Air Co might just be bordering on alchemy. The Brooklyn-based distillery is making vodka out of air.
It sounds far-fetched, but it’s actually a process based on photosynthesis. Air Co’s equipment absorbs carbon dioxide, much like a plant does, and then splits the carbon and the oxygen as it draws in water. “We’ve invented a way to capture excess carbon from the air and turn it into ultra-refined, covetable products,” says Air Co. Using the sun as a power source, the whole process is done in such a way that the vodka is actually carbon negative. And to top it off, Air Co. co-founder Stafford Sheehan claims that a lot of the carbon dioxide they are harvesting is being produced by nearby competition that distills their spirits with traditional equipment. The process—electrochemical conversion—has been around for decades, but Air Co is the first to use it for large-scale production.
Sheehan, who is an electrochemist, also states that Air Co vodka is the purest you’ll find. Rather than starting with fermentation, which can introduce impurities like carbolic acid and methanols, Air Co creates ethanol by combining carbon dioxide with water. Then, using a “metal-based catalyst,” Air Co adds in their “secret sauce,” which takes the ethanol content from 10 percent to around 96 percent. Following a purification process, the vodka is diluted down to 80 proof. It is then hand-bottled and a removable and reusable label is applied. Air Co estimates that each bottle they produce pulls out the equivalent daily carbon intake of eight trees.
Air Co is offering their vodka for $65 a bottle through select New York establishments, with plans to widen out distribution in 2020. They’re also planning on increasing their product offering to include ethanol-based, carbon-negative cleaning products as well as potentially entering the fragrance industry.