability is a belt and reusable braces one.
One of only a handful of distilleries in the UK operating on 100% green energy, the firm goes all out with its eco-friendly commitments. Each bottle’s carbon negative label is achieved through investing in verified projects, which remove 1kg of CO2 more than the bottle of gin emits, all signed off by the reputable Verra Verified Carbon Standard program. In addition, the distillery is partnered with 1% for the Planet, so for every bottle sold, one square metre of native broadleaf UK woodland is planted. Throw in the energy-saving cold-distilling process, which uses innovative vacuum stills, and you’ve got yourself the eco-friendly booze factory.
The Cooper King Dry Gin provides everything you want from a dry gin, with the vacuum still helping to extract the most nuanced flavours from the botanicals used. Honey from on-site beehives is also used, and the overall profile is a floral one with just the right amount of punchy citrus – honey keeps the freshly squeezed lemon notes from being too tart. The Cooper King Herb Gin inevitably offers a more herbaceous alternative with fresh basil and shredded lemongrass providing an earthy yet refreshing character.
Fair Quinoa Vodka - 40% ABV
Best sustainable vodka
The clue is in the name with Fair Drinks. This is a brand leading the charge in fairtrade spirits. Ingredients are sourced from all over the globe, and farmers are paid a fair price in order to promote economic sustainability in the communities. Adhering strictly to the 200 rules and regulations to ensure that producers get their fair share, the firm has earned its status as the world’s first Fairtrade-certified spirits brand. The firm is also committed to being plastic free by the end of 2022.
The Fair Quinoa Vodka is made using organic quinoa sourced from the 3000m high Altiplano Plateau in the Andes. The result is a deliciously smooth vodka with herbaceous notes and a nutty finish. Mix the spirit with the juice of half a lime and three parts ginger beer to one part vodka, then garnish with a thin slice of ginger and a lime quarter for the perfect barbecue beverage.
Equally as impressive is the Fair Juniper Gin, made using Uzbek juniper berries. This is a citrusy delight with baking spices coming together with coriander notes for a complex and floral G&T.
Nc’Nean Organic Single Malt Whisky - 46% ABV
Best sustainable whisky
In Gaelic legend Neachneohain was a mythical protector of nature, a fierce and determined deity who did everything to preserve her land. The Nc’Nean brand takes inspiration from this folklore figure, placing sustainability and the environment at the core of the company’s ethos.
There’s no cutting corners at Nc’Nean: organic Scottish barley is distilled into whisky in a factory powered by renewable energy. A biomass boiler fuelled by wood chips from a local forest heats two copper pot stills and every tree harvested is replanted. Furthermore, an astonishing 99.97% of waste is recycled and the precious whisky is bottled in a 100% recycled clear glass bottles.
Aside from the impressive eco-friendly production methods, the end product is tasty. Nc’Nean recently launched its first single malt whisky, matured in red wine and American whisky barrels – a finely balanced and fruity delight. The nose is invitingly fresh, full of crushed lemon pulp and sliced ginger. Orchard fruits dominate the palate: apricot and stewed apples float above smatterings of peppery rye.
The Nc’Nean Botanical Spirit is a great option for gin lovers out there, with barley spirit providing a delicious malty twist on a classic gin (try using it in a negroni). The Botanical Spirit is also a further example of why founder Annabel took such care in finding the perfect location for her distillery, as key ingredients are found locally to the firm and are harvested sustainably, with workers taking care not to damage plants, or pick from areas using fertilisers or chemicals. For Nc’Nean, it’s certified wild only.
Black Cow Vodka & English Strawberries - 37.5% ABV
Best sustainable flavoured vodka
Black Cow vodka is the brainchild of Jason Barber and Paul Archard. Jason is a fifth-generation cheesemaker, and his family are the country’s oldest surviving cheddar makers. Opting to be the black sheep of the family, Jason and his artist friend Paul decided something had to be done with the whey leftover from cheese production, and Black Cow Vodka was born.
Lactose is the key. A special yeast strain is used to turn the lactose into a beer, which is then distilled and treated with another milk-based product. The vodka is safe for lactose intolerances as the milk sugar has been converted into alcohol. Black Cow doesn’t just save milk from going to waste, the brand also produces a delectable strawberry vodka made using fruits deemed too ugly or wonky for supermarkets. The Black Cow Vodka & English Strawberries is as light and floral as you’d expect, bursting with fresh strawberries and smooth honey. Enjoy this one with plenty of crushed ice and the freshly squeezed juice of a large whole orange.
The Lost Explorer Tobalá Mezcal - 42% ABV
Best sustainable mezcal
The team behind The Lost Explorer has set the goal of becoming the most sustainable mezcal brand in the world. If they aren’t top yet, they’re definitely heading in the right direction; three agaves are planted for every one harvested and all agave waste is repurposed as fertiliser, while solar panels are used to help power production. The Lost Explorer is partnered with the Voice for Nature Foundation, working to research and implement industry-wide environmentally friendly practises, which benefit the Oaxacan community and its mezcal industry. In addition, the firm has invested in a project known as ‘The Lost Laboratory’, an experimental initiative that strives to find more sustainable methods of production.
The Lost Explorer range is classified by how mature the plant used was at the time of harvest with drinkers able to opt for an 8-, 10- or 12-year-old agave, as opposed to spirits such as whisky, where the age on the bottle refers to how long the spirit has matured for.
The Lost Explorer is a premium offering and that is reflected in the price and awards won. The Lost Explorer Tobalá received a gold medal at The 2021 Spirits Business Awards, and it’s easy to see why. The Tobalá is a smoky, earthy treat. Tobacco and roasted peppercorns are blanketed by creamy vanilla, coming together for a nuanced mouthfeel, which can be opened up with a pairing of tonic water.
Avallen Calvados - 40% ABV
Best sustainable calvados
Avallen sets the standard for sustainable production in the calvados field. For those not familiar with calvados, it's an AOC designated spirit made in Northern France, produced by distilling cider into an apple-based spirit before being matured for two years in French oak casks.
Where Avallen stands out is how little it puts in. It takes just 1.2 litres of water to make a bottle of Avallen Calvados, while the average bottle of bourbon requires 13 litres. Each bottle of Avallen actively removes 2.73kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even the cork removes 10g due to the natural materials used to make it. Avallen is also partnered with 1% for the Planet, donating to organisations and charities that work to protect bees.
Avallen also publishes progress reports pointing out what they’re doing well, but also where they need to do more, such as sourcing more sustainable heating methods for the factory’s stills. It’s no wonder Avallen was named Best Company 2020 at the Sustainability in Spirits Awards. The product itself is worth the effort: the nose is full of fresh apple notes with green apples dominating the palate in a caramel wrapper. Best enjoyed with tonic water and a dash of your favourite bitters, Avallen is equally as enjoyable mixed with Dolin Dry Vermouth, sparkling water and a sparkling wine top.
How we tested sustainable spirits
There are several different criteria that can define a spirit as 'sustainable' - our top picks focused on a variety of was to support and protect the environment. From innovative packaging, to new ways to combat food waste or using renewable power in production. We looked for brilliant examples in each spirits category, to find a variety of sustainable gin, tequila, vodka and more. Alongside worthy sustainable credentials, we still looked for top quality examples of each spirit to ensure taste and experience was not sacrificed and the alcohol itself was still worth recommending.
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This review was last updated in April 2022. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.