Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Organic Booze and Taunting PeTA!

You wonder why Jim Beam would be charming PeTA at a time when they're under fire from Greenpeace Australia. Jim Beam hasn't been too clear with their GMO corn policy and now finds itself on the Consumers International GMO Red List. This is a super cute commercial, but for those not ready for the punchline, big surprise discovering it's for a bourbon whiskey, which raises big money with Kid Rock for Operation Homefront.

Founded in 1795, the all-American Jim Beam is a proud, old company, been around for a long time in Kentucky, producing 6 million cases a year, using 70 warehouses to store nearly 2 million barrels of aging bourbon. They get most of their corn from Kolkmeier Bros. Feed & Grain Inc. in Indiana which (probably) buys their seed from Monsanto. Problem is, now that GMO foods (and that means liquor too) are being banned in countries like Australia where Jim Beam is a bestseller, plus a good portion of the European union, their brand is finding itself in an awkward predicament. According to Camper English's Alcademics, Jim Beam claims "they distill, age, and bottle non-GMO spirit separately for export where they have restrictions against GMO products."

Last year, Jack Daniels who had committed itself to a non-GMO policy, sent out a press release saying they couldn't keep that promise because there just wasn't enough non-GMO corn around! In 2007, 80 percent of all U.S. corn and 84 percent of all corn grown in Canada was genetically modified. Another environmental disaster in the making, according to many.

But why organic booze? I launched a little faux-blog called Cocktail Organico when there was only a couple of organic liquor bottles on the market. I chronicled the eruption of this new trend in libation. Today there are SO MANY as described by Intoxicated Zodiak, it's impossible to keep track. Obviously there's a fast growing market for socially conscious alcohol, but why? What makes it so important, why now and why more than just a trendy green fad?

It's because of the change in how we relate to agriculture. The way you grow your grain is a reflection on the way you care for the land. For years now the corn growers associations have been begging for the re-legalization of industrial hemp so they could use it in their fields as a rotation crop, to replace alfalfa. Why? Simple. Because hemp, much like peas, puts nitrogen back in the soil, and dispenses with the use of copious amounts of petroleum-based fertilizers. To boot, hemp can be harvested for food, fuel and fiber, giving farmers twice the revenue from two harvests.

So what's keeping it all from happening? Think about it, in America, even Oxygen, pure simple little oxygen atom, is regulated by the FDA as a Class A drug. We live in a nightmare of our own making, so with this simple little commercial, albeit unknowingly, Jim Beam has cracked open a can of worms, unleashing a litany of super critical farming issues, because of all the connective tissue that exists in the environmental community between animal rights and organic agriculture!

But that's not all. By law, to use the bourbon appellation, not simply labeling it whiskey, not only do you have to be made in the USA, but it needs to age in brand new virgin barrels. Yes, that's right, every new batch of Jim Beam is made in a spanking new white oak barrel, produced with great care by the Independent Stave Company in Missourri. Yes, the white oak is grown sustainably, but it's imported from, get this... France, where French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently visited the Stave Mill of Tonnellerie Quintessence.

So what happens to all these used barrels? They are re-sold by Kentucky Barrels to age other spirits, especially tequila, and sometimes turned into eco-chic furniture by designers like Uhuru in Brooklyn. Some are shipped to Scotland to make Scotch Whiskey and last up to 50-60 years. Others are chopped into wood chips. Jim Beam's parent company Fortune Brands, Inc. also owns MasterBrand Cabinets, a certified manufacturer in the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association Environmental Stewardship Program.

So all in all, a lot of good gets mixed in with the not-so-good, as in all things. There is a cosmic trigger to this commercial, directed by Zach Math for Bob Industries, and it's not just the cuddly puppies.

How Jim Beam barrels are made: video

(Banner Wines & Liquor window display ~ South Norwalk, CT)