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How Spirits Brands Are Trying to Help Protect Endangered Species

(photo composite: Laura Sant).

Due to climate change, pollution and other human causes, many animal species across the world are on the brink of collapse. And while it’s not uncommon for a liquor brand to sponsor an odd fundraiser, there are some brands that go above that to help in animal conservation. These are four booze brands working hard to protect threatened and endangered species.

  • Amarula Cream

    (photo composite: Laura Sant).

    An African elephant is killed every 20 minutes in the wild, mostly by poachers. At those rates, they could disappear from the planet by 2030. Luckily, a number of organizations seek to change that. A liqueur from South Africa made from cream, sugar and the fruit of the marula tree (a favorite snack of African elephants), Amarula has long been an advocate for elephant conservation.

    It launched the Amarula Trust in 2002, which raises money for different conservation efforts into collaring elephants for research. It went global in 2017. The company donates $1 from each bottle sold during the months of October, November and December every year to the wildlife foundation. Amarula has raised nearly $250,000 over the last two years. Though it’s taking a break in 2019 to focus on a new bottle release, it still uses the trust to work on conservation efforts.

  • Gray Whale Gin

    (photo composite: Laura Sant).

    Jan and Marsh Mokhtari have backgrounds in entertainment, food and marketing. In 2015, on a trip to Big Sur with their two little girls, they decided that they wanted to help protect the California coastline, so they crafted a gin. Gray Whale is a “Golden State gin” that uses botanicals from all over the state, including sea kelp from the Mendocino coast, Baja limes, Central Valley almonds and juniper from Big Sur.

    The result is a bold, floral gin that’s easy to sip. Though not currently registered as endangered, there are fewer than 22,000 gray whales left in the Northern Pacific. In order to protect the remaining ones, Gray Whale partnered with marine conservation group Oceana, donating 1% of all sales and 100% of the proceeds of sales of its candles made from recycled gin bottles.

  • Reyka Vodka

    (photo composite: Laura Sant).

    A popular vodka with bartenders, who love its smooth, rich mouthfeel, Reyka has always been on the green side of things. (Its distillery is powered entirely by geothermal energy.) In April 2019, the Icelandic brand decided to help a threatened species: the Atlantic puffin, the tiny birds iconic to Iceland. “They’re just so damn cute,” says Reyka brand ambassador Trevor Schneider. “And they’re Icelandic, just like Reyka.”

    In order to help support the birds, Reyka developed a program for the National Audubon Society, through which people can adopt a puffin for as little as a $1 or up to $75, with gifts made by Reyka that include T-shirts, hats and downloadable images of the adopted seabird. All of the proceeds go to the Audubon Society’s Project Puffin, which employs research, conservation efforts and education to protect the species.

  • Snow Leopard Vodka

    (photo composite: Laura Sant).

    Snow Leopard Vodka was founded in 2006 by Stephen Sparrow, a U.K. businessman who fell in love with the critically endangered cats while on a trip to the Himalayas. With fewer than 7,000 snow leopards left in the world, Sparrow was moved by the plight of the animals and wanted to create a product that would embody their elegance while also financing the Snow Leopard Trust, the oldest and largest conservation group that protects them. The spirit is made with spelt that gives it a rich nutty quality, distilled six times for extra smoothness. The brand passes on 15% of its profits every year to the nonprofit.

    Snow leopards often share their environment with rural farming communities, which need to protect their livestock in order to survive. At times, that means hunting the cats. The Snow Leopard Trust works within these communities to help reduce hunting through building better livestock containment, educating people on the snow leopard and providing resources to launch other enterprises.

    Snow Leopard Vodka also runs local fundraisers for smaller, more domesticated cats, mainly in St. Louis. These include an event to raise money to help people living with HIV keep their pets, as well as happy hours that benefit local cat rescues.