Today, Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew understand that the bottle — what it’s made of and the information on it — is just as important as the spirit that comes inside.
It’s quite a change for the the husband-and-wife owners of Greenbar Distillery based in Los Angeles, California, who were almost single-focused on taste when they began bottling back in 2004. “Our thing was to have great flavor in the bottles,” explains Mathew. “Our journey into organic, sustainable and eco-friendly [practices] really started with our farmers. They were figuring out [new ways] to make sure there would be farmland left for the future, for their kids. We wanted to support them.”
The decision to go green was an easy one for the couple, and the changes they made as a result extend beyond all-organic ingredients. “We now use a lighter-weight glass, 100% recycled labels, non-synthetic inks, PET tops,” says Mathew. “Bars love to reuse our bottles for things like sours and simple syrup because they’re light on the wrist. We’re all about that.”
Green packaging is not just good for the environment. According to this article from PackagingDigest.com, less materials and lower shipping costs can have a substantial impact on a product’s bottom line. There are also built-in marketing opportunities that come with a company’s upping its “environmental profile.”
In addition to more environmentally-friendly standards and practices, Greenbar has partnered with the Maine-based non-profit Sustainable Harvest International to plant one tree for every bottle sold, helping to make its TRU line of organic vodkas and gins the most carbon negative consumer product on the market. Reportedly, a single TRU cocktail more-than-negates the average American’s carbon footprint for the day
Mathew insists Greenbar’s commitment to the environment has nothing to do with test markets or consumer preferences. “For us, going organic is not a trend, it’s a way of making better products,” she says. “Take citrus, for example. Without the pesticides and fertilizers found in conventional farming, these plants have to fend for themselves to survive against pests. In the case of citrus that means having more aroma in the skins. And that’s what we’re using: citrus whose skin is very, very aromatic. That’s our difference.”
Evidence of the company’s rapid growth, which Mathew puts at 30-50% per year, is everywhere. Their new headquarters in downtown Los Angeles has a production capacity of 300,000 cases per year, which is ten times what they could produce at their old Monrovia-based spaces. The acquisition of a hybrid pot still with side-mounted column (from Vendome) and a continuous fractionating column still (from Headframe) have transformed Greenbar into LA’s only distillery and its first since Prohibition.
So far, Mathew hasn’t let all the recent success go to her head. “Our job is still to be very transparent in what we do,” she says. “TRU customers want to know where their product comes from and what’s in it. Our bottles list all the ingredients which is almost never the case in the liquor business.”