Garden peas are probably the last thing you would ever expect from your gin and tonic.
Scientists from Abertay University and the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, however, made a gin from garden peas. Yes, you read that correctly. The gin is called nàdar – which means "nature" in Gaelic – and scientists claim that it has a lower ecological footprint than gins traditionally made from wheat.
Each 700 ml bottle of Nàdar has a carbon footprint of -1.54 kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), "which means that more carbon dioxide emissions are avoided than they cause," says Abartay University.
Although it is known that gin is made from juniper berries, it actually needs a base brandy ̵
For comparison: A 1 liter bottle of Tanqueray gin has a CO2 footprint of 1.8 kg CO2. That said, it's also pretty difficult to calculate, since a Tanqueray G&T sipped in the US takes up a lot more space than one that was taken in London. The environmental performance of the pea is based on the fact that all useful parts of the pea – from peeling to distilling – are used to produce home-grown animal feed.
The development of the gin took five years in collaboration with the Arbikie Distillery – a managed farm on the east coast of Angus, Scotland. So why peas, you might be wondering? PhD student Kirsty Black – the project's lead researcher – told Mashable that peas and legumes are generally "a good choice for plants for environmental and biodiversity reasons." The Arbikie Distillery does not supply any products for the production of its gin as it is a managed farm. She grows all of the wheat, barley, potatoes, etc. on site.
"Most of the plants we grow today require the use of fertilizer to provide the nitrogen they need to achieve the desired quality and quantity of crop," said Black. "Unfortunately, it is known that the use of fertilizers has a negative impact on the environment."
Plants need nitrogen (N) for their growth and reproduction. "Although nearly 80 percent of our atmosphere is N, it is so unusable for plants in its non-reactive form," said Black. This is where legumes such as peas, beans and lentils come into play.
Peas have the natural ability to get the nitrogen they need to grow using a process called "biological nitrogen fixation" – which means you don't have to use it in an environmentally friendly way, harmful fertilizer. Legumes differ from most plants in that they can bind nitrogen from the air with a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in root tubers – and convert non-reactive nitrogen into reactive nitrogen. "This allows legumes to be self-sufficient and do not require nitrogen fertilizers. However, they also share this nitrogen with the surrounding plants and leave residues in the soil, which reduces the need for fertilizers for subsequent crops."
The distillation process also creates a waste product called "pot ale" – made from the remaining pea protein and spent yeast, which can be used as a very nutritious animal feed. The first piece of Arbikie-Pea-Gin-Pot-Ale is currently being fed to cows on a farm near the Montrose distillery in Angus, Scotland.
So does it taste like peas? Mashable has actually managed to try the pea engine and can confirm that there is no pea flavor. We added tonic water and a lemon wedge to the mix and tried it in gin and tonic. Our final verdict: very gratifying; tastes of gin; has a slight aftertaste that we could not fully address.
So what has to change in the gin industry to to come up with more sustainable distillation practices?
"We just need to make sure that we take sustainability and environmental impacts into account when making a decision within an e company, whether it’s related to what your spirit is, what botanicals you use, or how it’s packaged – they all can make a decision. "Difference," said Black.
So how do you ensure that botanicals are sourced sustainably? "It is important for all plants to be sustainably preserved, regardless of whether you grow them yourself, harvest them in the wild, or buy them from a reputable supplier. You obviously don't want to negatively impact the wild plant population." Black added.
Cheers to sustainable drinking.
You can buy Arbikies Nàdar Gin online for £ 43.00 each 700 ml bottle.