In January 2020, Gus Gluck, a co-founder of Quality Wines in London, launched a wine auction to raise money for Australia’s wildfire victims. Over the weekend of Jan. 10-12, Gluck auctioned numerous fine and rare Australian wines, benefiting the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and WIRES Wildlife Rescue Emergency Fund. The one-off auction garnered generous donations from some of the biggest names in the U.K. wine industry, and raised £30,946 — or just over $40,000.
When dire situations such as wildfires arise, it can be difficult to know how to help. But a handful of drinks industry producers, from well-known whiskey distillers to sustainable winemakers, are offering financial support to help aid in recovery.
Here, VinePair reports on seven beverage brands that are paying it forward locally, nationally, and globally through charitable and sustainability-focused initiatives.
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1. Buffalo Trace Distillery
This iconic distillery has a history of charitable giving. In an effort to increase awareness for charities in need across the U.S., Buffalo Trace organized an ongoing initiative to bottle commemorative barrels and make those bottles exclusively available to non-profit organizations at no cost. In 2011, Buffalo Trace bottled its Millennium Barrel — the last barrel of bourbon it produced in the 20th century, on Dec. 31, 1999 — and offered all 174 750-milliliter bottles to non-profit organizations for fundraising purposes. The initiative yielded more than $150,000.
In 2016, Buffalo Trace donated its inaugural O.F.C. Bourbon Whiskey from 1980, 1982, and 1983 to nonprofits, raising more than $1 million. And in 2019, after being aged for 10 years and 11 months, the 6 millionth barrel of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was put into 400 bottles with the goal of raising $500,000. The goal was reached, and each 375-milliliter bottle was packaged in a numbered hardwood showcase box that included a piece of the charred oak stave from the historic barrel, and a small pamphlet detailing the significance of the collector’s edition.
2. Wild Turkey Distilling Company
Wild Turkey partnered with its creative director, actor, producer, and philanthropist, Matthew McConaughey, to launch “With Thanks,” an annual charitable campaign that encourages “giving back and giving thanks” to people who perform “extraordinary acts” within their communities. The initiative is designed to raise money, coordinate volunteer efforts to aid in disaster relief, and support other philanthropic and environmental conservation efforts.
In 2017, McConaughey and Wild Turkey delivered 4,500 turkeys door to door in the distillery’s hometown of Lawrenceburg, Ky. In 2018, “With Thanks” took McConaughey and Wild Turkey to Houston to express gratitude to the first responders who provided disaster relief during Hurricane Harvey.
In November 2019, McConaughey, Wild Turkey master distiller Eddie Russell, and a group of volunteers from Wild Turkey teamed up with Operation BBQ Relief to cook, prepare, and deliver meals to first responders battling the wildfires in Southern California. McConaughey also took to Facebook Live to encourage individuals nationwide to volunteer and donate to support Operation BBQ Relief’s efforts throughout the country.
Additionally, in 2019, the With Thanks campaign collaborated with Unyoked, an Australian travel startup, to launch an eco-cabin designed by McConaughey in New South Wales. The effort aims to help make visiting the Australian wilderness more accessible while also helping to preserve it for future generations. Proceeds from stays in the cabin and from sales of McConaughey’s Wild Turkey Longbranch bourbon will be donated to the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.
3. Hangar 1 Distillery
This California distillery promotes environmental stewardship and water conservation in the Golden State through the forward-thinking process it uses to produce its Fog Point sipping vodka. Staying mindful of California’s seasonal droughts and the necessity for consistent water conservation in the state, Hangar 1 uses water collected from specially designed “fog traps” to capture fog water vapor and condense it into liquid water, which Hangar 1 then blends with the vodka it makes from distilled Chenin Blanc and Viognier wine for its Fog Point product.
Hangar 1’s Fog Point is available for $134 at Reserve Bar, and all profits from the sale of Fog Point go to furthering water conservation efforts in California.
4. Gray Whale Gin
The consciously crafted, California-made Gray Whale Gin celebrates the awe-inspiring gray whale. The spirit takes the drinker on a journey up the Pacific coastline along the gray whales’ 12,000-mile migration pattern from Baja California to Mendocino. Each of the botanicals in the gin is sourced from organic farms or foraged along the migration path of the gray whale, from the citrus in Baja and the juniper in Big Sur to the mint in Santa Cruz and the kombu seaweed in Mendocino.
A portion of the profits from each bottle of Gray Whale Gin, which typically retails for about $40, goes toward Oceana to help protect the world’s oceans.
5. Nosotros Tequila
It’s not every day you hear a success story about a business started in a college dorm by a student with about $2,500 in the bank and little knowledge of his chosen industry. Yet, that’s exactly how 25-year-old CEO and founder Carlos Soto of Nosotros Tequila got his start in the spirits industry. Soto, along with co-founder Michael Arbanas, launched the business at the end of their senior year, and within just one year on the market, Nosotros Tequila Blanco was awarded the coveted World’s Best Tequila title and a Double Gold at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out top brands like Milagro, Siete Leguas, Herradura, and others. Nosotros is made from a blend of sustainably sourced, 50 percent highland and 50 percent lowland agaves.
One percent of all Nosotros’ revenue is donated to Waves for Water, an NGO that helps provide clean drinking water and education to communities in need throughout the world.
6. TINCUP Whiskey
Founded and distilled by Jess Graber, TINCUP is a Colorado-based producer of whiskeys that cuts its products to proof with Rocky Mountain spring water. The brand was inspired by the state’s mining pioneers and the tin cups they used to drink the spirit.
TINCUP is a sponsor of Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones in 2007 that leads a community of athletes, thought pioneers, and forward-thinking business leaders to effect systemic solutions to climate change. TINCUP is also an advocate of Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information and education and to promote research for the protection of life, property, and the enhancement of the state’s economy.
7. Jackson Family Wines
Over the last decade, California has been experiencing recurring weather-related disasters, from wildfires to floods, along with warming climates. One of the most significant efforts to address the effects of climate change on the wine industry has been the launch of the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), a global environmental initiative co-founded by Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Jackson Family Wines (JFW) and Spanish wine producer Familia Torres. The IWCA aims to reduce — and eventually eliminate — carbon emissions in the wine industry with the goal of preserving and protecting the heritage of wine throughout the world.
Katie Jackson, JFW’s senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and the daughter of trendsetting winemaking visionary Jess Jackson, is spearheading JFW’s IWCA collaboration. She also manages JFW’s ambitious sustainability program, overseeing its commitment to sustainable farming practices, energy efficiency, carbon emission reduction, waste management, and water conservation efforts for its 40 wineries across the globe.
The Kendall-Jackson winery is one example of how JFW’s efforts are manifesting. Kendall-Jackson uses one-third less water to produce its wines than the industry average. Every bottle of its wine is bottled using 100 percent renewable energy. The winery was one of the early adopters of energy storage through its collaboration with Tesla Energy. Kendall-Jackson also pays a minimum wage of $15 per hour for all of its full-time employees.