Saving the Animal Kingdom, One Tipple at a Time

By : Britt Mattie

Buzzworthy in more ways than one, beverage brands of the ABV sector are looking to their spirit animals for a better world.

In a brilliant move to blend cocktails and wildlife, an increased number of liquor labels on the national and global levels are cultivating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, giving activists and imbibers what they want: Top-shelf booze and aid to the planet, all in one package. While alcohol consumption is not usually included in the “How to Lead an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle” starter pack, from an agricultural and ethical standpoint, the bi-products to distill these liquids are still harvested and farmed just like the organic produce you prefer to buy at your local grocer. Liquor brands have a leg up too: Marketability. Their bottle branding/label art, cocktail creation possibilities, primo real estate on bar carts/shelves, etc. can be leveraged in a way to really make a monetary difference for these nonprofits who can’t necessarily capture the “sex appeal” factor. So for those who like to partake in the occasional margarita from time to time, and fantasize about freediving with Manta rays in Mexico or volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand one day, well this is a win-win.

Thousands of foundations exist now with missions to protect the threatened and endangered, along with their respected natural habitats and the climate as a whole. With no shortage of environmental causes, liquor companies can join forces with, “drinking responsibly” has more meaning than ever as distilleries and charities work together for creatures most at risk of extinction around the world. Some spirits have even marked their territories so far as to center their entire company ethos, name, logo design, and branding around a single species that’s captivated them. From apex mammals at the top of the food chain to gentle reptilians that live to be a century-old, we’re all just cruising on this blue-green marble hurtling through space together. And these booze creators recognize that. That’s why they’re doing their part to save paws and palettes alike. Every purchase of the following bottles gives various species the means to continue their wondrous locomotion in this playground of a planet. Bottoms up for the birds and the bees.

Gray Whale Gin

This consciously-crafted, ultra-clean gin celebrates and protects the enchanting gray whale species (as the name entails). Upon inspiration from a camping trip to Big Sur, the founders were humbled by the endless blue sheet of the Pacific Ocean. Looking out past McWay Falls, they spotted a gray whale and her calf migrating north. Now, the blubber-friendly spirit celebrates the 12,000-mile journey these whales have been making for 30 million years. Made up of wild botanicals foraged along the same migratory path of the majestic sea creature, Gray Whale comprises of fresh juniper, Baja Cali limes, Fir tree, and sea kelp, and is bottled at Golden State Distillery in a thoughtful design of blue organic paint and a 100% biodegradable cork. Being a business member of the 1% For The Planet organization since Gray Whale’s inception, they continue to donate 1% of total annual sales to support Oceana, the largest foundation in the world solely devoted to marine conservation. Oceana dives in deep to protect marine life from overfishing and plastic pollution, as well as restore the world’s oceans so that whales can continue to make the same epic journey for another 30 million years.

Snow Leopard Vodka

Aside from differentiating itself by being six-times distilled from luxury spelt grain—rather than the common wheat, rye, or potato—the Polish-based vodka brand is the only one out there dedicated to leopard conservation. With fewer than 3,500 snow leopards left in the wild, they remain critically endangered due to herders who poach them. The founder found himself so smitten by the elusive and rare wildcat he spotted only for a brief but beguiling moment in the Himalayan mountains, the split-second impassioned him to create a vodka label of “rare character worthy of its namesake.” Snow Leopard invests 15% of all profits to help its endangered icon through the Britain-based Snow Leopard Trust. The nonprofit not only aims to save the species that inhabit Central Asia but create conservation programs to educate herders’ and improve their livelihoods to make it less likely they’ll be driven to hunt and kill. Between its direct donations and other fundraising efforts thus far, it has raised over $250,000 to date for the frosty feline to survive and thrive for future generations.

Elephant Gin

An herbaceous dry gin ideal for post-safari martinis, its German founders were inspired by South African adventures and “sundowner” drinks, which are traditionally enjoyed after a long day spent in the bush. The gin uses 14 botanicals, many of which are rare African ingredients such as the blackcurrant-flavored buchu and bitter devil’s claw root. With a strong belief that this generation has a responsibility to support the African wildlife today so others can experience/enjoy it for future generations, Elephant Gin manifested to help conservation trusts particularly for the mammals with thick skin. For every full-size bottle sold, the company contributes 15% of profits to Big Life Foundation, and with each miniature bottle sold, 15% of profits go to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Both these organizations help migratory routes and are devoted to stopping ivory tusk poachers by funding rangers’ salaries and developing wildlife-related employment opportunities to help discourage unemployed locals from resorting to poaching. Projects also help purchase equipment, preserve Sub-Saharan plains where elephants roam, and rescue/rehabilitate injured or lost orphans. To date, the company has given over $550,000 to their nonprofit partners and by working as hands-on as they do, they ensure the donations arrive on the ground, directly benefiting the gentle grey giants.

