Wild Eve Botanical Infusion No 1

Those who choose to eschew alcohol for whatever reason deserve a range of options as flavoursome and as similar a quality and calibre as those available to those of us who prefer to relax with an alcoholic drink. That goes without saying and, at long last, the emergence of the no-lo (no or low alcohol) drinks market as one of the hottest in the food and beverage sector is a welcome and long overdue development.

Not content with creating ersatz nolo equivalents of alcoholic beverages some are ploughing their own furrow by creating unique, hand-crafted, artisanal drinks designed not only to showcase the range, flavour, and power of carefully selected botanicals but also to demonstrate that they can be harnessed to produce a delicious and satisfying drink. One such is award-winning apothecary and herbalist, Amanda Saurin, with her Wild Eve Botanical Infusion no 1.

Based on the Isle of Harris in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides Saurin uses as her palate the wealth of interesting plants that flourish on the island. These include the heather on the mountains, the scented clover, roses, thistles, and meadowsweet, the white flowers of the Bogbean that proliferate around the island’s small lochs known as lochans, the honeysuckle clinging on to the rocks and the Sugar Kelp in the clear sea. She forages them on her walks across the island.

Saurin’s aim was to create a create a complex drink that is suggestive of alcohol but without a drop of it in the making, one that delivers on heat, length, and taste. The dry lingering bitterness of the drink is imparted by the herbs, the heat by spices, the floral notes by roses and honeysuckle, brightness by the citrus, earthiness by the tannins, and a sense of calm and well-being from the chamomile, oat tops, and Ashwaganda, otherwise known as winter Cherry, the only botanical she uses that cannot be grown on the island. The taste is pure plant, low in sugar, designed to revive, refresh, and regenerate.

The aroma is highly perfumed and scented, unsurprisingly as Saurin started out to develop a drink that was initially tempting and inviting. This gives way to the rich, floral and spicy notes which give the infusion its body and complexity before giving way to a deliciously protracted aftertaste that lingers long after you have swallowed the drink down. I was surprised by its bite, a salty acidity that is testament to the winds that roar off the Atlantic and imbue the plants with their saline residue. It worked well with a dash of tonic, but I preferred it in its unadulterated tawny red state, with a little ice.

The bottle is impressive, a squat angular piece of glass with a broad shoulder, and a small neck that leads to a golden brassy coloured screwcap. What catches the attention, though, aside from its colour, is the stunning image on the front of a young red-haired girl bedecked in a garland of flowers with the stunning scenery of Harris in the background.   

Stunning, different, complex and a testament to Saurin’s craft and knowledge as this drink is, I do wonder, once the novelty has subsided, whether people are really going to pay over £30 for a 50cl bottle of what is essentially a soft drink. I suspect not and that, unfortunately, it may linger on the top shelves of upmarket hotels gathering dust. That would be a shame. Sustainability and innovation should command a price but in these taxing times Wild Eve is going to be a challenging sell.

Until the next time, cheers!

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