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High-tech praise for Pemberton Distillery

U.S. magazine singles out makers of organic vodka



Pemberton Distillery, makers of award-winning Schramm organic potato vodka and other spirits, has been named one of the five Most High-Tech Distilleries in the World by Popular Mechanics magazine.

The distilleries on the list were chosen by the American publication earlier this year for their eco-friendly innovations, with the Pemberton Distillery standing out for its use of geothermal energy to run its operations.

Along with the vodka, the distillery makes gin, apple brandy and vanilla and cinnamon extracts, and will be selling a scotch-style whisky and absinthe in the coming months, all organic.

When the distillery was built in 2008, the Schramm family installed a geothermal ground loop to heat and cool the system, said Tyler Schramm, the company's Master Distiller, who also holds a degree in geography and environmental studies.

Geothermal energy technology removes heat from below ground and brings it into buildings to heat the air or water; alternatively it can also remove heat from a facility and place it into the ground, replacing it with air cooled from underground.

"It was the first thing we did before we built the distillery. Distilleries are fairly energy intensive operations and I thought it was a good way to offset our energy usage," Schramm said.

Along with the two systems providing the cooling and heating for the distillery building, preheated water is also created using the system.

"When we are in standard heating mode we get around 40 per cent efficiency out of it (dropping energy needs by 40 per cent) and when we are in cooling mode and it's providing cool air and when we are heating water we get about 70 per cent efficiency," he said.

Schramm said 26,000 feet of pipes had been installed by Whistler Geothermal and was a long-term investment taking about 15 years to pay for itself, but the family wanted to use the system because "it was the right thing to do."

He added the response has been good.

"We definitely had a lot of people from the U.S. who get the magazine or read the magazine call us and were quite interested in our products and it's very nice when that happens," he said.

When it comes to their eco-friendly approach, Schramm added that visitors to tours at the distillery are also interested in how they use waste mash from the distilling process. Some goes to local farms as animal feed and the rest ends us on his brother's farm, turned into compost.

The other four distilleries mentioned in the article are the $50 million Wild Turkey distillery in Kentucky, the $65 million Roseisle Distillery in Scotland, and other small distilleries — the Vermont Spirits Distilling Co., and Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio. Each was commended by Popular Mechanics for using green technologies in their operations in different ways.

"We're tiny. The comparison to the bigger distilleries I can give is we produce about 5,000 litres of finished alcohol," Schramm said.

Pemberton Distillery was also recently named one of the Top 10 Eats and Drinks in Whistler by National Geographic magazine, and Schramm was also named one of the Top 40 Foodies Under 40 in Western Living magazine. For more on both awards read Epicurious? on page 59.

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