Wild Tiger Rum

Grabbing a tiger by its tail, probably not a good idea. But grabbing a mai tai of Wild Tiger Rum? Getting somewhere. This label from India raises a toast to the land of wild tigers with an exotic blend of molasses, sugar cane juice, and a “grass to glass” mantra. Aged, blended, and bottled on the banks of the Southern Ganges river, a distinctive aspect of the packaging is–just as no two tigers share the exact same stripes–each handmade bottle has a unique stripe design of its own. The drink entrepreneurs not only created the spirit, but started the Wild Tiger Foundation, aka the WTF Foundation, as in “only 2,200 tigers remain in the Indian forests. WTF?” Down from the 100,000 that roamed and roared freely, the Royal Bengal Tiger subspecies remains in grave danger of extinction. WTF is supported with conservation guidance from the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). The brand also recently adopted the Wayanad Tiger Reserve in Kerala, India, and donates 10% of its profits to the foundation, which works with tiger conservationists/experts, local authorities, and NGOs to save the king of the jungle and his habitat. In 2019, The Roar Trip campaign won recognition for taking tiger conservation across borders—road tripping 25,000 km in 65 days to 25 different countries.

Graveney Gin

The female founder can’t hide her love of alliteration, having created a passion project centered around Graveney Gin and gorillas. Distilled in the heart of Tooting, London in nano batches of hand-peeled grapefruit, this citrus, and berry-fueled spirit is made only of organic ingredients and is as cheeky as the apes it aims to protect. With just under $10K donated so far, the company continues to donate 10% of all profits to a conservation charity called Gearing Up For Gorillas (G4G). It is the only UK charity that focuses 100% on the conversation of the rare mountain gorilla in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the nonprofit, gorillas share around 97% of their DNA with humans, so it isn’t surprising many individuals feel a personal bond with them. G4G provides funding, equipment, and care to the rangers who dedicate and risk their lives on the job to protect the gorillas. So be sure to order a bramble with Graveney next time at the pub and raise one for the bamboo-loving, knuckle-walking primate.

Talisker Scotch Whisky

Dispatching to the Isle of Skye in Scotland, two brothers crossed the Atlantic in 1825 to build the storied Talisker distillery. Today, its single malt scotch is revered as some of the most alluring and full-bodied—especially when paired with freshly-shucked oysters. Situated on the rugged coastline of the Minginish Peninsula, Talisker owes much to the sea. With an oyster shed right on the distillery grounds for touring and noshing, the spirits brand spreads the good word on how important the briny sea creatures are to the marine environment—providing habitat for hundreds of species and protecting cities coated with shoreline from storm damage, flooding, and erosion. Oysters remain one of the world’s most sustainable species, their water-filtering live organisms and reef-like beds for habitation are crucial to the health of our oceans. Upon the launch of the Billion Oyster Project, Talisker crossed the pond to expand its conservation efforts to the New York Harbor nonprofit with a hefty goal to reintroduce one billion oysters by 2035 to the former world epicenter for trillions of oysters—before pollution and industrialization nearly wiped them all out. The project has already introduced 30 million oysters on 13 restored reefs over seven acres. To further bolster the momentum, Talisker also funds a shell collecting recovery program with BOP, collaborating with NYC bars and restaurants to recycle its used oyster shells. So far, 1.5 million pounds of shells have been collected to date and taken by boat to off-shore nurseries to regenerate and be reintroduced to the Harbor for future reef installations.

Novo Fogo Cachaça

From pure sugar cane to Caipirinha cocktails, this zero-waste distillery is home to not one, but two, of the world’s most important (and threatened) rainforests. While the Amazon Rainforest has lost about 20% of its trees to logging and development, the Atlantic Rainforest has lost about 85%, according to Novo Fogo’s founder. As stewards of their own corner of the coastal rainforest in southern Brazil, and as passionate specialists in barrel-aging organic cachaça at its carbon-neutral facility, the company continues to look for ways to live in, and with, the tropical ecosystem around them. Novo Fogo has hosted a donation program to support the endangered Red-Tailed Parrot, and raising awareness to regulate the 300+ threatened native woods—many of them don’t have the proper harvesting or sustainability certifications but are employed in barrel-aging cachaca for commercial opportunity. Most recently, they kicked off “The Unendangered Forest,” a reforestation program that, to date, has resulted in the planting of almost 500 native, endangered trees and the registering/protecting of 88 Brazilian bird species who inhabit those

