Distilling A Feeling – How Two Drifters Distillery became Carbon-Negative

The story of how the Two Drifters Distillery created a 100% electric and 100% renewable distillation process, is one of our favourites. Not only does it show how effective will-power and creativity can be. It also shows that being a sustainable business is very possible. Quickly read on to learn more.
Two Drifters Distillery

Distilling A Feeling – How Two Drifters Distillery became Carbon-Negative5 min read

Meet Two Drifters.

Two Drifters is one of the most ambitious projects in the spirits industry.

We love it.

Because when Two Drifters found out that rum could be a viable business for them- they not only deep-dived into the impact of their operations. 

They designed them to be carbon negative from the ground up.

Carbon Capture & Carbon Negativity 

Two Drifters Distillery was founded by Russ and Gemma Wakeham. 

With Russ having a PhD in Organic Chemistry and a background in carbon capture and utilisation technologies, the Wakeham’s had the desire to push their love for rum to the next level:

Namely, by creating an eco-friendly high-quality product and minimising and offsetting their CO₂ as much as possible.

So- naturally- Two Drifters set themselves an internal carbon price of 700 dollars per ton.

To put it in perspective; the EU tax is about 30 dollars per ton.

Source: Two Drifters Distillery

Treating CO₂ as waste product

Two Drifters did an extensive LCA, calculated their environmental impact, and made the decision to overcompensate their impact by paying Climeworks in Switzerland to capture and offset their CO₂. 

You see, Russ is a firm believer that CO₂ should be considered as a waste product.

And this is an interesting point of view. Because if you treat CO₂ like a waste product, you should also clean it up after yourself- like your other waste products.

How does treating impact like that, influence your manufacturing decisions?

Well the answer to that is quite simple: a lot.

When we were interviewing Russ for our Frontrunners Report: ‘ Spirits of the Future’ he told us this:

The one singly thing we have influence over, is our distillery. Everything is electric. All the stills and everything else. We burn no gas.

Russ Wakeham

Which is interesting. If you try make manufacturing decisions in which you create your own electricity, recycle your own heat, and try to keep your emissions as close to home as possible- at least you will have more personal influence over what you’re putting out into the skies. 

Indeed, rethinking and redesigning your entire supply chain to make it sustainability-proof, is the best way to make it future-proof as well. But the amount of work it takes to do that as a large spirit company is quite frightening sometimes.

At Ecochain we understand that, but you do have to start somewhere. So our tip is: increase collaboration with suppliers in your supply chain after measuring your own emissions

Encourage your suppliers to be transparent about their environmental impact as well. This way you can coordinate and collaborate on investments for slowly reducing carbon footprints throughout your supply chain. 

Source: Two Drifters Distillery

The biggest challenge: Redesigning old processes

Redesigning old processes is tough though. It is one of the biggest challenges that bigger or older spirit & liquor companies face in their sustainable journey. 

In the case of Two Drifters, they redesigned their former bigger brewery, which also brewed beer, into a rum-only brewery. 

Therefore, they converted their brewery equipment into a larger still. Completely electric and with a negative carbon footprint through carbon capturing. 

But we know that converting old equipment into new processes is quite expensive. 

Yet if you set up you processes from the beginning with the intention of having sustainability embedded in their core, Russ states that he doesn’t see how that would cost more. 

It’s a complicated issue, because it’s just not so visible. A piece of plastic in the ocean is easy to understand. But you can’t show a piece of Co2 in the atmosphere. It’s just so easy to dismiss.

Russ Wakeham

Therefore Russ’s advice is: setting up a carbon-negative business is more efficient if you do it from scratch than if you do it by refurbishing old processes. 

Finally: Tackling Water

Distilling liquors comes down to two core factors: water & energy.

Two Drifters already tackled the energy part. Now let’s see what they did when it comes to water. 

As a starter, they use a reverse osmosis system for purifying their water. As the water in their region in the UK is quite hard, it needs to be purified either way. 

But they also use this purified water to cool their stillers through a water cooling system. 

All electric of course.

The chill-stiller system is also a closed circuit. This way, when its hot they can just use it and pump it into the next batch whilst also saving the energy they used.

Finally, (yeah they really thought this through) Two Drifters uses a heat exchange to generate the cleaning liquid for the systems as well. Making their cleaning process the dead-end when it comes to water. 

Interested in reading more success stories of sustainable frontrunners in the spirits industry? Download our first free Frontrunners Report: ‘Spirits of The Future’ for many more insightful stories of companies that are making the spirit industry more environmentally friendly. 

Source: Two Drifters Distillery

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