For sheer diversity, we've never had it better in the beverage business, with a whole kaleidoscope of drink styles and flavours now made right here in Australia.
Today, we're catching up with a maker who is right at the forefront of this new wave of homegrown products, Blake Vanderfield-Kramer from Feels Botanical.
Feels are proud to be crafting some of the nation's first-ever botanical eau de vie, combining native Australian botanicals with a 'velvety' distilled grape spirit to make something delicious (and very unique).
Part of the 1% For the Planet initiative, the Feels journey has been interesting too. Founded as a boundary-pushing exercise, it has grown thanks to the recent cocktail boom, only helped by partnering with the team at Australia’s only B Corp Certified Distillery, Applewood Distillery.
In this Kaddy Community exclusive interview, we've caught up with Vanderfield-Kramer to talk about what makes this unique grape spirit so delicious, plus the ups and downs of making eau de vie.
Kaddy Community: Firstly, why eau de vie? What drew you to embracing grape spirits in the first place?
Blake Vanderfield-Kramer: I am a wine lover and lived in the Adelaide Hills for a period, so it has always been of interest to me. However, from a product perspective, there was very little, if any, product utilising Australian grapes for their eau de vie or as a base spirit.
This really surprised me, as there is an abundance of high-quality wine to turn into eau de vie within Australia. There (are) a few using neutral grape spirit as the base to their gins, but that is a different product.
Eau de vie delivers a different shape of flavour and mouth feel to the base spirit compared to a neutral spirit, with more velvety, creamy mouthfeel and fruit characteristics from the wine and distillation process. This was something that we felt both delivered great liquid characteristics, versatility in drink creation and a point of difference from everything else in the market.
Do you find there is an awareness about eau de vie, or is it a constant education piece?
Awareness is certainly low, especially from a consumer perspective. There is some idea of European eau de vie, but again they are different to Australian eau de vie, as they use pear and apples predominantly.
Education and awareness then is critical for us. First of all, it is about how we use our three botanicals (rose, Davidson Plum & Horny Goat Weed) and the spirit in each expression to create a really versatile product. Then, a choice on how to enjoy it - poured over ice, mixed with all types of sodas or as the base spirit in classic cocktails like a daiquiri or margarita.
Seeing how the different venues are using the same spirit is also really exciting for us (check out the Feels website for more cocktails).
More broadly, what are the biggest challenges with selling craft spirits? Distribution?
There are a few challenges, including freight, alcohol excise tax and competing with huge global brands and businesses. However, we believe there is a great consumer and industry move towards Australian-owned and Australian-made super-premium spirits. We have also partnered with the Swift and Moore business to help build the distribution, education and awareness of Feels. (Swift & Moore) is a company steeped in history, with a renewed focus on building super-premium spirit brands, so it is a great partnership.
Feels is smashing it as a cocktail component. What about the next step and making Feels pre-mixed cocktails?
Thanks! Yes, we have seen many different cocktail offerings, which are really exciting. And yes, we have a Cocktail Porter x Feels Bask Elderflower gimlet that will be available in September!
Do you have a Feels that is closest to your heart? A fave? Or is that like asking if someone has a favourite child?
Ha ha. There is nothing wrong with having personal preference! I consume products based on how I 'feel', rotating my Feels drinking repertoire based on my mood, the occasion or the people I am with.
Finally, what's next for Feels?
Focusing on building the brand (and eau de vie) awareness within Australia. We feel like the spirit drinks differently and can play to many different occasions, styles and people.
We have recently gone live with our partnership with Dan Churchill - the chef, restaurateur and wellness coach - who has come on board as our Culinary Creative. Dan will be involved in menu pairings, venue activations, campaigns and botanical profiling/blending.
Feels Botanical is now available on Kaddy Marketplace. Track it down for your business right here.
Photo source: Instagram