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Do What DonQ Do

October 7, 2010

SUSTAINABILTY (Noun) –  a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.

The big buzz now is “going green” and there are many liquor companies that are making great efforts to give back and protect the world that sustains us.  However one in particular is leading th industry by trying to create a completely sustainable system with zero impact. 

Don Q rums, made at the Serrallés Distillery in Puerto Rico, has gone above and beyond the call when it comes to sustainability.  In its six generations of rum making, Don Q is the highest selling rum in Puerto Rico, and in 2006 they invested millions of dollars in research piecing together the best ways to give back to the environment.  The project is headed by Roberto Serrallés, Vice President of Business Developement, who came back to the distillery at the request of his father who said he needed help with making their rum process sustainable (Roberto has a PhD in environmental science).  So in 2004, he began researching how to make the best rums with the least impact.  (BTW Don Q was the rum used by Roberto “Monchito” Marreno in the Pina Colada)

I had the chance to speak with Mr Serrallés recently and learned about the amazing the system he has spearheaded.

Rum is made from molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process.  It is not a clean product by any means so step two is cleaning it up (step one is the use of molasses since it is a by-product).  The molasses is mixed with water and yeast and is left to ferment (beer). Fermentation is a chemical reaction that creates alcohol and CO2.  The fermented mash is then sent to be distilled.  But what about the CO2?  It is captured and sold to local soda producers for carbonation.

During distillation, water is removed from the “molasses beer”, which has a ton of organic and inorganic impurities mixed in.  The water is combined is an air tight chamber with anaerobic digesters (bacteria) which take out about 70% of the bad stuff out of the water.  The chamber is air tight so the biogas let off from the little digesters can be captured and used to power the steam generator that run the stills.  This cuts down the dependency on oil fuels by over 50% (we are talking about 1 millions gallons of saved fuel!).  And just before the gas heads to the still it is passed through a turbo-generator which producers electricity for the distillery.

 The next step on the water is polishing which brings the waste water to a usable water for irrigation.  According to Roberto, the wastewater starts with about 35,000 parts per million (ppm) of gunk and junk.  After treatment, the water contains only 150 ppm 0.00015%) which makes to safe for agricultural irrigation.  To give a perspective on this, the standard amount of sanitizer in a bar sink is 200 ppm.

The solids from the water treatment, as mentioned have a lot of organic matter in them, meaning they are useful to other living things.  They are composted with wood chips from the shipping palates to make fertilizer mulch.  Isnt that cool?

The next step for Don Q in their efforts is using bottles made from recycled glass, says Roberto, and to make the entire process more efficient.  Unfortunately though, this comes at a cost and many of the innovations for industrial ecology are expensive, which doesn’t allow the business owners or share holders to make “green” decisions for their operations. 

With other liquor companies that load the landfills and dump waste into the seas that surround the Caribbean, it is nice to know that there are efforts being made to keep our fragile earth clean.  Roberto even said that his system is being copied by distilleries who also want to give back and make the world safe for generations to come.In a world of political controversy, there is one topic that we all should be on the same page about, and that is sustainability.   Great job Roberto, and to all your staff for doing the right thing!

For more information on Don Q Rums and their enviornmental efforts, please visit their website

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