Skip to main content

The World’s First Climate-Positive Gin Is Made From Peas

Seems like everywhere you look these days, the climate crisis and all the ways our consumption and eating habits are fueling it is front-page news, and the sheer hopelessness of it all just makes you want to have a drink.

Well, now you can have a drink that actually is good for the planet.

Nàdar — a Gaelic word that means “nature” — is the world’s first climate-positive gin or spirit of any kind. Produced by “field to bottle” Scottish distillery Arbikie, which is also known for its Highland Rye and experimental distillates, in collaboration with scientists at the James Hutton Institute and Abertay University, Nàdar turns the traditional gin distillation process on its head by using garden peas to make the base spirit instead of wheat.

Helmed by Ph.D. student Kirsty Black, who is also the master distiller on the project, the choice to use peas was key to reducing the gin’s carbon footprint and creating a more sustainable product.

kristy black and graeme walker arbikie gin
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The wheat typically used to make gin’s base spirit produces a massive carbon footprint, as the industrialized production of these grains requires large amounts of artificial, nitrogen-heavy fertilizer to encourage growth and ensure yield. These fertilizers are widely known to be a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

By comparison, peas and other legumes are a much more eco-friendly choice as they naturally source their own nitrogen from the air through a process known as “biological nitrogen fixation.” By not needing additional fertilizer, this makes them among the lowest carbon-producing protein-rich foodstuffs. Additionally, Arbikie grows all its ingredients on-site at its farm in eastern Scotland, so there is no additional footprint produced by shipping ingredients. Finally, the waste products of the distillation process — known as “pot ale” — go to make animal feed.

All this comes together to produce a gin that, per 700 ml bottle, only has a carbon footprint of -1.54 kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). That means that it “avoids more carbon emissions than it creates,” therefore making it a climate-positive product.

kristy black arbiki gin
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The production and distillation process is the same as for any other kind of alcohol, with the starch from the peas removed, broken down, fermented, and then distilled. The peas used are a British-grown variety from Hodmedod’s, a local company that works with British farmers to grow and provide markets with locally produced beans. For botanicals, traditional ones like juniper and coriander are added, as well as lemongrass and citrus leaf (also grown at Arbikie) to make a refreshingly citrus and herbaceous gin.

The big question on everyone’s minds, though, is: What does it taste like? Arbikie and the scientists involved in its creation say that it tastes just like a regular gin, “silky smooth with a fresh and fruity aroma.” And at 43% ABV, it goes down easy.

“Hopefully people enjoy it but then also that it impacts the alcohol industry and other people start considering the different raw materials you can use and how to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable,” master distiller Black says of its creation, which was five years in the making.

Arbikie and the rest of the team behind Nàdar also hope that, by showing the versatility and sustainable benefits of legumes, farmers will be encouraged to increase the cultivation of legumes, peas, and other beans in their crops, promoting biodiversity and improving soil management with crop rotation.

The first batch of Nàdar is now on the market and available for purchase on Arbikie’s website.

Zoe Baillargeon
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Zoe Baillargeon is an award-winning travel writer and freelance journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. She covers travel…
Gin vs. Vodka: Which One Is the Better Spirit?
Martini bottle glass

Vodka or gin? If you've ever ordered a martini at a cocktail bar, you've probably been asked this question, and chances are your mind was already made up before you walked in the door. These two spirits look identical in a glass, and are often substituted for one another in cocktails like the martini, the collins, the gimlet, and with tonic. They've got plenty in common, but once you take a sip there's no mistaking one for the other, and drinkers on both sides of the divide have strong opinions about which is better. So what's the difference?
Related Guides

Best Cheap Vodkas
Best Cheap Gins
Best Top Shelf Vodkas

Read more
Arbikie Releases Second Climate-Positive Spirit, Nàdar Vodka
arbikie climate positive spirit nadar vodka uk usa canada packshot july20 2

After making history earlier this year by launching Nàdar Gin, the world’s first groundbreaking climate-positive distillate, Scottish “field-to-bottle” distillery Arbikie Highland Estate is back at it again, adding another climate-positive creation to its sustainability lineup.

