Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: New Clear Vodka Goes Green

Each year in the aftermath of Earth Day we see a spate of new initiatives designed to improve the ecology, save materials and do all sorts of other "green" things.

Now, an "Earth friendly" vodka — colorless in appearance yet green in a sense — has been introduced by McCormick Distillery, a Missouri facility thought to be the oldest U.S. distillery west of the Mississippi River.

McCormick was founded in 1856 by Ben Holladay, a big-idea entrepreneur who went on to also start the Pony Express and the Overland Stage Line.

The new product, called 360 Vodka, is described as "an All-American spirit" created to compete in the super premium category.

Ed Pechar, chairman of McCormick Distilling Co., located near Kansas City, says his company is crafting 360 Vodka through a unique, eco-friendly packaging program that will allow it to support environmentally friendly groups with a "360 Close the Loop Program."

In addition to using American grain, 360 will be offered in a bottle using 85 percent recycled glass and green-friendly packaging. Pechar said McCormick will set aside $1 for every one of the unusual bottle closures returned to the "360 Close the Loop Program" to recognized environmental organizations.

"We are proud to introduce a totally All-American product that will be distributed in a totally environmentally friendly package," Pechar said, "and we will be able to give back to the community. American consumers no longer have to go overseas to enjoy a super premium brand vodka."

He had me at "Earth friendly," but while that last statement may make for an interesting sales pitch it doesn’t give credit to a variety of super premium American vodkas, such as Peconika (New York), Cirrus (Virginia), 44-degrees North (Idaho), Ocean (Hawaii) and Cold River (Maine), among others.

Meanwhile, Smirnoff, by most surveys the most recognized vodka name in the world, is turning its hand to malt beverages.

Its latest product is a low-alcohol drink called Smirnoff Source that utilizes pure spring water and a citrus touch to create a 3.5 percent alcohol by volume liquid. That makes it lower in both alcohol and calories than most domestic beers.

Smirnoff Source currently is available in New York, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington (DC), Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It soon will be sold at high-end clubs in Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The beer alternative comes in 16-ounce bottles and 16-ounce four-packs, the latter selling at a suggested retail price in the $10 range.

Smirnoff is owned by Diageo, which has a huge portfolio of such adult beverages as Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Cuervo and Captain Morgan.

Elsewhere, store shelves and vending machines may be chock full of all sorts of colorful liquids, but water is doing just fine, thank you.

Sales of bottled (canned, pouched, etc.) water in 2006 increased 9.5 percent over the previous year, according to statistics just released by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), in conjunction with Beverage Marketing Corp.(BMC).

"The latest upward trend was reflected in 2006 when total bottled water volume exceeded 8.25 billion gallons, a 9.5 percent increase over 2005, and the 2006 bottled water per capita consumption level of 27.6 gallons increased by over two gallons, from 25.4 gallons per capita the previous year," said the IBWA in a press release.

"Additionally, the wholesale dollar sales for bottled water exceeded $10.8 billion in 2006, an 8.5 percent increase over the $10 billion in 2005."

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              (William M. Dowd covers the world of adult beverages at BillDowd.com.)

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