Photo by permission of Square One®
Wondering what would be an amazing New Year’s hostess gift? Consider bringing along a bottle of Square One, organic vodka that not only delivers taste but considers its impact on the Earth. When I first learned about Square One Vodka®, I questioned whether or not this was just another company jumping on the “let’s be green” band wagon by having perhaps one or two green attributes.
As I discovered, Square One is the real deal from its selection of the vodka’s ingredients, the manner how it is processed, to how it is packaged. But, the story does not stop there. Sustainability is also a core principal of the Company’s corporate practices. Square One® was started in April, 2006 by Allison Evanow, CEO of the company, along with her sister, Debbie, a leader in the banking industry, and Kimberly Charles, owner of Charles Communications Associates, a respected PR firm. They were determined to show the liquor industry that you can combine social responsibility with social fun. Allison’s background, although unusual, has given her a unique perspective on what it takes to make a quality, good tasting organic vodka in an overly saturated market.
“When Allison Evanow talks to bar chefs about Square One® vodka, the first certified organic vodka to be made from 100% certified organic American rye, it’s not as sales rep to drink professional. It’s as bartender to bartender. While Evanow was getting her MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, she worked on the business side of the bar and learned what it takes to please an ever-changing mix of first-time visitors and long-time regulars. And while her successful career in wine and spirits marketing may have taken her out from behind the bar, she still creates her own cocktail recipes at home,” according to the Company.
So, why did Allison choose to make vodka organically rather than another type of liquor? Allison explained that due to its popularity, purity, and flexibility in mixed drinks, vodka was the most obvious spirit to manufacturer organically.
However, in order to make the best possible quality vodka and be environmentally responsible as well, you have to start at literally square one, hence the name of the Company.
Allison, as a self- described “foodie,” knew that in order to accomplish her two goals you had to use the freshest and purist organic ingredients and eliminate the use of chemical additives, genetically modified yeast, and synthetic de-foaming agents, which are typically used in conventional vodka fermentation.
She challenged her Company to be environmentally responsible from the ground up. The end results are the following environmental attributes:
- All ingredients in the production of the liquor are organic. The organic rye is grown in North Dakota. The water comes from the Teton Range, and all organic nutrients are used for the fermentation process.
- All production takes place within a100 foot radius since the distillery is in Idaho, and the water drawn from the an aquifer feed by the Snake River watershed of the Teton Range of Wyoming, which is located beneath the distillery. Producing the product in one place provides the Company with complete control over the end product.
- Fermentation process is certified organic by Oregon Tilth and USDA National Organic Program. In order to receive OTC certification, 95% of the material and methods used in the fermentation process must be organic.
- All by products of the rye fermentation do not go to waste but are used by a local farm as cattle feed.
- No harmful acid-dipped or screen printed glass is used, which is commonly used in the industry. Direct screen-printed bottles almost always employ petroleum-based inks which are harmful to the environment.
- The distillery is partially wind-powered from locally generated power.
- The easy to remove labels are made of Fassoon® Tree-Free Facestock labels made from bamboo, bagasse (sugar cane), and cotton.
- Use of Supreme Corq, the only taint free “cork” allowed under organic certification rules.
- All marketing materials are created on New Leaf paper through GreenerPrinter. Both New Leaf and GreenerPrinter are certified green businesses and use 100% wind power in the productions of their products.
- The Company has designed a beautiful bottle to encourage reuse as a vase with easy to remove labels rather than creating more energy to recycle it.
- The vodka is shipped in chlorine-free partially recycled paper cartons printed only with soy based inks.
- Company supports green events and organizations through an extensive donation program for the Environmental Media Association Awards and Global Green benefits to small local launches, and green galas.
- The use of carbon-offsets for air travel.
- At all of their event, the use of Bio banners, a biodegradable PVC for its banners, and compostable cups.
Despite the above laundry list of green accomplishments, the Company quickly pointed out to me that they are not as green as they would like to be. This revelation is not surprising coming from the all-women leadership of Square One® where “good” is not enough in a male dominated arena.
Their bottle is not made out of recycled glass since they were limited to companies who would supply their low minimum needs. Additionally, the Company’s distillery does not yet have the equipment to apply recyclable aluminum capsules. However, despite these challenges, the Company is committed to addressing all the ongoing facets of its environmental impact.
One pressing question I had was, despite the Company’s wonderful environmental attributes, was the vodka’s taste good enough to be bought by consumers who could care less if it was organic? When I posed this question to Allison, she explained what makes Square One®so special.
“Rye is generally considered to be somewhat more robust in flavor than corn vodka and wheat vodka. It is a complex grain in that it has a much higher protein and fiber content than many of the other grains, and thus it is harder to coax out the sweetness.But when using certified organic fermentation processes, we were able to keep the nutty flavor of the rye with the slight spiciness, while giving it a silky, almost sweet front palate.”
I can’t give my expert opinion since I am not a drinker so I have to turn to the experts to see how they rate Square One. The Wine Enthusiast’s editors gave it a 90-95 out of 100 rating, which means superb, highly recommended and noted:
“A very attractive bouquet with tropical fruit and floral aromas with a grainy, mildly spicy core fragrance of rye. The palate entry is dry to off-dry, intensely grainy and oily; the midpalate offers a dash of prickly heat along with tastes of crackers, breakfast cereal and bread. Finishes warm, grainy, spicy and rich.”
Square One received four out of five stars from highly acclaimed F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal. In addition, it received a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Both recommendations were reported in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Character of the Company
This Company is a square trying to fit in a round world where bottom line profit and loss statements are more important than quality. Although the cost to produce organic vodka, in order to comply with the Company’s environmental policy, is far more expensive than common place vodka, the Company decided that in order to be competitive they will lower their margin of return and eat some of the cost. How many Companies are willing to do that in this day and age?
Although every product is branded by its marketing and quality of the product, the stewardship of the company is molded by the philosophy of the founders. As a female CEO, Allison also started from square one in structuring the Company’s corporate practices and beliefs. Quality over quantity is the root belief of the Company according to Allison.
In addition, she is committed to maintaining its female majority ownership and is preparing to donate a certain percentage of the Company’s profits to nonpolitical environmental causes. Although the bottom line is important, Allison’s beliefs are that giving back is just as important as corporate growth.
One practice that really stands out in my opinion is Allison’s determination to help create a balance for her employees of their work and personal lives by offering job sharing, flextime, and virtual office options. Having been there herself working the fifty plus hours, Allison decided quality of life for her employees would make her company far more productive than the antiquated inflexible corporate America business model.
Where can you Order Square One?
A bottle of Square One® costs $30-$35. A bottle is a 750 milliliter bottle, and can be purchased at the following retailers or distributors or found at certain bars. In addition, it can be purchased online.
Listed on the Site is a compilation of cocktail mixes created by Allison and Mixologist, H. Joseph Ehrmann for your enjoyment.