Sober lockdown: Why Scots are going wild for alcohol-free spirit Feragaia

Bill Garnock, co-founder of Scotland’s first distilled alcohol-free spirit, tells Nadia Vidinova about the success behind the product and the best ways to drink it.

As the “free-from” food and drink trend continues to gain followers, you may have heard of alcohol-free wine, Prosecco and beer aimed at those who want to reduce their drinking for health reasons or because of stricter drink-driving laws.

A recent survey by Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK also showed that more than a million drinkers in Scotland have cut down or become teetotal during lockdown, with sales of alcohol substitutes growing.

If you are one of those people, you can now expand your inventory by having Scotland’s first distilled alcohol-free spirit Feragaia delivered to your door.

Launched in Fife by business partners Bill Garnock and Jamie Wild in August 2019, it’s name means “wild earth”, with fera in Latin meaning “wild” and “gaia” in Greek mythology translating to “earth”.

Feragaia has been taking the country by storm with more than 100 restaurants, hotels and independent shops stocking in Scotland before the lockdown.

Jamie Wild (left) and Bill Garnock.

A blend of 14 land and sea botanicals including chamomile, seaweed, blackcurrant and bay leaf, Feragaia is amber in colour and its taste is described as a cross of whisky, mescal and kombucha– although Bill is keen to stress that it is a unique product as opposed to an alcohol-free version of existing spirits.

“Our ambition is for it to be known as Scotland’s alcohol free-spirit and for people to know what others mean when they say ‘it tastes like Feragaia’,” said Bill.

“We wanted to create something completely independent and unique, rather than a non-alcoholic, lesser version of an existing product such as gin or whisky.

“Feragaia is also different from other alcohol-free drinks, which have their alcohol removed during the production process. Feragaia doesn’t actually contain alcohol at any stage, but is otherwise distilled with traditional methods, similar to how an alcoholic spirit would be.

“The simplest way to drink it is with tonic or ginger ale, or you can use it to make alcohol-free cocktails, such as a wild gorse Mojito”. (For the recipe, scroll down to the end of the article).

Time to make your own Wild Gorse Mojito.⁣⁣Gorse flowers:⁣⁣☀️ Great time of year to forage ⁣🌴 Prominent coconut aroma⁣🥃 Compliments the complex taste of Feragaia ⁣🇬🇧 Available across the UK⁣⁣Wild Gorse Mojito Recipe. Created by outdoorsman @tristancameronharper⁣- 50ml Feragaia⁣- 15ml lime juice⁣- 10 gorse flowers⁣- 5 mint leaves⁣- Tablespoon honey⁣- Topped with tonic⁣- Garnish – Gorse Flowers⁣⁣Watch out for the spikes and let us know what you think ⁣⁣Order today for free delivery 📦

Posted by Feragaia on Saturday, 9 May 2020

“The past eight months have been amazing, Feragaia has been very popular and was being stocked by more than 100 restaurants, hotels and shops around Scotland, and 30 in London.

“People like it because it’s a unique, premium product. It’s a treat as opposed to the standard juice and fizzy drinks you’d normally order if you weren’t drinking. Lockdown has affected us, but we’re coping as best as we can by offering online delivery to people’s homes, which has had quite a bit of uptake.”

Bill and Jamie, who have more than a decade of experience in the global spirits market between them, decided to create Feragaia after being inspired by Scotland’s existing distillery tradition but also the trend towards a reduction in alcohol consumption.

“With drink-drive laws meaning often at every table in a restaurant or bar there is a designated driver, we wanted to offer customers something different and exciting to drink, which still has the Made in Scotland label”, Bill added.

“I grew up in East Fife, in the Largo area, in the shadow of the world’s biggest distillers. I then went on to work in the USA in branding and business development, representing Scottish, Irish and English spirits brands.

“I wanted to expand that Made in Scotland message, so when I came back to Scotland Jamie and I looked at the market, at the existing distillery expertise here and the rapidly developing alcohol-free market.

“Although I drink alcohol myself, I can see the benefits of cutting down, and there is definitely a trend towards that, whether it’s for health reasons or because of the changes in drink-driving laws.

“It took about 18 months to develop a product that worked. Since we launched we’ve tried to grow steadily but sustainably. Feragaia is a premium product so our aim isn’t to be stocked in every supermarket – it’s about quality, not quantity.”

After lockdown was announced, Bill and Jamie launched a “frontline driver initiative” in early April. They asked people across Scotland to nominate drivers they know in their communities who are going the extra mile to support the wellbeing of others.

They then sent them goodie bags including a 50cl bottle of Feragaia, along with bottles of tonic and ginger ale to help them keep refreshed while on the road.

So far they have given out more than 120 driver packs to a range of workers across Tayside, from ambulance drivers and carers of the elderly delivering medication and essential food, to post men and women helping people stay connected.

“We wanted to give something back to the community”, said Bill.

“The local community has supported Feragaia so we wanted to make sure the drivers, who are often forgotten, felt appreciated.”

Wild Gorse Mojito with Feragaia

  • 50ml Feragaia⁣
  • 15ml lime juice⁣
  • 10 gorse flowers⁣ (can be foraged)
  • 5 mint leaves⁣
  • 1 tbsp honey⁣
  • Topped with tonic⁣, to taste
  • Gorse flowers, to garnish
  1.  Mix together the above ingredients in a tall glass, add ice and garnish for added flourish, then enjoy.

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