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.”

Clarenvill­e Packet

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