Ben Branson - Seedlip
What is Seedlip classified as and how would you describe the taste of each flavors?
Seedlip is the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit. It’s a novel product. We aren’t trying to mimic the flavors of existing alcoholic options, but rather provide the same ritual and experience. Seedlip’s range of expressions show the varying flavors of nature:
Seedlip Spice 94 is a warm, aromatic blend of Allspice berries & Cardamom. Uplifting notes of Grapefruit & Lemon peels balance the long bitter finish from Oak & Cascarilla bark.
Seedlip Garden 108 is a bright, herbal blend of Peas, Hay & Hops. A complex base character of traditional garden herbs, including Rosemary, Thyme & Spearmint, round out this rather savory expression.
Seedlip Grove 42 is a sophisticated, bright, citrus blend of Blood Orange, Bitter Orange & Mandarin. Balanced by zesty Ginger root, Lemongrass & Lemon peel, & a cool prickle from Japanese Sansho Peppercorn
What road or roads led you to where you are today?
Seedlip is a product of my upbringing. My mother’s side has been farming in England for nine generations – over 300 years. My father has been in the design industry for over 40 years. Seedlip is the embodiment of my obsession with the natural world, flavor and design.
In 2013, I came across a book written in 1651 called The Art of Distillation, which outlined herbal remedies – both alcoholic and not. Ever the tinkerer, I bought a small copper still online and began experimenting with herbs from my garden.
The process of taking ingredients and using distillation to capture their flavour and aroma in liquid form was magical. Slowly but surely, evenings and weekends turned into an obsession, to travelling up and down the country visiting Botanical Gardens, natural history museums, libraries, and beginning the delusional, naïve belief that maybe a distilled non-alcoholic spirit could change the way the world drinks and shine a light on a 360-degree approach to hospitality where no one is forgotten.
How do you respond to people when they say that Seedlip is the trailblazing AF spirit in the non-alcoholic world?
I’m flattered. When Seedlip was first introduced to the world in 2015, there were certainly mixed reactions. It’s been incredible to see such a shift in recent years where non-alcoholic options are being given the proper time and attention. It’s just good hospitality to have an elevated option for someone who might not be drinking, whatever the reason, however long.
What is a major setback that the company has encountered and how did you all overcome that?
There have been so many. I signed up for the wrong tax scheme when we launched, I’ve made bad hires, I’ve missed meetings, flights and even didn’t fully check the details of an event I was asked to bartend at, which turned out to be a children’s birthday party! Mistakes are par for the course I think, especially when creating something new and doing it at the pace we operate. I hope the difference we have brought to our work ethic and culture has been how we respond and crucially what we do next.
Was it a hard decision to get acquired by Diageo?
Diageo acquired a minority stake in Seedlip in June 2016 and a majority stake in August 2019. I’ve not had a day of regret since! To have the world’s largest premium spirits company in your corner when you are trying to scale a movement is a must.
This may be like picking your favorite child, but what is your favorite flavor?
It varies by season! The fresh green notes of Seedlip Garden 108 are perfect in the Spring or outside in the Summer. Seedlip Grove 42 is a brilliant and zesty all year round. Right now, in Winter, it’s Seedlip Spice 94 – the blend lends itself so well to warm aromatic flavours; the perfect festive profile.
What is a must have ingredient and barware that everyone should have in their home?
If you have citrus and a jigger then there is a lot you can do!
Citrus juice is great for bringing both acidity to a drink, as well as the peel for a garnish. A jigger just ensures you can measure accurately. Before Seedlip I had no idea what a jigger was, but now I wouldn’t make a drink without one.
Where do you see the alcohol-free world going in the future?
When Seedlip launched there was no category, there was no movement, there were no books, no podcasts, no alcohol-free bars, no one writing or talking about it, and no menus or shelves offering people choice.
Now, five years in, there is an emerging and dynamic ecosystem that surrounds this movement. There are over 125 products in this space, there are books, talks, events, festivals, bars, interviews, menus and shelves. It’s exciting! I feel like we are just getting started and 2021 will be a momentous year for us as a business as we continue to lead this movement through quality, flavour and more pioneering action!