Driving to a pub one evening in 2018 to meet his longstanding friend Steve, Andrew started thinking about what to drink. Frustrated by the lack of alcohol-free options at that time, he thought “wouldn’t it be great if you could simply take the alcohol out of gin”.
Steve has worked in the food and drink industry for many years, so this ended up being the topic of conversation for the evening! Discussing what they wanted in their ideal distilled alcohol-free botanical drink and how to produce it, fired their enthusiasm and set them on their journey!
“We wanted to create a drink more sophisticated and adult than the soft drinks that were often the only choices,” says Steve. “A drink that could be savoured and sipped. A full unique grown-up flavour and drink experience without compromising on taste.”
As gin was their initial inspiration, they naturally headed towards juniper and citrus flavours. However, with no alcohol, they had to find a complex combination to compensate. They found that rather than just trying to imitate gin, they were able to create a bold, unique and flavoursome alcohol-free alternative that can hold its own against any premium alcoholic spirit.
When they tried some alcohol-free spirits, they were never sure if the flavour they were tasting was the mixer or the spirit. “The botanical flavours never seemed strong and complex enough” notes Andrew, “creating a full and flavoursome taste was key for us”.
They embarked on their journey into the alcohol-free world and set themselves a very clear remit:
- No alcohol was to be used in any part of the process
- All the flavour had to come from the natural ingredients being distilled
- No flavourings or sweeteners were to be added even if they were classified as "natural"
- The final spirit must have a bold, unique and distinctive taste that wasn’t washed away when mixed with a tonic or in a cocktail
- It had to be a drink that didn’t have to be “dressed up”
- It had to be a drink that you would savour and drink in the same way you would an alcoholic one
The duo has distilled a wide range of botanical ingredients, including herbs and spices, and were on the hunt to find a name that reflected the nature of the ingredients and our dependence on the natural world and the plants around us.
They decided on the name Herbarium. An herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens that is systematically filed and recorded with their scientific names. Steve commented “with our methodical and scientific approach to choosing and using our botanical ingredients, we believe the name Herbarium suits us perfectly.”
After lots of trial and error and many (28 to be exact) recipes being rejected, the 29th recipe was the breakthrough development distillation recipe in terms of flavour and nose profile that the pair wanted to achieve. After a few tweaks and many tasting sessions later, the final recipe for Herbarium Distillation 29 was ready. “We have to say the feedback has been amazingly positive along with the versatility of Herbarium with tonics, juices and mocktails” says Andrew.
“Our recipe is a closely guarded secret!” exclaimed Andrew, “but I can confirm it contains 11 botanicals with the key botanical flavours coming from juniper, spice, and citrus”.
“It’s important to note that Herbarium Distillation 29 is not designed to be drunk neat” remarked Steve, “it won’t taste very pleasant as a shot!”. It requires a mixer to act as a carrier for the flavour and to add the sweetness you lose when you don’t have alcohol. Unlike a lot of alcohol-free spirits, you only need a single measure of Herbarium Distillation 29, 25ml, as the flavour is designed to cut through the mixer.
On first sip, when prepared with a classic tonic, people can expect a full and satisfying taste with a unique balance of juniper, spice and citrus flavours with peppery notes to savour on the palate with a dry finish.