Growing up in the depths of Lincolnshire on his family's farm, Ben Branson has been intrinsically inspired by the beauty and wealth that nature offers from an early age.
Little did he know that his childhood memories of sitting in pea fields and scrambling about on farm machinery would lead to a flourishing drinks business; fast forward a few years and Ben's idea, Seedlip, a non alcoholic spirit, can be spotted across London's coolest bars and hotels. We caught up with Ben to find out more about Seedlip and what to expect from this business which overflows with flavour.
Tell us how Seedlip came about?
Seedlip’s story actually begins in the 17th century when apothecaries were distilling non-alcoholic herbal remedies. In 2013 whilst researching herbs and spices I came across a book written in 1651 called The Art of Distillation that documented these remedies. Out of curiosity I began experimenting with a little copper still in my kitchen and in November 2015 hand bottled and hand labelled 1000x bottles and we launched Seedlip into Selfridges. It was the perfect opportunity to bring together everything I cherish; my family’s 300 year farming heritage, natural history and my career in brand design to solve the modern day dilemma of ‘what-to-drink-when-you’re-not-drinking.’
Have you always been interested in the drinks industry?
My father has been in the design industry for 40 years and I was fortunate to spend summers doing work experience at his firm that began exposing me to the world of brands and drinks companies. My career then allowed me the chance to work on iconic drinks brands like Absolut and Glenmorangie giving me a passion for the world of cocktails and hospitality and experience in what it takes to create a brand that can be relevant and meaningful to people.
What does Seedlip mean? And how does it relate to your product?
Made from wood, wicker or metal, Seedlips were baskets used by farmworkers to sow seeds. I thought it was a perfect name in ode to my family’s farming heritage when we used to use Seedlips.
How has your childhood of growing up on a working farm influenced your work ethos?
My family have been arable farmers for over 300 years in the north of England and we still farm across Lincolnshire and Yorkshire today, growing peas, grains, potatoes and oil seed rape. I adore nature and am happiest when outside. Instilled in me as a child was a deep appreciation for those who look after the land and work to put food and drink on our tables.
Why a non-alcoholic spirit?
I personally don’t drink and found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the often-sugary and fruity alternatives to alcohol that were available to me. I wanted to create a sophisticated adult alternative to help offer those not drinking for whatever reason, an adult option.
How do you come up with your flavours?
I worked up from ingredients mentioned in the art of distillation and down from two childhood smells; the smell of the inside of our combine harvester for Seedlip Spice and smell of sitting in our pea fields eating peas with my grandfather for Seedlip Garden. The trick was bringing the two together!
Seedlip Spice 94 is aromatic and woody with warm brown spice and dry citrus top notes, best served long with tonic, ice and a slice of grapefruit. Seedlip Garden 108 is a herbal and floral blend with green top notes of the handpicked peas and hay from my family farm, and traditional English herbs such as rosemary & Thyme, best served with tonic and a handful of peas.
You’re working with some brilliant brands at the moment; would you open your own bar one day?
Who knows what the future holds and never say never!
Can you give us some tea-total, summer tipple ideas?
There are so many Seedlip summer serves out there, some of which have been created by some of London’s top bartenders. Here are a few of my personal favourites:
Seedlip Spice: 50ml
Ginger Ale: 125ml
Served with slice of Orange
Seedlip Garden: 50ml
Basil & Watermelon Shrub: 20ml
Egg white: Dash
Shake and Double strain
What can we expect from Seedlip over the next few months?
We have a very exciting few months ahead of us, beginning with our very own Artisan Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May. We have a new product in the pipeline and will be continuing to grow our presence in the US, whilst also launching in other markets globally. Watch this space!