Botanicals have almost become a cliché. With hundreds of artisanal distillers producing hand-crafted field-to-bottle spirits and trying to out-botanical, out-locally source and out eco-friendly each other, a new gin boasts a real USP (unique selling proposition) as well as a unique provenance and flavour profile.
Compared to Canaïma Gin, most gins seem urban, domestic and their choice of botanicals rather uninspired.
Canaïma is made by Venezuelan rum makers using botanicals unique to the Amazon rainforest, hand-picked and conscientiously collected by local tribespeople. Proceeds from sales are used to protect the Amazon region and its people.
The premium Venezuelan gin is produced in the DUS (Destillerias Unidas) at the foot of the Andes Mountains at La Miel, in the state of Lara and is a family-owned brand. DUS also makes Diplomatico Rum. Canaïma gets its name from the three-million hectare national park and home of the Angel Falls in southeast Venezuela.
A total of 19 botanicals, including the compulsory juniper berries, are used to produce Canaïma. Ten of these botanicals are native to the Amazon and one, semeruco, comes from Lara state, which is one of the 23 states that make up Venezuela. These botanicals include parchita (passion fruit), snake fruit, açaí berries, uve de palma (red fruit harvested from a palm tree and used as an energy boost by the Yekuanas, a tropical rainforest tribe), copuazu (related to the cacao tree), seje, tupiro and merey fruit (from the cashew tree).
The Amazonian botanicals are harvested in ways that limit environmental impact. According to 2014 Bartender of the Year Simone Caporale, who has overseen the project from its conception, the perfect serve is with tonic water and grapefruit soda. Unsurprisingly, key nose and flavour notes are earthy, herbaceous, floral and fruity.
Canaïma was born from a trip Caporale made to the Peruvian Amazon. He witnessed the destruction of the rainforest’s fragile ecology in real time and this sparked a desire in him to take action. The founder of Diplomatico Rum collaborated with him and they researched ways into how to self-fund a new product while supporting and sustaining Amazonian communities.
“There are over 3,000 plants in the Amazon. We chose just a few. Our intention has not only been to bring to the world an exceptional gin but also to contribute to the well-being of local communities through collaboration with the Tierra Viva Foundation and Saving the Amazon,” Edouard Beaslay, Canaïma’s global marketing director, says.
The craft-spirit movement is supporting wildlife
Saving the Amazon combines technology, mobile applications and the human potential of indigenous communities to combat the destruction of the Amazon. The brand is partnering with indigenous people experienced in harvesting different Amazonian botanicals in an environmentally respectful way.
The Tierra Viva foundation develops all brand-visibility material, creating sustainable employment, mainly for indigenous women. As well as financing work critical to conservation, the 47 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume) gin also helps with reforestation.
In Caporale’s words: “The labels are made from previously recycled fully biodegradable paper. If you leave a bottle outside in the rain in a few weeks, it will disintegrate without releasing any particles.”
The craft-spirit movement is supporting wildlife elsewhere and helping other finance conservation programmes.
Following the example of Elephant Gin, California’s Grey Whale Gin, Rhino Gin and Poland’s Snow Leopard Vodka, one British micro-distillery is now helping protect the endangered Filipino tarsier, which is a small insectivorous, tree-dwelling, nocturnal primate.
Made from red dragon fruit, galangel, kampot peppers, Thai sweet basil, lychees and calamansi, Stockport’s Tarsier Gin contributes to the Philippines Tarsier Foundation, the sanctuary and the research and development centre in Corella, Bohol, which is a province in the Philippines. The distillery’s tropical jackfruit gin will be launched in 2020 with a percentage of profits going towards the foundation’s breeding programme.
In the UK, Gorilla Spirits was founded by Andy Daniels whose background is in IT corporate sales. Its still makes Blackback Mountain vodka in Upton Grey in Hampshire.
“The Mountain Strength name refers to the mountain gorillas we support through our donations to the Gorilla Organisation. When we started, there were only 880 gorillas left in the wild. We donate £1 for every bottle sold,” comments Andy Daniels.
Creatures great and small are benefitting from the British micro-distilling industry.
Founded by two research chemists, Anno Spirits in Kent supports bee welfare. Its award-winning Orange and Honey Gin supports The Bee Friendly Trust with 10p donated per 70cl bottle sale. In Devon, thatcher Adam and ex-teacher Claire Hythe’s Papillon Gin contributes to the work of the Wild Butterfly Trust, especially the protection of the endangered pearl-bordered butterfly found on Dartmoor.
The Marston family’s Puddingstone Distillery works alongside the Herts & the Middlesex Wildlife Trust, using Himalayan balsam sourced from the land they manage. £2 from every bottle of Campfire Special Edition Gin sold goes to the trust as does all money from distillery tours. They have also teamed up with the Box Moor Trust creating a gin to celebrate the trust’s 425th anniversary.
Dormice are beneficiaries of raspberry gin. Northamptonshire’s Warner’s Distillery works with the People Trust for Endangered Species. Its products are a platform to raise awareness, helping to safeguard 130 conservation-priority species that rely on hedgerows for food and shelter.
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