The Truth About Non-Alcoholic Spirits.
When I started making Clovendoe non-alcoholic spirits, it was because I yearned for a non-alcoholic alternative myself. I had both the distilling skills and a passion and knowledge of plants, so it seemed an obvious solution to create my own product.
During my periods of pregnancy, breastfeeding and bouts of pausing from booze because of physical and emotional reasons, I noticed a disappointing lack of sophisticated, premium, complex alternatives to my usual tipple of vodkas and gins. Come 2017, new to the distilling industry and excited about exploring flavours and aromas; I began researching and experimenting with non-alcoholic spirits in my small copper pot still. I would fill the evening air with the most delectable aromas from my still throughout the months of 2017. By the end of this year, I realised I wanted to be part of encouraging conscious consumption. I want to solve the FOMO dilemma for those wishing and choosing to abstain. I saw a gap in the market that people deserved to have filled.
The difference between Clovendoe and many other non-alcoholic spirits on the market is that we meticulously hand pick and prepare our organic and fresh botanicals from the earth to still. We then quality check every bottle that we fill and label by hand. If the purpose of our business were to line our pockets, we would send a brief out to a flavour house and get a team of lab technicians to design recipes to mimic its mainstream alcoholic counterpart. But that is not our mission. Our mission is to produce premium, handcrafted low alcohol and zero-alcohol spirits with botanicals ethically sourced and where possible, procured locally.
So, what do I mean about a 'flavour house'? Well unfortunately many non-alcoholic 'spirits' you see on the shelves are not actually distilled or crafted at all by the brand. How does this work? Many brands are simply getting their products created by a team of technicians at flavour houses. The flavour house creates recipes out of a bunch of flavourings and additives and then ships the concoctions back to these brands to be bottled and labelled. These brands then use their clever marketing, branding and sales force to sell you what you want to hear. I liken it to the whole kids 'school-friendly' lunch box situation, where the products get labelled with appealing words and images, and the ingredients list is discreetly positioned at the back of the label and the consumer thinks they are getting a 'good for your body' product. Unfortunately, though, you are not getting what you think you are and the production and nutrition value of this so called 'spirits' are most likely not all that different to a soft drink. A massive proportion of the non-alcoholic spirits you are seeing on the market today are made and sold that way. It's really disappointing and there is very little 'spirit' about them.
Should they be allowed to classify these beverages as a 'spirit' when it's not primarily distilled, or at the very least somewhat distilled? What exactly are you paying good money for if it is full of flavourings, water, sugar, and sweeteners? At the end of the day, it's not all that different to a soft drink.
As a producer, I'm not having a rant to bad-mouth my competition; I just want true, healthy competition that can stand in integrity and transparency. I care about consumers not getting full transparency in a growing market in its early years. All this said, there are some excellent non-alcohol spirits out there, and I admire the true distillers who make them, and I hear this same complaint from all of them.
Here at Clovendoe, we are always happy to tell people what’s in the bottle. Why? Because we make our spirits with the highest quality ingredients. We chose integrity and passion as the driving force of our business. We will always stay as honest as we can be with our customers. You are not one of a million numbers on a graph or a spreadsheet. You deserve to know what you're putting into your body and where those flavours you are experiencing come from.
A passionate advocate for the non-alcohol category, Amy Armstrong from 'Dry but Wet' recently wrote a blog about this topic. She broke the non-alcoholic spirits category into two sections and made some brilliant observations that we legitimate craft distillers appreciate being made public. She labelled these two categories The Concoctions and The Craft Distillations. You can read it here Which is the best Non-Alcoholic Gin? | Dry But Wet
You can also listen to me talk more about it in this Meet the Maker Podcast: Episode 3: Catie Fry of Clovendoe Distilling Co (buzzsprout.com)