“Not for the faint hearted”- the common phrase is used for something intense, not run of the mill and requiring a semblance of dare. So how does it translate to beverages? In case of alcoholic beverages we can think of a cask strength whisky, a nascent Grand Cru wine or an intense Vesper Martini. But what about non alcoholic beverages? This is where Seedlip 108- my recent muse filled the gap in a long time.
Gifted to me by a family friend from Italy, Seedlip is a non alcoholic distilled beverage from a UK based producer. It comes in two variants- Spice 94, and Garden 108 each of them with a distinctive range of aromas and flavours.
The botanicals in Seedlip Garden 108 are: Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, Hop, Garden Peas and Hay
The USP of Seedlip is having undergone the rigmarole of distillation sans alcohol. The producer claims it to be a range of the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits based on the distilled non-alcoholic remedies from “The Art of Distillation” written in 1651. They further amplify that Seedlip is not simply a dealcoholised spirit but the result of a a closely guarded bespoke process innovated by them.
Distillation versus Cold Compounding
So why distil a non alcoholic beverage? The answer lies in level of extraction possible from distillation vis-à-vis cold compounding (macerating crushed ingredients in a liquid). A common tendency is to associate distillation with spirits, but if we dip into our knowledge of high school chemistry, distillation is all about boiling a liquid and condensing the resultant vapours to get a pure product. The complex compounds of macerated materials are known to integrate tightly with the base liquid after having undergone distillation.Hence, distillation is associated with intense extraction of certain qualities, so much so, that the term has been metaphorically used since times immemorial.
The mind is like a richly woven tapestry in which the colors are distilled from the experiences of the senses, and the design drawn from the convolutions of the intellect.
– Carson McCullers , American Novelist
My Experience with Seedlip Garden 108
Being a beverages enthusiast, I was naturally excited to open the bottle of Seedlip Garden 108. The immediate instinct was to imbibe the aromas straight from the bottle. The first impression was as if I had ventured into a freshly harvested field. Fresh grass, de-shelled peas and mint were the instant aromas. To explore it further, I poured the drink into a Sake cup which brought the aromas closer to the nose, while at the same time opening them up further.
Commencing the sipping, I felt something amiss. The drink was lacking body! An understandable reaction from a person who is more adept at tasting alcoholic beverages. There was a subtle acidity to it, reminiscent of diluted lemon juice. In an overall sense, the palate was quite complex with its definitive spectrum of herbaciousness. The ensuing lingering finish made it a viable candidate for its purported pedigree.
Seedlip 108 had definitely had its impression on me, but not strong enough to partake of it on its own -at least in my first encounter with it. I therefore decided to use it in a cocktail that would add the lacking body yet retain its inherent flavours . My eureka moment came with its shaken combination with vodka and crème de cassis that made up for the missing piece .
But mixing a non alcoholic distillate with alcohol? Doesn’t it negate the whole premise of creating it at the first instance? Hence I revisited Seedlip on a muggy Delhi summer afternoon, pouring it again in my Sake cup. To my surprise, I found myself savouring the drink meditatively- soaking in each aroma and enjoying every bit, the interplay of flavours on the palate. Maybe my palate had realistic expectations of it this time around. Maybe it had grown on me in this short duration. All said and done, Seedlip 108 was here to stay.
I also went ahead with the producer’s recommendation of serving it mixed with tonic water and no wonder the combination worked great! I further modified it with 30 ml of Gin and it became even better.
USPs of Seedlip listed by the producer
Zero alcohol- zero calories
Free from allergens like gluten, fish, eggs, peanuts, nuts and nut derivatives etc
Sugar and sweetener free
First things first- Seedlip is aimed at people who don’t drink alcohol. It’s USP is in its purity and complexity not so commonly found in non alcoholic beverages. In my opinion it’s best usage will be as an aperitif at room temperature, or as the producer recommends it- to be mixed with tonic water. I found the tonic water version as the better proposition.
For alcohol drinkers, the drink will please only if expectations are set right. It is amply illustrated in my experience above. A lot of creativity may be possible on the cocktails front with Seedlip but there should be a good reason why one would not want to use similar alcoholic distillates or liqueurs. At the listed price of approx £ 28 on their website, it doesn’t come cheap either. Also, you have to consume it within 8 weeks once the bottle has been opened and stored unrefrigerated.
Another good use of Seedlip can be in cuisine, more particularly in molecular gastronomy where Seedlip’s flavours can add a definite edge to a preparation.
|Packaging:||(3.5 / 5)|
|Smoothness:||(4 / 5)|
|Complexity:||(4 / 5)|
|Value For Money:||(2.5 / 5)|
|Overall:||(3.5 / 5)|