May 17, 2022

Garden peas are frequently overlooked on our dinner dishes. However, one farm-based distillery is reinventing the humble bean as the star component in its environmentally friendly gin. The Arbroath-based Arbikie Highland Estate has developed a range of spirits called Nàdar (“nature” in Gaelic), which eliminates more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits, making it “climate-positive,” according to Kirsty Black, master distiller at Arbikie.

Spirits are typically produced by fermenting cereal grains such as wheat or barley, which require synthetic fertilizers. Arbikie reduces carbon emissions and pollution caused by synthetic fertilizers by utilizing peas as the base spirit. Following distillation, leftover pea by-products are used to create zero-waste high-protein animal feed.

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in responsibly produced spirits, and Black believes that Nàdar will educate other producers about the possibilities.

According to Felicity Crotty, a senior lecturer at London’s Rural Agricultural University, synthetic fertilizer manufacture is energy-intensive. According to a 2017 study, 43% of the carbon footprint of a loaf of bread comes from the ammonium nitrate used to produce the wheat.

While most plants cannot obtain nitrogen without fertilizers, legumes such as peas and lentils have a “symbiotic relationship with bacteria” that enables them to extract nitrogen from the air and feed the plant, Crotty tells CNN Business.

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Utilizing organic food to grow grains for distillation would also eliminate emissions caused by synthetic fertilizers. On the other hand, organic farms currently account for only 1.5 percent of agricultural land use, accounting for a minuscule portion of food production.

Not only do legumes require no fertilizer, but they may also be planted alongside other crops, enriching the soil with nitrogen and lowering the need to fertilize those crops as well.

That is precisely what Arbikie is accomplishing. One disadvantage of utilizing peas instead of wheat is that the crop requires 112 percent more space than wheat does. However, Arbikie is more than a distillery; it is also a thriving farm, where peas were already being planted alongside other plants to help the land retain nitrogen. It has created a high-value application for peas that would otherwise go to waste by manufacturing gin.

Additionally, the residual pea waste is converted to animal feed, thereby avoiding carbon emissions related to feed production, such as land clearing, cultivation, and transportation.

Each of these sustainable actions contributes to the total. The gin was analyzed, and it was revealed that each bottle of Nàdar gin produced removes 1.54 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent from the environment.

In partnership with luxury resort firms like Aman Resorts, Four Seasons, and Rosewood Hotels, the Nàdar collection — which now includes a climate-positive vodka — is rapidly expanding globally.

At £43.00 ($60) for a 70cl bottle, Nàdar is aimed squarely at the luxury drinks market, with a price point equivalent to premium brands such as Tanqueray and Monkey 47.

“We developed a valuable, high-end product with [peas],” says Black. “In turn, that will increase the value of the crop, encourage more farmers to grow them, and ultimately, affect the environmental footprint of the supply chain.”