Among the 2,000 spirits sold at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), only about twenty products are certified organic. Unlike winemakers, distillers see little benefit in certifying their alcohol. They are still implementing a range of eco-responsible initiatives to make their drink greener.

Bénédicte Hardy is the head of the homonymous cognac house. In the company’s wide range of products, only one cognac is certified organic. And he is one of the few in the region.

No wonder: of the 88,000 hectares of vines planted in Cognac, barely 1% are certified organic. It is therefore difficult, and more expensive, for distillers to buy the raw material to produce organic cognacs.

“In Cognac, the winemakers want to produce a lot of wine to distill it,” says Ms. Hardy. They don’t want to bother with organic. Firstly because it involves additional costs and work, then because the harvests are less important in organic. »

It is not only in Cognac that organic spirits are rare. Expert Alexandre Vingtier observes the same trend for whiskeys, vodkas or gins all over the world.

The distillation process removes any traces of pesticides that might end up in the alcohol, says Vingtier. Since the purchase of certified organic raw materials, such as cereals or wine, is more expensive, producers do not see the added value.

Alexandre Vingtier also adds that the costs associated with organic certification deter many companies, especially if they export. Because the absence of international agreements governing organic requires companies to obtain, and pay for, a new certification in each market to which they export.

“The producer really has to see a way to stand out or have a sincere, deep commitment,” he observes.

This sincere commitment is what motivates Marcel Mailhot. The farmer is at the head of the Grand Dérangement distillery, located in Saint-Jacques in Lanaudière. He was the first to market his organic gin at the SAQ. Organic certification was a natural avenue for the company, since the cereals used in the production of gin and vodka are grown according to the rules of organic farming.

Of the eighty active distilleries, only three market organic spirits at the SAQ. Geneviève Laforest, of the Union québécoise des microdistilleries, notes, however, that many companies are adopting circular economy principles or developing spirits with recovered ingredients.

The Comont distillery has applied the concept of circular economy and eco-responsibility even further. The Bedford-based company has partnered with Arctic Gardens, Groupe St-Hubert and Nutrifrance to produce Canada’s first carbon-neutral vodka. To do this, it used four tons of downgraded vegetables, pie dough scraps and cookie dough residue provided by its partners to produce its vodka. The spirit should be released shortly at the SAQ.

Several Quebec distilleries also offer discounts to customers who bring the bottles back to the estate to be cleaned and reused. However, this initiative is likely to end with the implementation of the deposit at the SAQ, considers Geneviève Laforest.

In the county of Portneuf, near Quebec, the Dolbec family has been known for 50 years for their potatoes. In the village of Saint-Ubalde, its fields stretch as far as the eye can see. Of the 4,000 hectares of potatoes grown, about 5% to 8% do not have the quality required to end up on the plate, explains the director, Josée Petitclerc. Some of the spoiled vegetables are sold for processing into ready-to-cook fresh potatoes or making flour, while others are used to feed livestock. For the past two years, the family has found another outlet for their imperfect potatoes: alcohol! Right next to the potato processing plant, she founded the Ubald Distillery. In state-of-the-art facilities, a range of gins and vodka are produced. The latter has a creamy and spicy texture.

Established at the foot of the Monts Valin in Saguenay, the Distillerie du Fjord does not go very far to harvest the aromatics that flavor its famous gin km12. The pepper from the dunes and the bayberry are picked by hand in the forest near the distillery. To encourage the local and sustainable economy, the Bouchard family also uses “ugly” cucumbers from Serres Toundra in Lac-Saint-Jean to create their cucumber gin. Last year, three tons of cucumbers were used to produce the drink. The marriage of the resinous scents of the boreal forest and the herbaceous notes of cucumber is daring, but successful. The gin is very refreshing and it makes for the perfect gin and tonic.

Everything in Aupale’s ready-to-drink products has been designed to reduce the carbon footprint. Whether it’s the glass bottle, the cardboard packaging or the aluminum cap, everything comes from recycled materials. In the bottle, the company also recovers fruit rejected for sale to flavor its seltzers. This is the case with its grapefruit ready-to-drink. This drink made from sparkling water and vodka is unfiltered. It must therefore be stirred before opening it. We then discover flavors of fresh grapefruit, very little sweet or bitter. With 7% alcohol and less than 2 grams of sugar per serving, it’s even better.

Although there are few certified organic rums, expert Alexandre Vingtier assures that sugar cane producers generally use few chemicals due to the high cost of these materials. It is with certified organic sugar cane alcohol that the Birster brothers produce their organic spirits in Quebec. Sugar cane gives a very pleasant silky texture to their alcohols. Established in Val-des-Sources, the company has recently marketed a haskap-based liqueur. The organic fruits are harvested a few kilometers from the distillery by the Cultur’Innov cooperative, then they are macerated in alcohol. Ruby red in color, this liqueur can replace blackcurrant in cocktails. The bitterness of haskap and the addition of balsam bay create a complex and less sweet taste.