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The Art of Peas and Distillation

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  • Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip.
  • Seedlip currently offers two products: the herbal and floral Garden 108 and the aromatic Spice 94.

On February 15, 2018, the National Association of Flavors and Food-Ingredient Systems (NAFFS) hosted its winter meeting at Nanina’s in the Park in Bellville, New Jersey. This year’s meeting featured a focus on a new botanical-based beverage category, spearheaded by the founder of Seedlip, Ben Branson.

Branded as the “World’s First Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirit,” Branson shared his inspiration and strategy behind the award-winning distilled alcohol alternative. Inspired by a copy of The Art of Distillation by John French and his family's 300-year farming history, Branson quickly developed a following in this untapped market. Using natural ingredients, Seedlip mixers are also formulated without sugar, calories, sweetener and artificial flavors.

“I learned very early on the hard work that goes behind growing [crops.]” Branson recounted his passion for growing various kinds of herbs and vegetables. In the summer of 2013, he was actively searching for interesting ingredients outside of the traditional herbs. Using his love of natural history and food, Branson began his journey for unusual ingredients, where he discovered new ingredients, cookbooks and John French.

A physician in the 17th century, French discussed 200 ingredients for herbal remedies all using distillation. Using The Art of Distillation as a guide to experimentation with various herbs, Branson began his journey into distillation techniques.

What to drink when you're not drinking

The idea behind Seedlip came about when Branson discovered the limited choice of non-alcoholic beverages that were available in restaurants and bars. Typically, these mocktails are sweet and fruity, and also quite challenging to pair with a meal.

Simultaneously, teetotaling (abstaining from alcohol) has been on the rise in both the UK and the US. According to IWSR, Americans consumed less alcohol in 2016 compared to 2015. In the UK, alcohol consumption has been at its lowest at approximately 57%.

“It was kind of a moment of some of the dots joining: I’m doing this [distillation] at home, farming is difficult and I’ve wanted to find a way to keep the legacy alive by working with our land and our ingredients," Branson recounted. "[I wanted to do something about the fact that] if you’re not drinking, you cannot get a good non-alcoholic, well considered, complex option that feels right for the occasion."

Family values

Using his brand design expertise, his experiments at home and his family’s farming legacy, Branson began planting the seeds for his booming company. Inspired by a story told by his grandmother about farming life, the company was named after the baskets of seeds, or seedlip, used by farmers to plant crops by hand at the time.

“Granny nailed it. That’s a great name, taking things from a seed to a lip, and this is a nice little ode to my family’s background,” he explained.

Seedlip currently offers two products:

  • Garden 108: an herbal distillate containing peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary and thyme.
  • Spice 94: an aromatic blend of allspice, cardamom, oak, lemon, grapefruit and cascarilla

The alcohol alternatives provide a base for simple or complex cocktails that are easy to make at home, and in restaurants. Garden 108 and tonic was served at the meeting, garnished with a sugar snap pea. Spice 94 was served with ginger syrup and lime juice as a new take on a mule.

“For us, it all starts with great ingredients,” he explained. One of his favorite ingredients, peas, which is a star in Garden 109, are handpicked and go from soil to freezer in 90 minutes.

After two years of planning, Branson worked with Omega Ingredients to develop the first batch of a thousand bottles—which sold out in three weeks; and soon enough his stock began selling out in half an hour online. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and the UK, the Branson intends to expand in more regions to plant the seed of health and delight.

Seedlip is available in several internationally renowned cocktail bars, Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury hotels and retailers; as well as online at www.seedlipdrinks.com.