From the Arctic to your glass
Company converting local berg into premium alcohol
Suppose you’ve been running a marathon for a few hundred thousands years and you saw a landmark that indicated only three more months to go, you’d be relieved, right?
Well it’s a good thing icebergs aren’t scientists, because the landmark in question is the Green Water vessel towing a barge, with the intended goal of breaking down part of the iceberg to use as an ingredient in vodka.
Don’t feel too bad for the berg; the other option is to tread water until it slowly dissolves into saline solution.
This little ballet played out recently in the waters of Smith Sound, between Random Island and the Bonavista Peninsula, where a large iceberg grounded itself in the sheltered waters, making it an ideal candidate for Iceberg Vodka Corporation.
David Hood, operations director for Iceberg Vodka, said “We were there for about 10 days and that’s pretty much par for the course.
“There are a number of variables, but that particular iceberg was perfect for the type of operation we were doing. The iceberg itself has to be grounded and in a sheltered area. We were very fortunate this iceberg was where it was.”
Mr. Hood explained that particular berg measured to be about 500,000 metric tons, of which one million liters will be carved away, equal to roughly 1,000 tons of ice.
The process of locating an iceberg, determining the feasibility and then procuring and distilling is one that takes many months. For this particular project, the operation began in Port Union several weeks ago, where Icebergs Vodka’s contract vessel, ‘ The Green Water’ captained by Ed Kane, was moored before it set out.
From there, the vessel tows a barge alongside the berg, at which point the crew of the Green Water performs tests to ensure the stability of the berg.
Mr. Hood noted safety is the primary concern when working with blocks of ice bigger than jumbo jets.
“Much like a carnival claw,” an extractor on the barge scrapes ice from the berg and places it into holding tanks on the vessel, where they melt at an ambient temperature, never using heat.
Mr. Hood indicated “Mother Nature has given us a very good refrigerator. When measured in parts per quadrillion, there are no man-made contaminants in that water. The Centre for Cold Ocean Research has estimated what we get here in Newfoundland, about 15 thousand years worth of snow has fallen and melted away, so we are left with the heart of that iceberg.
“It’s the water that was made for us to drink.”
From the holding tanks, the water is moved to a tanker truck, then taken to St. John’s and mixed with a 96 per cent alcohol solution made from Ontario sweet corn – peaches and cream niblets to be precise – until the volume of the alcohol is reduced to 40 per cent.
From the time the barge begins to excavate, to the finished product hitting the shelves, the process takes roughly four months.
Mr. Hood said water from the Smith’s Sound berg should be hitting shelves in mid to late September.
Iceberg Vodka Corporation goes through 1.2 to 1.4 million liters of water every year, depending on demand, and procures its bergs from as far north as the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula down to Motion Bay, along the Southern Shore.
Stipulations state icebergs may not be harvested if they are in a designated tourism spot, and at no time is dynamite allowed to be used to split icebergs.
Iceberg Vodka must pay an annual fee and procure a license from the province’s Department of the Environment each year for the privilege of harvesting icebergs, while also documenting and reporting all of their efforts while on the ocean.
“We are a very proud Newfoundland and Labrador company. The importance is not in the distinction – having a special primary ingredient – but also utilizing the assets of the island and promoting that. It’s part of making a better product and a part of our heritage.”