In a new partnership with conservation nonprofit American Forests, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is adding another component to its strategy to become the most sustainable brand in the industry—restoring the white oak forests that are necessary for bourbon barrels.
Bulleit has committed to planting 1 million trees over the next five years, with a specific focus on white oak trees, and investing in ReLeaf, a program that aims to increase green space and tree cover in urban areas.
The new commitments are an expansion of the Bulleit Frontier Fund, which the brand launched earlier this year as a way to support the bartending and hospitality industry as Covid-19 lockdowns began to affect those workers. Now, it’s broadening the mission of that fund to include the environmental components that are vital to the sustainability of the industry and the communities it supports.
“At a basic level, you can’t have bourbon without white oak,” American Forests’ vp of forest conservation, Eric Sprague said. By definition, whiskey can only become bourbon if it is matured in a brand new charred oak barrel.
Those oaks are also vital to maintaining healthy forests, Sprague said.
“You can’t have the carbon sequestration, the habitat, the clean water in our Eastern forests without white oak either,” he explained. “So it’s a match made perfectly between our two organizations.”
There’s also a natural connection between the conservation goals of this new initiative and the community support that spurred the brand to create the Bulleit Frontier Fund in the first place, according to Bulleit’s global brand director Ed Bello.
First, fighting against climate change and deforestation is necessary to ensure the brand has what it needs to keep making its product. Second, consumers are aware of the risks that climate change poses to all aspects of life, and are demanding that brands take real action to mitigate those risks in any way possible, Bello said. Third, there are basic inequities facing American communities right now in terms of access to a clean, safe environment and green space that sustainability initiatives also need to address.
By adding forest conservation and “tree equity”—increased access to tree cover and green space for underserved urban areas—to its mission, Bulleit’s weaving together its community support and conservation goals and acknowledging the interdependence of the two causes.
“It’s an absolute critical need for us to preserve our forests, reforest them,” and to fight climate change, according to Bello.
“The more we can educate and make people aware, the better off we’re all going to be,” he said. “One tree at a time will get us there.”
This isn’t the first time Bulleit’s prioritized sustainability in its business. The brand recently set a goal to hit carbon neutrality for its distillery in Shelbyville, Ky. by 2030, and has been steadily decreasing its footprint through water and energy conservation efforts for years. Bulleit also announced this year that it’s opening up a new distillery in Lebanon, Ky., which will be fully carbon neutral from the get-go.
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