Feragaia is a Scottish alcohol-free spirit marrying 14 botanicals and is a drink in its own league. As the team say, it is not trying to be anything else. It’s boldly fresh and bright with enough flavour to stand up to everything from a tonic, ginger ale or sweet fruit in a cocktail. Sabi Phagura caught up with co-founder Jamie Wild to learn more.
Luxurious Magazine: The non-alcoholic drinks market is expanding rapidly. What was it about this that made you want to launch Feragaia?
Jamie Wild: I grew up with what I would call a typical British relationship with drinking. I think it is nicely illustrated by a conversation I recall being an observer in, which went something like, “If you can, invest in big alcoholic drinks businesses, do- people will drink alcohol whether they are happy, sad or just feeling normal”.
It weirdly stayed with me because it is so true, and even back then, I saw the crazy truth in it. Funnily enough, I then wound up working for a big drinks company – go figure!! Anyway, alcohol exposure was extreme for me for a long time, and I was frustrated that there wasn’t more quality and confidence in alcohol-free drinking from the products (now competitors) in the market.
I got to the point in 2018 that I was prepared to do something about it – that’s when I spoke to Bill and Feragaia; the Original Free Spirit was born.
LM: How did you go about launching the product?
JW: Bill Garnock is from Scotland and proud like all the Scots I’ve ever met. He’d grown up in a land famed for great distilled goods, and after a stint of working for whisky brands in America, he felt a calling to contemporise the image of Scottish distillation.
I, on the other hand, was fixed on ‘where is the confidence in alcohol-free’ and felt strongly that it was because almost all alcohol-free drinks rely on what they are not – alcohol! Typically, they contain or mimic alcohol, which is why Feragaia is a ‘Free Spirit’ distilled to be different in Scotland and is not trying to be anything but itself.
This set our course to raise some funding, develop the liquid and the brand and Feragaia’s launch in late 2019.
LM: How difficult is the process of creating the drink?
JW: Because we developed our taste and process that never touches alcohol – it was not straightforward. There was no textbook or existing product to take pointers from. We were on our own, and it was a bit of a nightmare creating the drink.
I think the lowest point came when after eight months, we had eventually perfected our taste. We had developed it on a 5ltr rotovap and were scaling it up to a 50ltr pot still; after a lengthy distillation run, we took our first sip. The flavour was unrecognisable and so far from what we had developed – it was a knockout, to say the least.
After eight months, all we had to show for it was a botanical tragedy. Thankfully, we picked ourselves up, delayed our launch and got back to finding Feragaia’s refreshing depth of flavour. Next, we had to develop the brand, which was a whole other saga that took over a year, and we couldn’t settle on what to name it.
LM: How long did it take to get Feragaia to taste exactly the way you wanted it?
JW: After the first eight months of experimentation and our failed first 50ltr distillation, we went back to the drawing board and managed to get batch 1 bottled in a total of around 14 months. We are still learning about our process and liquid batch by batch; we have now done over 25 batches!
LM: What is the best way to serve Feragaia, and where can we try it?
JW: For a simple serving, I drink the ‘Wild Ginger’, which is Feragaia, Ginger Ale and a slice of lime. If I have a little more time on my hands, I concoct a Feragaia Sour. We make a seasonal ‘Spiced Pear Sour’ special, which I love.
LM: Now Jamie, your other job is one of a sculptor. Please tell us a bit about that.
JW: Yes, well, more of a long-term passion project. I’ve learnt I get great satisfaction from making things with my hands.
I crave the sense of completion, and as the Feragaia challenge evolves, I find the fleeting moments in my workshop a real escape. I have almost been sculpting for 15 years. I started as a blacksmith’s apprentice in St Austell, Cornwall, which is where I grew up. Part of my payment was that I could use materials, equipment and the workshop and so I started to create. There was a lot of scrap metal around, so that’s where I began.
Using a MIG welder, angle grinder and a hammer, I made ‘Primus’ the horse head – the original creation. I have now completed over 100 commissions, some international, some private and some bigger than a double-decker bus. I am proud to have an orangutan in the rainforest biome at The Eden Project and have raised funding for Fauna and Flora International from my first exhibition in 2019 + there is a lot of exciting work on the horizon.
LM: Are there any comparisons between Feragaia and your sculpting career?
JW: My sculpture and the Feragaia brand both centre around the same general concept, which is loosely finding a greater connection to ‘the wild’ – conveniently, my surname.
Whether it was a calling I was born with or a duty to live up to my name – I don’t know yet. All I can say is that my interest and appreciation of nature are ever-evolving, and I hope to be able to have some positive impact through both Feragaia and my sculpture.
LM: What’s next in the pipeline for you? Can we expect new creations and versions of the Feragaia soon?
JW: There are always big ambitious targets bumping around in my mind, ones that I know are unlikely to come off in the way I envisage them. However, they normally end up somewhere, and that’s progress for me.
We have just opened Scotland’s first alcohol-free distillery, which sets the scene for innovation, but no teasers yet, I’m afraid. For my sculptures, I continue to explore more abstract expression, and I’m setting my sights on an exhibition in 2024!
If you would like more information on Feragaia, please visit https://feragaia.com/.
Read more exclusive interviews in our dedicated section here.