A Trinity scientist, alongside a group of international researchers, has potentially discovered a new, more environmentally friendly method of distilling gin and other alcoholic drinks – using peas.
The research – which used dried, de-hulled peas to make gin – could be used to reduce the impact of alcohol production on rainforests worldwide.
Prof Mike Williams, a botanist from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, was a member of the team that carried out the study, which was published in scientific journal Environment International.
Standard processes of producing gin – involving the cultivation of wheat, enzyme production, heat, electricity, transport and packaging – have a significant impact on the environment due to the greenhouse gases they emit.
Sipping a large amount of gin made using these processes has the same environmental impact as drinking a 150ml glass of dairy milk, or driving 1km in a petrol car.
The peas used in this study were milled and fermented in place of the wheat grain usually deployed in making gin. The research was conducted at Arbikie Distillery in Scotland.
In a press statement, Williams said that “pea hulls and distillery co-products provide protein-rich animal feeds that can replace soybean imported from Latin America, where cultivation is driving deforestation”.
He added: “Peas – working with specialised bacteria in their roots – are able to convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into biological fertiliser. As a result, they don’t require applications of polluting synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, which are widely and heavily used in industrial agriculture.”
Dr Pietro Iannetta, another researcher on the project, said: “We found that the environmental footprint of pea gin was significantly lower than for wheat gin across 12 of 14 environmental impacts evaluated, from climate change, through water and air pollution to fossil energy consumption.”
Iannetta is a molecular ecologist at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee in Scotland.
Another participant, Dr David Styles, a lecturer in life cycle assessment in Bangor University and NUI Galway, added: “Of course, if we wanted to more dramatically shrink our environmental footprint and reduce deforestation, we could eat those peas directly to provide our protein and fibre requirements – instead of drinking gin and eating beef fed on the co-products.”