New spirit drink aimed at non-drinkers
Silk Tree is a clear non-alcoholic spirit that can be paired with a mixer or used in a cocktail
Andrew Oates and Tracy Cassidy: Silk Tree is the brainchild of these business and life partners and was inspired by the growing popularity of botanical gins
Between novel twists on craft beers and firsts such as Irish single malt vodka and golden rum, the drinks sector here is positively hopping with innovation. But spare a thought for the non-drinker fed up sipping water on a night out. Is anyone out there going to create a grown-up tipple for them? The short answer is yes. It’s called Silk Tree and it’s a clear non-alcoholic spirit that can be paired with a mixer or used to add another taste layer to a cocktail.
Their drink is made in a traditional copper still and infused with herbs and spices such as cinnamon, coriander, lemon verbena and juniper berries. It has no artificial sweeteners, flavours or preservatives and the founders were helped in their quest for an original taste by plant experts from the Knockvicar Organic Garden in Boyle who “shared invaluable insights on the provenance of certain herbs and berries and how they blend together”, Cassidy says.
Silk Tree Botanics was set up in late 2017 and its first product was launched just over a year ago. Additional flavours are in development with the assistance of Teagasc and two more will be on the shelves by the middle of next year.
Finding a suitable manufacturer was a big challenge for these budding drinks entrepreneurs as distilling a spirit from almost 100 per cent water (the product has 0.05 ABV) is a lot more difficult than distilling one from alcohol, Cassidy says. “It’s a whole new process and it took us months to find someone willing to take it on, but the product is now being made for us by Old Carrick Mill Distillery in Carrickmacross which produces small batch Irish gin.” The lemon verbena for the drink is being grown at the Knockvicar organic garden.
Silk Tree Botanics has participated in the SuperValu Food Academy and its launch product is available in about 20 stores in the Leinster region as well as in speciality food stores, independent off-licences and a growing number of bars and restaurants around the country. It retails at €35 a bottle and Cassidy recommends trying it “neat” with a citrus tonic water or ginger ale or in a Silk Tree Expresso cocktail – the recipe for which is on the company’s website.
Cassidy and Oates are frank about their reasons for going the non-alcoholic route. “We decided to take a break from alcohol as we were losing too much precious time dealing with hangovers,” Cassidy says. “However, we still wanted to be part of social settings where alcohol is consumed. We found all that was on offer were sugary fizzy drinks, sweet artificial ‘mocktails’ or sparkling water. We felt like we stood out as the boring non-drinkers while bartenders were putting all their love into making delicious alcoholic drinks.
“Nowadays, people are looking for a variety of options when not drinking alcohol and want something more complex and more interesting,” Cassidy adds. “Our product is very different to anything that’s out there and we are well ahead of the curve in this totally new drinks category.”
Both founders come from commercial backgrounds and have combined expertise in business development, marketing and sales. Cassidy also has prior experience of working with startups. To date they have invested about €50,000 in their business which has also had support from Local Enterprise Office Dublin. The founders are participating in the Bord Bia Foodworks programme which is focused on helping businesses to scale and prepare for investment and progression into export markets. Silk Tree Botanics is now in fundraising mode and looking to raise €250,000 to fund the next phase of its development.