Air Co. cofounders CEO Gregory Constantine and CTO Stafford Sheehan
Vodka shouldn’t be sometimes afforded the identical cachet as extra high-brow spirits like bourbon or cognac. It’s likelier to drum up photos of fraternity events (and hangovers). Now a brand new startup referred to as Air Co. is seeking to elevate the beverage by way of its new sustainable distillery in Brooklyn. They usually aren’t producing your typical vodka: as an alternative of utilizing fermentation, the corporate’s patented know-how converts carbon dioxide emissions into beverage-grade ethanol. The ultimate product is a premium vodka that removes one pound of carbon dioxide from the environment per bottle.
“Slightly than going to the commodity market with the ethanol that we have been creating, we appeared on the worth proposition from the worth level of the place high-purity ethanol is highest,” explains CEO Gregory Constantine, who cofounded the corporate alongside CTO Stafford Sheehan. “And it simply so occurs that man-made vodka is the place that premium is.”
As we speak, Air Co. got here out of stealth after two years of analysis and growth to announce their first client product (later they plan to increase to perfumes and different consumer-facing ethanol-based merchandise). Due to the manufacturing course of, the corporate claims that its vodka is amongst the purest accessible.
Sitting down with cofounders Constantine and Sheehan is loads like assembly the real-life odd couple. Constantine, who beforehand led musical and cultural advertising and marketing for Diageo’s Smirnoff, has billowing curly hair and appears the a part of a new-age vodka founder. In the meantime Sheehan, who beforehand spent years in labs acquiring a chemical physics Ph.D. from Yale College, touts thick glasses and appears extra snug speaking about synthetic photosynthesis and carbon dioxide conversion. However by some means, it really works.
Stafford Sheehan works on the corporate’s carbon dioxide to ethanol conversion equipment.
The duo met at a Forbes Underneath 30 Summit in 2017 (that they had beforehand made the Advertising and marketing & Promoting and Power lists, respectively), they usually bonded over their needs to construct a purpose-driven firm. On the time Sheehan was the CEO of Catalytic Improvements, an organization that spun out from his analysis at Yale and had not too long ago pivoted to promoting anti-corrosion coatings for oil pipelines.
“Whereas that work is essential, my coronary heart was extra within the carbon dioxide conversion house,” Sheehan informed Forbes. “So on the facet I used to be engaged on carbon dioxide conversion and, after we met, I wished to get extra into preventing local weather change on a much bigger scale than tinkering in a laboratory.”
Because it seems, Constantine’s work with Smirnoff gave him the proper approach to try this: vodka made purely from carbon dioxide and water.
The Air Co. distillery now has a meticulously thought-out provide chain. The core of that’s beginning with carbon dioxide captured from a neighborhood polluter (if you happen to’re importing air pollution, it defeats the aim). A few of their sources are literally different distillers, as carbon dioxide is a byproduct of fermentation, the standard manufacturing methodology for many alcohol.
Nevertheless it goes past that: Air Co.’s petite machines run solely on solar energy, as an alternative of pure gasoline, that’s primarily equipped from the photo voltaic panels that line their roof. And, for now, they’re preserving distribution native and planning to arrange outpost distilleries in markets all through the US to maintain carbon emissions from distribution as little as potential. Their vodka will be discovered all through New York at retailers and locations like BondSt, Gramercy Tavern and Chinese language Tuxedo.
Each founders do admit that it has been laborious to be taken critically as they toe the road between making a deeply scientific innovation and producing a vice product. Neither sustainability buyers nor alcohol buyers really obtained the product at first. For now, they’re counting on a small seed spherical with a watch on a Sequence A.
“When you have got one thing that is so new, it’s laborious. It simply takes time to teach folks,” says Constantine. “However what [Sheehan] has been in a position to do is really, really progressive: making a liquid that’s eradicating carbon from the environment.”