I went on a virtual tour of a carbon negative rum distillery
Two Drifters rum is the world’s first distillery to have a carbon negative footprint
We all know how important it is to try to reduce our carbon footprint, but it isn’t always easy. Everything we consume or buy has a carbon footprint, and if we wanted to track every single thing we eat, drink, cook with etc., well, it would take a lot of work and we wouldn’t have time for much else.
Fortunately, lots of food and drink companies are now looking at ways to make their businesses more sustainable, from drastically reducing the amount of plastic they use, to increasing recycling, looking at waste water, energy consumption and considering the impact of food miles. These are just a few examples of course.
I recently joined a virtual tour of the Two Drifters Rum distillery, which is the first distillery in the world to be carbon-negative.
Run by husband and wife team, Russ and Gemma Wakeham, from their aircraft hanger style warehouse near Exeter airport in Devon, the Two Drifters ethos is that while climate change is everyone’s responsibility, it shouldn’t mean that green, sustainable products should come with a higher price tag. They say, “At Two Drifters we firmly believe in making a product that tastes amazing, actively helps the planet and is affordably priced. Only then will consumers be able to make a difference to climate change without breaking the bank.”
And they know what they're talking about. Russ has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and has spent many years working on carbon capture and utilisation technologies. So how does a distillery go carbon negative? For starters, the entire distillery is designed around CO2 emissions, from the equipment they use, to how it’s all powered. Everyone cycles to work, there’s an electric van making local deliveries, the waste molasses from the rum making is donated to a local farmer, flexi-hex is used for shipping, and loads more. Because they’ve done all that, they produce zero emissions in making the rum.
But to go carbon negative, Two Drifters worked with a company called Climeworks. This company captures CO2 from the air, turns it into stone, and stores it underground – basically a modern day Medusa, and instead of people, it’s carbon dioxide.
Two Drifters therefore works out its carbon emissions from field to glass, and removes more of it through Climeworks. The numbers are impressive: since April 2019 the distillery has turned 7.58 tonnes of CO2 into stone, and avoided 18.28 tonnes of emissions.
I learnt all this on the virtual tour headed up by the very passionate and knowledgable Russ, as we tasted through the Two Drifters range, and learnt so much about the fascinating process of making rum.
During the tour, we were encouraged to work our way through four rums from the range (the important bit for many, I'm sure!):
Made with 100% molasses (rum has to be made from a sugar cane product to be called rum), twice distilled in pot stills then distilled again in the column still. Very smooth with lots of character. Russ recommends trying this one with elderflower water! Ooh.
Two Drifters adds natural burnt sugar to its white rum, which gives it the colour, a ‘fuller’ flavour. It is smooth enough to drink just over ice, although apparently a lot of people really enjoy this one with Coke or Ginger Beer. Basically, whatever you like is the best thing.
There’s a lot of strange things added to some spice rums out there, but Two Drifters just adds a blend of spices and natural flavours, including star anise flowers added 24 hours before filtering and bottling. Russ described it as a rum that is spiced, rather than a spiced rum! This is one that's made to drink with ginger beer.
Overproof Spiced Pineapple Rum
If you like your rums a bit out there and strong, this is the one for you. Two Drifters takes the spiced rum, makes a 63% abv rum, then adds pineapple and salted caramel to it. It’s the only one of the range that has added sugar to it. It’s very drinkable and a bit fun. If you close your eyes and stick on an ambient soundtrack, maybe sit underneath a really bright light, you could almost imagine you’re in the Caribbean...! This one's been really popular with people (it came about after an advent calendar experiment).
How do you join a tour or find out more?
If you’re interested in how Two Drifters has gone carbon negative, how to make rum – or how to drink it! – you can join one of the Two Drifters tours yourself. As well as the very interesting tour, you get four 50cl bottles of rum – one of each – plus a couple of mixers, for £30 (or £50 for two people sent to the same address).
The tours will likely eventually go back to being in person (can you imagine?!), but for now, anyone, anywhere can join them, which is great. They’d make a perfect birthday present for a rum-loving friend, or it is Father’s Day coming up in June (there's a tour in the diary for 24th)…!