jack rabbit hill red wine bottle with red wine in a glass looking out into the dessert

A Campfire Tale: Nation’s First Bottle Reuse Program for Spirits Gets Media Love

Campfire Content treasures companies and people devoted to improving the planet. We champion efforts to reduce plastic. To regenerate soil. To mitigate energy use, fight global warming and fortify the natural world.

So naturally, we were thrilled to help Jack Rabbit Hill Farm broadcast the good news about its vodka bottle reuse program, the first of its kind in the nation.

Jack Rabbit Hill Farm Wine bottle with wine glass next to it sitting on a wood rail with grass and mountains in the background.
A delicious Pinot noir from Jack Rabbit Hill Farm

Jack Rabbit Hill began nearly 20 years ago in Hotchkiss, Colorado, a remote patch of the state south of Grand Mesa and Grand Junction. It started as a vineyard, and soon became Colorado’s first biodynamic winery. Then the founder, the thoughtful visionary Lance Hanson, opened a distillery, leveraging fruit from the area’s organic orchards as well as from his own vineyards to craft exquisite brandies, vodka and gin. Lance then opened a cidery, offering Coloradans what we think is the finest cider in the state.

Lance works hard to cut back on waste, and to make sure his agriculture enriches the soil, rather than just stealing from it.

He farms biodynamically. He relies on wild yeasts for fermentation. He started the state’s first kegged wine program, which now is the most ambitious of its kind in Colorado. 

Bottle waste served as the inspiration for the kegged wine program. Rather than relying upon new bottles for every ounce of wine, he hoped restaurants would take to serving house wines from kegs. Lance’s gamble paid off — the program is immensely popular.

But then there was his booming spirits business. All bottles, all the time. Lance researched kegging spirits, but learned that federal law forbid the practice.

Then he started thinking about the old milk-delivery services, where dairies would arrive at customers’ front door with gallons of milk. Waiting on the porch for the delivery people were empty milk bottles. The delivery people would pick up the old bottles and drop them off at the dairy, where they would get cleaned and reused.

Would the law prevent Lance from retrieving his empty bottles of MEll Vodka from client bars and restaurants, cleaning them, and reusing the bottles?

MEll Vodka was Lance’s most commercial product, a straightforward vodka meant for bar wells (MEll is WEll spelled upside-down). If he could make the program work for this popular product, Lance knew it would be fairly simple apply it so his more artisan, craft gin and brandies.

Research led Lance to understand nobody else in the United States was pursuing a bottle reuse program for spirits. Surely, he thought, somebody had thought of it. The practice, he assumed, must be illegal.

But it wasn’t.

Lance designed crates designed for the nation’s first spirits bottle reuse program, and began pitching the idea to accounts. Some of his more prominent clients, such as The Kitchen Bistros in Denver and Boulder and a well-regarded restaurant group, signed up.

That’s when Campfire got involved.

We began working with Lance to understand the arc of the program’s story, and drafted editorial content. And then we began thinking about reporters and editors that might find the program interesting. We believed local media might would be intrigued. Straight away, the state’s leading magazine, 5280, said they would like to cover it. So did the local CBS affiliate.

Then we pitched an editor contact at Food & Wine magazine. She immediately sent the pitch to a reporter, and within days the piece lived on the Food & Wine website. 

As that piece was getting ready for publication, we pitched a longtime food writer at the New York Times. She loved it, and ran the piece a few weeks after receiving the pitch.

Lance’s reuse program began thriving just weeks after its launch. Now, he is working to establish the program with all of his spirits, including gin and a line of high-end brandies.

The campaign was a triumph. It revolved around one key factor — the story. Lance has long committed his business to sustainability. Nobody else, surprisingly, had started a bottle reuse program. Reuse had become a trending term.

The message? Recycling is better than nothing. But reuse, which leaves nearly zero carbon footprint, is best.

This all led to quite a crush of excellent press coverage, pleasing both Jack Rabbit Hill and Campfire Content immensely.

It is our job to find the story. To shape it into something compelling and colorful. To work closely with media, and find editors and reporters for whom the story would likely resonate. 

This is what we do.

As lifelong storytellers (Doug spent nearly 25 years working in newspaper and magazine newsrooms), we thrill to the work.

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