Environmentally friendly rum

Why use sugar beet?

Aside from the obvious (it tastes wonderful), there are many good reasons to use sugar beet molasses for our spirit rather than the traditional sugar cane.

Closer to home

The biggest and simplest reason to use sugar beet is that we are a UK based distillery, so to produce rum, we would need to ship large quantities of product from very far away. To make rum in the UK, the raw sugar cane itself (bulky), the molasses (heavy) or the finished rum like a lot of UK rum producers do, would need to be transported over a great distance; the reason for this is that sugar cane is not a native crop to the UK and does not thrive in this climate… unlike sugar beet.

To keep things simple, here’s a table comparing the distance that our molasses travels, compared to other imported raw materials.

*For balance, we will only compare the importation of molasses and raw cane, not finished product, as they are not distilleries.

It’s clear to see the difference in CO2 emissions between importing raw materials and using those grown on British soil, and that is just a result of transportation… what about the crop itself?

Few commodities have a darker history than sugarcane. A labour-intensive monocrop that once relied on slavery, it has more recently encompassed child labour, land-grabs [3] and the displacement of communities [4].

The Guardian

Sugar Cane vs Sugar Beet

Sugar Cane


Sugarcane production often pollutes freshwater ecosystems with silt and fertilizers washed from farms, as well as plant matter and chemical sludge from mills. In the Great Barrier Reef and Mesoamerican Reef, those contaminants are flowing out to sea and damaging coral ecosystems. [5]


Silt from eroded soils and nutrients from applied fertilizers often foul water supplies. Sugarcane processing also creates effluents that flow into water and damage important ecological areas. Water quality concerns have prompted a reduction in production in certain areas, with production consequently intensified and expanded onto sandy soils. Because such soils are easily leached, production can only be maintained over time with increasing applications of fertilizer. [13]

Industrial Waste

Sugar mills produce wastewater, emissions and solid waste that impact the environment. The massive quantities of plant matter and sludge washed from mills decompose in freshwater bodies, absorbing all the available oxygen and leading to massive fish kills. In addition, mills release flue gases, soot, ash, ammonia and other substances during processing. [13]

Soil Erosion And Degradation

Land laid bare in preparation for cane planting is stripped of any protective cover, allowing the soils to dry out. This impacts overall microorganism diversity and mass, both of which are essential to fertility. Additionally, exposed topsoil is easily washed off of sloping land, with nutrients leached from the topsoil. Further, the continual removal of cane from the fields gradually reduces fertility and forces growers to rely increasingly on fertilizers.[13]

Habitat Loss

Some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet have been cleared for sugarcane production. A dozen countries around the world devote 25 percent or more of all their agricultural land to the production of sugarcane. [13]

Thirstier than you

It 213 takes Gallons of water required to produce a pound of refined cane sugar. That’s almost nine gallons per teaspoon. [5]


Sugarcane farming has fuelled deforestation in some of the world’s most threatened ecosystems—including Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which once covered a massive area but has been reduced to just 7% of its original size. Growers will need to cultivate almost 50% more land by 2050 to meet projected global sugarcane demand. [5]

Sugar cane farms have been the biggest driver of deforestation in Brazil and they are particularly damaging to rainforest areas because they use up a lot of water in the soil. [14]

Burn it down

Not to mention, the harvesting of sugar cane relies on a process called ‘slash and burn’, by which the whole field of sugar cane is set on fire before harvesting (often by hand). Unsurprisingly, this process increases the crop’s CO2 emissions by 20%. [6] This is also a huge concern for the many animals that decide to make their home deep inside the sugar cane fields.

Sugar Beet

Nutrition from the soil, energy from the sun

With its long roots, which can extend as far as two metres into the ground, sugar beet is efficient at utilising the nutrients found in the soil. This reduces the need for fertilisation. Sugar beet haulm can be compared to a solar collector that converts the sun’s energy into sugar. [7]

Good for the land

Sugar beet is also an effective way to maintain agricultural land. The beets are grown using crop rotation and continue to grow in the autumn after other crops have been harvested. Growing sugar beet in a field that is otherwise used for cereals is a natural way of reducing the amount of weeds and preventing plant diseases. [8]

Uses less water

Sugar beet is 96% rain fed which means little or no irrigation is required, saving on valuable water resources. [8]

Good for birds

Sugar beet fields create important resources for wildlife, in particular rare species of bird such as pink footed geese which feed on remaining beet tops.

After the sugar beet harvest from September to February, many birds are attracted to the remaining beet tops for food. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) emphases that UK sugar beet production supports “internationally important populations of pink-footed geese and nationally important populations of stone curlews.” It is often “associated with a uniquely high wildlife conservation benefit.” [9]

During autumn and winter, more than a quarter of the world’s population of pink-footed geese feed and forage on sugar beet tops and stubble in eastern England. Other species further supported by the crop include the Skylark, Golden Plover, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, House Martin and various breeds of swan.

Uses less chemicals

Compared to most arable crops, sugar beet receives only small doses of mineral fertilizer, and for much of the season the crop grows by scavenging the soil for recently mineralised nitrates. Therefore, after harvest, most beet fields contain little nitrate

It is also estimated that sugar beet would leave an average of 33 kgN/ha, of which only 3 kgN/ha would leach. In comparison, studies on cereal crops show that their losses can often be 10-20 times larger than this. [10] Because most beet is grown on well drained soil, very few beet fields have water on the boundary during summer and clearly this affects the risk that pesticides will harm fish. In England hedgerows are still the most common field boundary in beet growing areas.

Grown in the UK

Today the UK produces over 7.4 million tons of sugar beets. [11] The wider UK industry that manufactures sugar generates sales of 740 million British pounds. Wholesalers selling sugar, sugar confectionery, and chocolate in the UK made over eight billion British pounds in sales. [12]

Is it vegan?

Sugar Cane

Sugar cane production uses bovine bone char in the process of turning sugar cane into sugar. As molasses is a result of this process any rum made from molasses (all except Rhum Agricole) cannot claim to be vegan friendly.

What is bone char?

Bone char, widely known as “natural carbon”, is a product made from the bones of cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. Cow’s bones are then traded and sold as bone char to sugar factories all over the world to process sugar. Sugar manufacturers use bone char in sugar processing and refining because it acts as a decolourising filter for sugarcane to achieve the desired white coloured sugar. [15]

Sugar Beet

Beet sugar never involves the use of bone char because sugar beet juice is far easier to refine and process compared to cane juice, making it a vegan-friendly option. [15]




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eco friendly rum uk