Silk Tree was born when founders husband and wife team Andrew Oates and Tracy Cassidy realised their love affair with gin and tonic had run its course. They joined an ever-expanding social movement of like-minded people who wanted to take a break from drink to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. Tracy Cassidy shares how it came about that the couple created their our own gin alternative and the Silk Tree journey so far.
Tell me about Silk Tree Botanics…how it all started?
We were inspired to produce a non alcoholic spirit when we decided to take a break from alcohol for a while, as we felt we had reached a point where we were fed up of the hangovers, drinking home at wine four nights a week had become a habit and we felt we weren’t a very good example to our children who were coming of an age that noticed.
We loved the party lifestyle and when we did go out we really loved to get loaded but the after-effects were just getting worse, as the years when by. Anyway we decided to try an alcohol-free lifestyle for a while and joined an online group of like-minded people called One Year No Beer. We soon learned a great mechanism for getting over that Thirsty Thursday feel or End of the Week drink was to try out alcohol-free beers for example. We noted however there was a lack of tasty non-alcoholic sophisticated drinks that would replace that need for a nice gin and tonic or red wine.
We came upon the product Seedlip but found it didn’t quite hit the notes we were looking for so we set about creating our own gin alternative. Andrew had a history in the drinks industry and we had friends in the distilling business. So we bought ourselves a home distiller, bought an array of herbs and spices from our local markets and exchanged our wine drinking evenings for experimenting with various botanicals. As alcohol-loving people, we really wanted something that would taste good but also give you that hit and warmth to mimic the effect of alcohol and trick the mind. This is why we went with cinnamon and it is a good strong spicy flavour with a natural sweetness and gives warmth.
What are your backgrounds?
Andrew started off his career in the hospitality industry and actually won an Alcohol Free Cocktail Competition way back in the day sponsored by 7UP. So it looks like it was destiny…although it took him 30 years to get back to the non-alcoholic world! He worked for Guinness Group Sales and in the FMCG industry. Sales and Business Development was his forte.
I have a long career in marketing and business development specialising in SMES. I’ve been involved in many start-ups.
What is the product made from?
The product is a blend of five fresh botanicals, Ceylon cinnamon, juniper berries, coriander seeds, orange peel and locally grown lemon verbena.
What makes Silk Tree stand out from other non-alcoholic drinks?
The strong and aromatic nose and taste. Silk Tree is the only non-alcoholic spirit that contains a small amount of alcohol, which is added to bring out the flavours in the botanics. Silk Tree contains no artificial flavours or preservatives and no added sugar. We chose this blend of botanicals to give a warm, aromatic and flavoursome drink that holds its flavour when mixed or used as a cocktail base.
What has the response been from consumers to-date?
The response has been fantastic, people love it; they consume it at home maybe during the week when they are trying to cut down on their alcohol consumption. It is being sought out more and more in bars and restaurants, as when out socialising people are a lot more mindful about what and how much they drink. They are conscious of their commitments the following day or they don’t want to be shamed on social media for being drunk. They still however enjoy socialising on drinking occasions but appreciate quality, provenance and taste over mass consumption.
What is it best served with?
Silk Tree can be served classically over ice with tonic water and a garnish of choice. It also pairs really well with Ginger Ale and can replace either gin or vodka in any of the classic cocktail and you’d hardly notice the difference except when you wake up the next morning.
You’re involved in running a number of Mindful festivals in Ireland…tell us about those?
Yes we were involved with Brewtonic in Dublin and ran a series of Sober Sunday Events in MVP. These were Sunday afternoon events that kicked off with a yoga session followed by talks given by Andrew and myself about our journey from binge drinking hellraisers to clean living entrepreneurs.
We also ran a Mindful Drinking Event in House in Dublin 2 and invited an array of alcohol free drink producers to showcase the choice of drinks out there. We had panel discussions on mindful drinking and tips and tricks on how to cut back on alcohol. It was also a great night for the food and wine industry to showcase the alternatives that are available driven by consumer demand. On the night, House Mixologist created some divine alcohol-free cocktails, the atmosphere was magic, everybody was talking about the quality of the drinks and it just proved you don’t need alcohol in an Irish pub to have a good time. We are a very social race of people, we love to meet up and chat. Traditionally this has always been in the pub and traditionally this was always over a couple of pints. However we feel in the last decade or so we have lost our way a little and dangerously over-consuming alcohol has become the norm. Andrew and I are all about pulling it back to the social element and encouraging moderate and more mindful drinking. We don’t want to separate the drinkers form the non-drinkers – we want to ensure that the non-drinkers feel as comfortable and are catered for in our pubs and clubs, as well as the drinkers.