Bacardi Rum

While the world-renowned rum label doesn’t directly donate a portion of its proceeds to saving animals, the company has made bat conservation awareness part of its mission for generations. In 1862, the founder’s wife insisted the bats hanging from the tin-roof at Bacardi’s original distillery in Cuba be protected—believing they signified good health and fortune to her ancestors per Catalan folklore. The creature of the night even went on to become the company’s logo and symbol of good fortune. So despite the myth, many may believe—with common Google search, “Is Bacardi made of bat poop?”—the logo does not allude to the premium rum using droppings in its distillation. But, it is made from agave, which is pollinated by bats. In addition to various monetary donations to Bat Conservation International (BCI), Bacardi raises global awareness through creative campaigns, including a PSA video in 2012, “The Year of the Bat.” The 15-second billboard played on the JumboTron in Times Square most of the year—highlighting the environmental and economic benefits bats do. From acting as natural pest control, consuming millions of nasty crop-destroying bugs a night, to pollinating 500+ plant species and fruits with nectar, and dispersing seeds so rainforests can replenish, helping to mitigate the effects of widespread deforestation, bats rock. Bacardi also installed wooden “bat caves” with Lubee Bat Conservancy’s help at their state-of-the-art bottling facility in Bermuda to combat habitat depletion and maintain the natural ecosystem to which the colonies of darkness navigators are vital to.

California Cowboy Whiskey

Distilled in Kentucky, and bottled in California, giddy up for a straight bourbon with a hint of smoke or a crisp rye whiskey—both with the rowdy tagline, “Taste the Wild West.” Reminiscent of the run-free steeds that wander wide, open plains in the midwest, the company aptly donates a portion of each bottle sold to nonprofit, Wild Horse Sanctuary. The sanctuary’s mission continues to protect and preserve America’s wild horses as a living national treasure—providing a sprawling nature range in an ecologically-balanced environment and raising awareness of the plight of thousands of un-adoptable wild horses across the west in danger of being killed. Donations and sponsorships help also provide hay and mineral supplement when natural grass is scarce. Save a horse, ride a cowboy, and raise a glass for the wayward stallions that cannot, should not be tamed.

KingView Mead

It’s a simple fact that honey wine, along with the vitality of our entire ecosystem, rely heavily on honey bees. Their savvy pollinating tactics perform more than 80% of important, cultivated crops and are the culprits for wildflowers blooming. With an estimated one-third of the food we consume each day reliant on their population and pollination, Pennsylvania-based meadery, KingView, is so passionate about bees’ vital role in the environment, they created the Mead-For-Bees campaign. The initiative donates 10% of all mead and brand attire sales to the direct purchase of new boxes, frames, and bee colonies for local beekeepers and apiaries. Every $1 donated helps to release 150 buzzing warriors into the world to pollinate aplenty. This helps keep food costs lower and increases the biodiversity in forests, meadows, waterways—basically the entire planet. KingView’s virtual “bee counter” displays on their site how many bees they’ve been able to donate based on the purchase of their goods. It is always on display and is currently at 1.2M. When the goal reaches 1.3M, the company will give away an entire hive or nuc to a local apiary/beekeeper via sweepstakes drawing. Bee the change.

Wildlife Wine Club

With a tempting tagline of, “Drink Wine – Save Animals – Stay Wild,” this not-so-exclusive club entices members to purchase bottles that help save endangered species around the globe. Their first two releases of limited edition wines—the Sea Turtle Chardonnay and African Lion Cabernet—were inspired by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and its determination to save vulnerable species from disappearing like that last drop in your glass. The nonprofit represents more than 230 facilities/institutions in the US and overseas, all of which collectively strive to be trailblazers in animal care/welfare, on and off the land. 100% of Wildlife Wine Club’s net proceeds from these two bottled vinos go directly to fund AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, which oversees various conservation projects and recovery plans. The club will continually release more varietals with themed labels throughout the year to go towards the protection of a particular threatened species. Come on Andean Bear Bordeaux, Royal Penguin Pinot, or Monarch Butterfly Malbec…

About the author: Britt Mattie is a freelance writer, magazine editor, outdoors junkie, wildlife lover, and fervent traveler. From grassroots to groundswells, follow her mindful adventures on her website:

Photo courtesy of Humphrey Muleba, Unsplash

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