Hemp, quandong and kakadu plum – Australian distillation startup Feels Botanical breathes new life into French eau de vie spirits

French for ‘water of life’, eau de vie is the latest spirit to take Australian taste buds by storm.

A favorite among European drinkers, Eau de vie has a rich history in French and German drinking culture and is prized for its rich, velvety mouthfeel and complex flavours. Local distiller, Feels Botanical, has now brought its take to mind by launching an eau de vie range that uses Australian ingredients and celebrates local flavours.

Feels Botanical founders Blake Vanderfield-Kramer and Steve Pillemer said they created the range in response to the shift in the Australian alcohol industry, as consumers sought a more natural, authentic, findable and conscious offering.

Blake said what initially appealed to him about eau de vie was the way it was drunk, and he hoped consumers would feel the same way.

“It’s velvety smooth, creamy and fruity. Very different from other spirits, it’s super versatile; you can serve it over ice, mixed with soft drinks or in cocktails. And there’s an abundance of high quality Australian grapes and wines to make great spirits,” he adds.

He says his passion for wine started when he worked in the industry and lived in the Adelaide Hills. So when he and Steve first embarked on their development journey for Feels Botanical, his mind immediately turned to the plethora of fabulous grapes available in the region.

“Australian eau de vie made from grapes (unaged brandy), adds a unique element to the spirit that a neutral base spirit does not have. There is also an abundance of quality grape growers and winemakers in Australia, so why not use these amazing products to create an amazing and unique style of spirits, he says.

Feels Botanical uses Australian ingredients to deliver a unique flavor profile

The birth of Feels Botanical

Blake describes developing the Feels Botanical brand as “so much fun” as he and Steve searched for native botanicals to enhance their eau de vie blends.

“First, it was about the shape of taste – experiencing each botanical and the eau de vie spirit during the journey. Second, we wanted versatility – to be able to drink over ice, with a mixer or in a cocktail. Third, we want the botanicals to respond to moods and occasions that suit different locations, cocktail menus, or the way consumers felt or wanted to feel.”

Blake says he really enjoyed this part of the process as he and Steve worked to develop the brand.

“We started with placeholder product propositions such as; good, vibrant, passion and tomorrow, then began researching botanicals known to appeal to those moods and occasions.

“We then narrowed it down to about 5-7 botanicals for each and infused the individual botanical with eau de vie, then started mixing. could experience the process, so we narrowed it down to three botanicals per product, so you could taste each botanical at certain stages of the flavor journey.

Test the market

After settling on the feel and taste, it was time to test and learn. Blake says they started trying out the blends in drinks. Friends, family and industry people were their willing guinea pigs.

“I wanted to see how they reacted to the botanicals, the shape of the flavor of the eau de vie and the drinks we made. We wanted a versatile product that you can enjoy over ice, with a mixer or in cocktails,” he explains.

“When we moved to bulk production, I was lucky enough to have an old colleague and mentor of mine discuss the shape of flavor and botanical ratio. He was a master distiller and also worked in the wine industry so was perfectly suited to help us achieve what we wanted.

“Our distillation partner is B-corp certified and has used native and natural botanicals in their own products, and also owns a number of wine brands, making them perfectly suited to bring Feels Botanical to life.”

Asked to describe eau de vie for the uninitiated, his answer is simple: “It is velvety, creamy with fresh fruit notes. The special twist that Feels Botanical gives to eau de vie is the unique combination of three botanicals that we integrate into the eau de vie grape, such as Feels Bask, with hemp, quandong and kakadu plum.

As for what the gamblers should expect from a glass, Blake replies:

“An enjoyable experience that takes you to a place or occasion and accentuates your feelings…”

More information about Feels botanical here.


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