Sip Sustainably With Australia’s First Green Distillery

By Morgan Reardon
8th Sep 2020

a bottle of pink gin on a table

We cannot lie, we love ourselves a good G&T on a Friday afternoon. And with so many new distilleries popping up all over Australia, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing our favourite gin.

And while taste has always been the number one priority, it certainly makes sipping a whole lot nicer when you know that your tipple doesn’t come at a cost to the environment—something we’re very passionate about here at Urban List.

Enter Adelaide-based Applewood Distillery, Australia’s first B Corp certified distillery.

We caught up with Applewood founders Brendan and Laura Carter to find out how they created the much-loved, green distillery and why it’s so important to know where your spirits are coming from.

What initially inspired you to create Applewood?

Being trained winemakers (through our wine brand Unico Zelo), Laura and I were already very passionate about crafting products that represent the land they come from. Unfortunately in the world of wine, there are no native Australian grapes but there is a plethora of native ingredients that are very quickly being forgotten about, which are specifically adapted to Australian conditions. The trick is convincing farmers to actually plant the stuff in the first place...

The easiest way to do that: provide them with a customer; enter Applewood. The end product was simple: a distillery that specialises in using native botanical ingredients to create products that honour and represent the land, effectively monetising it for farmers, to incentivise them to put more in the ground displacing their non-native counterparts—and creating an alignment of profitability and sustainability.

Applewood founders Brendan and Laura Carter

How did you get it off the ground?

We started off by importing a very small (300L) still, and working with experts in the native ingredients space. Initially the likes of Jock Zonfrillo (Masterchef), Shannon Fleming, Rebecca Sullivan and Anne Duncan were all vitally important in helping us to garner the supplies we needed to stress-test various botanicals.

The next step was crafting a high-quality gin, something that ultimately took three years to master. We imported our distillery in 2012 and released the first version of Applewood Gin in 2015. 

What goes into getting the B Corp qualification and why was it important for you to do? 

It's no secret that there's plenty of greenwashing companies out there, which is horrendously unfortunate because it tarnishes very good (and often very expensive) work done by well-meaning brands and businesses. B Corporation is literally the gold standard in third party verified certification of social and environmental impact. The certification process is tough, and really highlights how intricate and connected sustainability truly is. Importantly, this doesn't make us the most sustainable distillery—not by a country mile—but it achieves something far more important: we're the most transparent. 

Transparency is the ultimate in authenticity and anti-greenwashing. We know how we are not sustainable, and therefore we can build in specific targets and measures to set metric-based goals of improvement, then track them over time. This extends far beyond just pure CO2 measurements, jumping into the realms of fair pay, corporate governance, equality and levels of community and charitable involvement. This all sounds really simple—but it's actually very very difficult—because none of it makes you money, and therefore it's always a lower priority for most businesses, but not ours.

Applewood founder Brendan Carter standing behind the counter in the distillery

How do you come up with the awesome native flavour combos? 

We work as an entire team to conceptualise each and every gin we craft and focus on what makes that ingredient work best. Quite often we'll be throwing around colloquialisms such as: 'It works like basil and tomato' or 'lamb and rosemary'.

What you want to find is the absolute bare minimum to achieve a result greater than the sum of its parts. Our entire team would relish in the simplicity of just two ingredients that have evolved to go together. Finger Lime and Rosemary is quite remarkable and so is Wattleseed and Vanilla.

various bottles of gin flavours.

Your Coral Gin is very special, can you talk me through the inspo behind it and how it’s helping the reef?

Many people aren't aware that Applewood Gin is inspired by the desert-scapes of Australia, leaning heavily on ingredients commonly found in the interior of the country: desert limes, peppermint gum leaf and wattleseed. 

Coral was our first exploration in the seascapes that showcase Australian flora so incredibly well. Specifically, the little patch of land that exists between the beach and suburbia—that's home to some very impressive ingredients such as karkalla, strawberry gum leaf and riberries. In recent times pink gin has been somewhat misunderstood, morphing into a fruity, semi-sweet (or overtly sweet) style. That was never the case, Pink Gin is a legitimate category—made famous by 19th century folks demanding a dash of Angostura Bitters in their gin! A far cry from the sweet examples we see today.

So we focussed on what Australia does best: salt. A salty gin inspired by our unique seascapes and the hinterland beyond. In the same class as all gin should be: ultimately refreshing. 

As a part of our B Corp certification, we've committed to donating a certain percentage of our revenue to environmental causes. Rather than donating 'profits' which are often driven to lower amounts via financial mechanisms—we focus on revenue which nobody seeks to ever minimise. As a starting point, we want to build our company to comfortably donate 1% of all of its revenue to charitable causes, particularly those invested in environmental causes. 1% of all revenue of Coral will be donated towards reef restoration non-profits, on a quarterly basis.

Applewood's baby pink Coral bottle of gin.

Lastly, can you hit us with a sustainability hack?

The simplest one ever: use a pencil, instead of a pen. Seriously, the average pen writes 0.9km to 1.2km and it's actually very difficult to recycle, as the plastic is tough to separate from the metal components (which are also not magnetic). Metal is often favored in the waste stream, resulting in much voltalised or micro plastics.

A pencil on the other hand will write an average of 56km! And can be recycled almost infinitely, or grown! How insane!  At Team Unico we swapped out our pens for pencils two years ago and never looked back—most of us are still on the same original pencil we used years ago! 

Next up, why not book in your next sustainable escape at one of these dreamy spots

Image Credit: Applewood Distillery 

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