Charlie Spivey is putting his University of Virginia chemistry degree to good use, pairing some of what he learned with a passion for sustainability to create Homesteader, a gluten-free, carbon-neutral vodka that’s now available at select Lowcountry bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
“Pretty much everything is recycled about this bottle,” said Spivey, adding that he chose vodka for a specific reason. “I wanted to move into the space primarily because arriving at a quality product is achievable.”
Homesteader is distilled in Vermont using corn sourced from “generational farmers” in the area. The decision to produce in the Northeast as opposed to South Carolina was based on the Vermont distillery’s LEED certification, connection with the local farms and focus on sustainability, Spivey said.
Sustainability and “good stewardship of the Earth” are core principles for Spivey, who spent over a year behind the bar at Zero Restaurant + Bar before launching Homesteader. Not only is the vodka itself sustainably sourced, the bottle that holds it maintains these values. Labels are printed on post-consumer fiber, and the cork closures and tamper seals are sourced from natural materials, Spivey said. All of these factors combine to “uphold significant metrics of regulatory compliance and carbon neutrality,” according to Homesteader’s mission statement.
But, what exactly does it mean to be “carbon neutral?” According to the CarbonNeutral Protocol, which gives businesses the framework to be carbon neutral certified, “Carbon neutrality is achieved by calculating a carbon footprint and reducing it to zero through a combination of efficiency measures in-house and supporting external emission reduction projects.”
“Essentially, you have to account for any emissions as they relate to carbon output, and then you can offset it by good deeds,” Spivey said. “Sustainability in terms of making it (and) sourcing forms of alternative energy in the distillery and bottling facility.”
“I brought in an accounting firm for carbon credits, and they have essentially accounted for any excess emissions that are unaccounted for in production,” Spivey added. “So, within the price of every bottle, there’s enough in my books to be able to turn the environmental footprint from a liability to being an asset.”
Spivey exudes confidence when talking about his product, thanks in part to his background studying chemistry at UVA.
“I have a better sense of measurement than a lot of people and a lot of labs, so why don’t I take this and join it with another extreme ideal for me (which is) good stewardship of the earth,” he said. “When I meet people, I don’t really involve a lot of the science. I want that to be a foundation of confidence, but I don’t really think it’s something that a lot of people like to have conversations about.”
Look for Homesteader in select bars and restaurants and more than 10 local liquor stores like Bottles Beverage Superstore and Pence’s Liquor & Wine. It’s only been six months, but Spivey said there’s already been some big moments; first, a chance encounter with professional golfer Jordan Spieth, whose tip helped pay for Spivey’s corporation filing costs, and then the day Zero Restaurant + Bar swapped Tito’s for Homesteader.
“When you order the craft cocktail there, it comes with Homesteader,” Spivey said. “What I really would like is for bartenders to have a sense of why it’s worthwhile to support and then to make the decision themselves on behalf of anyone that comes in.”
Spivey knows local bars and restaurants will be key marketing tools to help Homesteader become a recognizable name in the Charleston area.
“In terms of business strategies, a lot of what bars endorse influences what moves on shelves, so (we are) trying to get it into bars that are at or around this price point for their craft cocktails.”
For more information, visit homesteadervodka.com.