This time, it’s Nàdar Vodka.

Read more
From Colonialism to Craft: How India’s Gin Scene is Changing
Jaisalmer Gin

Gin and the Indian subcontinent have a bit of a history and it’s certainly not without its ups and downs.
The spirit’s most popular drink, the gin and tonic, was created during the era of British Colonialism in India. With the threat of malaria looming, the British East India Company devised the drink in the 1700s. It was a military cocktail, consumed by troops with their gin rations and eagerness to stay healthy. At the time, the belief was that quinine cured malaria.
The medication was thrown into tonic water liberally, affording a bitter taste. Drinkers looked to find some balance to the drink with the aid of things like sweeteners or citrus that could play off of the botanicals in the gin. Thus, the formative gin and tonic was born. It was, essentially, a medicinal drink doctored up according to taste.
Eventually, quinine was deemed less useful in safeguarding against malaria. But because it had already established itself as a key player in the cocktail, tonic producers continued to use it, albeit in moderation. It’s still shows up in nutritional info tags today on a whole family of craft tonics.
Colonialism dramatically suppressed the Indian people and remains a nasty and quite extensive scar on the two countries' shared history. India’s relationship with gin is not unlike the Caribbean region’s with rum, and many other examples across the globe and arc of time. But in the years since India’s freedom in the mid-20th century, the subcontinent has added its own voice to the gin conversation. Employing local ingredients and its own distinctive cultures, India is imparting a new sense of terroir into a spirit that dates all the way back to Europe in the 13th century, if not before.

Sanjeev Banga is Radico Khaitan’s President of International Business. The large Indian company used to be known as the Rumpur Distillery & Chemical Company. As of late, the outfit has been increasingly focused on craft-minded options including those in the gin category.
Jaisalmer is one of those offerings, a gin made with the intent of being a real reflection of the country. The name comes from the city of the same title in the northwest part of the country, home to a dramatic 12th-century fort. It’s distilled three times in copper pot stills in the foothills of the Himalayas. “The use of botanicals is a time-honored tradition in India and Jaisalmer Gin’s recipe is derived from the ancient Indian knowledge of herbs,” Banga says.
“Seven of the eleven botanicals used in the distillation come from India,” Banga continues. These include coriander and locally harvested vetiver. There’s also orange peel, along with cubeb pepper and lemongrass from southern India. There’s also lemon peel and Darjeeling green tea leaves. “We wanted to retain the classic gin flavor using juniper berries whilst adding a refreshing twist with Indian botanicals.”
The gin is quite evocative, with layers of aromatics and complementary flavors. The more expected ingredients — the anise, Angelica root, and caraway seeds — are dialed-in while the more exotic additions meld evenly. It’s a winemaker’s gin, with plenty to enjoy simply on its own in a glass.
Scores of producers throughout the world claim to make something that’s inspired by India, but that’s more of an homage to the spirit’s historical prevalence there than actual craftsmanship or ingredient sourcing. But gin is on the rise in India, both in terms of domestic production and consumption. Banga says the category was practically nonexistent just a few years back. “Globe-trotting Indians have lapped it up and no party in India is complete without a gin,” he says of the current climate.
Banga says his gin embodies the moments of leisure and pleasure enjoyed by imperial-age Indian rulers like the Maharajas. It undoubtedly brings a new palate to gin, a spirit that’s become quite worldly thanks in part to its ability to take on so many aromatic inputs and unique ingredients. Americans do gin differently than the Spanish, just as the Indians have a take on the stuff that’s not quite like that of the Australians.
But India is bound to the stuff in a socio-political way other nations can’t claim. And in that sense, it’s cool to see the massive country testing its own riffs and making versions that showcase India the sovereign country, not India the subjugated nation of a fallen empire.

Read more