Alcohol-free spirit Feragaia is spreading across the United States from its hometown in Glenrothes, Fife.
Inspired by a growing need for alcohol-free alternatives, founders Bill Garnock and Jamie Wild set up the brand back in 2018.
Bill used to work for alcohol companies, and has seen his own wellbeing increase since he started working with alcohol-free Feragaia.
“Destigmatising not drinking is A, increasing and B, important,” says Bill.
“I worked selling premium whisky, vodka, gin and rum and the perks of it were obvious.
“It was great to have all of these products within reach and have the ability to drink these fine things seven days a week.
“But this was definitely impacting my sleep, my general health and fitness. And I recognised at a young age, at 27, that this was the case and it was only going to become more of an issue I’d have to confront as I got older.
“Not to say I don’t still like a nice dram or beer or glass of wine. But now it’s in a lot more moderated fashion.”
Seeing Feragaia from Fife in Texas saloons is ‘surreal’
Feragaia, says Bill, offers himself and customers an alternative to alcohol – without sacrificing taste or quality.
“If you can educate customers that a product like Feragaia has that same level of craft, quality, ingredients and process as the drinks they enjoy already, but it’s alcohol and sugar free, their midweek treat can be a glass of Feragaia instead of a glass of wine,” says Bill.
Feragaia translates to “wild earth”, a suitable homage to the array of flavourful botanicals which are contained in the distilled zero-abv spirit.
The Fife drinks brand has now set its sights on America, with the product already being drunk in New York, Alabama, Oregon, Massachusetts, and the latest launch in Texas.
“We’re about 15 months into the US launch and it’s going really well,” adds Bill.
“For many Texans, it’s the first good non-alcoholic product that they’ve been introduced to.”
“We have achieved a lot,” he adds.
“It’s a surreal feeling to see the products which I say goodbye to in Glenrothes being enjoyed in a saloon in West Texas.
“I was in one of New York’s best steakhouses last night and there was a Feragaia cocktail on the menu.
“Seeing Feragaia rub shoulders on the shelves with some of the best brands in the world is something which inspires the team and I.
“But in this game, I feel like you’ve got to be further ahead than where you started in the beginning of the day. So it’s hard to enjoy the moment.”
How is Feragaia’s alcohol free spirit distilled?
Gregor Vimpany is the head distiller at Feragaia’s distillery in Glenrothes.
The distilling process is split in two, separating the hard and soft botanicals and currently Gregor does this solo in the chilly Fife warehouse. However, he says that it can get pretty hot when the still is running.
“It’s the exact same process as whisky – it’s distillation,” explains Gregor.
“You add a base liquid to the still, though in the case of whisky, that has grain in it.
“We don’t have barley or yeast, that’s why we’re no alcohol.
“But we’re quite similar to gin in that there’s lots of botanicals involved.”
There are a total of 14 botanicals used in the distilling process of the zero-abv spirit, including peppercorns, bay leaf and chamomile.
“Everything goes into the still and it gets fired up,” Gregor continues.
“Steam rises from the column, working to break down the botanicals – like the ginger, orange and peppercorns.
“Then the steam comes back down and hits the condenser. When the steam hits that – and the pipes of running cold water – it turns back into liquid.”
“We’ll do this over a space of four days, splitting the hard and soft botanicals.
“Peppercorns, orange, ginger and liquorice go in one day. Because they’re hard, dried components that are high in oils they will take about 22 hours of constant boiling over.
“And on another day we will use local herbs and flowers like camomile and blackcurrant leaves that we source from Dundee.
“These are a lot softer. So we have one really intense oily, ‘perfumey’ batch and one softer herby batch.
“They get blended on site on the final day.”
This process creates 2,000 litres a week, though they only run the process once a month.
This amounts to 2,800 bottles of Feragaia.
And in each of those bottles is the “subtle” flavour of Feragaia.
“It’s quite subtle and light when you taste it,” says chef turned distiller Gregor. “But for being quite light it lasts in your mouth.
“You might find that with a lot of non-alcoholic drinks and spirits, there’ll either be very fruity and sugary, or very harsh.
“Feragaia is very light. But then it hits you – the spiciness of the ginger, the bay leaf aromas and the orange.”
The recipe has been improved and “tweaked” since day one, says co-founder Bill.
“If you’ve been drinking every day for six years – which I hope everyone has – then you probably won’t notice as it’s been very gradual changes.
“I love our recipe, I’m very loyal to the botanicals which go into it. Native botanicals which I used to see as weeds in my garden in Scotland and I now have an undying affection for.
“Like bay leaves, lemon verbena leaves, kelp I see on the beach… What I love is that it brings together 14 very unique but confident botanicals which have never been put together before in a recipe.
“I think the recipe is very special. And I hope what we’ve created goes on to have a positive impact for generations to come.”