Who are you and what do you produce?
We are the Buck & Birch – explorers, experimenters and wild flavour innovators. Our mission is to re-connect people to their environment through our dining events, wilderness experiences and award-winning drinks.
Most recently we launched our wild bottled cocktail range which has proved hugely popular so far. In the unprecedented world we currently live in we wanted to give people the chance to enjoy bar quality drinks in the comfort of their own homes and gardens without the usual bar paraphernalia and ingredients normally required.
How long have you been in business?
In 2008 Co-founders Tom Chisholm & Rupert Waites, bound by a common love for the outdoors and considerable experience in the hospitality industry, hosted the first ever Buck & Birch dining event. Over the next decade the pair have hosted hundreds of guests, moved from garden shed to production facility, won awards, worked with industry leaders, world renowned chefs and bartenders. They’ve appeared in feature films, on television and radio, educated, collaborated and innovated.
What’s the story behind the product, how did you get to market?
Aelder Elixir was our first product to market and whilst it made its first appearance at our maiden dining event way back in 2008 it wasn’t until late 2016 that it was actually launched. The original run was only 200 bottles but after selling them all in a matter of days we realised we needed to build more of a strategy to get it out to the public. Looking back one of the things we are most grateful for was the support given to us by people in the industry when we were just starting out. Ben at the Edinburgh Food Studio and Arthur at Royal Mile Whiskies in particular were instrumental in championing our liqueur and giving us the confidence to take it further.
Since then our growth has seen our products listed in top bars, restaurants, retailers and hotels across the UK and latterly Internationally. Most of this growth has happened organically and, on a budget, dwarfed by most of the big players in our industry. We see this as proof that there is a place and hunger for products that run against the popular tide (of gin) and consumers now more than ever want products with real quality, provenance and connection to their ingredients
How do you make your products?
We believe ingredients should be left as nature intended. We don’t manipulate with fancy machines or complex processes and never enhance with chemicals or additives.
We champion the fruit, the roots, the shoots, leaves, buds and petals, doing as little as possible to divert from their natural flavour. We also carefully select spirits for each drink to ensure they enhance the flavour of the ingredients rather than overwhelm them. For us the alcohol is there to add depth and a roundness to the drinking experience – a glow rather than a burn.
What makes you stand out from other similar products?
Rupert’s extensive knowledge and understanding of the wild flavours that surround us means we can utilise and champion ingredients unknown to most. We have arrived in the drinks world through unconventional paths so our approach is also very different to most other producers and as a consequence our drinks are very different too.
What’s the best way to serve your products?
We want to celebrate and share the fantastic flavours of the wild with as many people as possible, so all of our drinks have been crafted so they are equally enjoyable neat, topped with a mixer or blended in a cocktail. The great thing for us is to see how others choose to enjoy our drinks and we are always amazed by the creativity, particularly in the bar world. It is also refreshing to see how they are embracing the connection to the environment and once again using seasonal, natural ingredients
How do you decide what flavours to make?
We always say each of our creations always starts with a walk in the woods. Seasonality and location therefore play a big part in the conception of an idea and then it’s a case of exploring and experimenting with the flavours we have found. Over the years we have also developed a comprehensive wild flavour library that we then use to fine tune and balance recipes, adding complexity and depth.
What’s your favourite product you make and why?
That’s a bit like asking you to choose your favourite child! I have a fondness for all of them but in different ways. On a cold winter’s eve there is nothing more comforting than an Aelder hot toddy, an Amarosa and ginger beer is perfect in the summer sun and after a delicious meal there is no better way to finish than with a coffee and an Ana over ice. What I am proud of most of all is that they all represent a true connection to the ingredients and where they are from and have their own distinct personality and character.
On an aside note I am also very proud of the collaborative product we created with Napiers the Herbalists in response to the Covid 19 outbreak. We have long known the health benefits of elderberries so when this pandemic struck we wanted to do something to help. With this in mind we contacted our friend and leading herbalist, Monica Wilde, with a view to creating a product that could help people stay fit and healthy at this time. The resulting herbal food supplement is suitable for the whole family, is gluten free, dairy free, alcohol free, vegan and has enough vitamin C to keep immune systems fully functioning. It is also delicious!
Where can we buy your product?
All of our products can be bought online or through various independent off licenses and retailers across Scotland and the UK.