Alchemy is at the heart of everything we do; from the plants we combine in our drinks, to the blending of minds and different expertise of the people who make them.
Alchemy is a word with lots of different meanings for different people. It has a special quality of conjuring feelings of magic, intrigue and mystery and is really the precursor of modern-day chemistry, in essence, the science behind understanding what matter is made from and how to change it from one state to another.
Alchemy is a goal and inspiration at Three Spirit, to create something that has not existed before, to create something new from individual components that have never been combined.
This runs through into all that we do in terms of bringing people together with very different skill-sets and experience in order to share ideas and approach a challenge from a new perspective.
We work with plant scientists, phytochemists, pharmaceutical scientists, amazing bartenders, food scientists, and artists to create our liquids. It's not a traditional approach, but by working with a diverse group of people, we push the boundaries that need pushing when it comes to creating functional drinks.
We source over 60 active plants that respond to and enhance the natural rhythms of our moods, minds and bodies, and use various techniques and methods to extract flavour and function to create our award-winning elixirs.
For instance, we use dry powdered extracts of high-grade cacao in Social Elixir, which allows us to extract the maximum amount of theobromine, the active compound in the plant that is of most interest to us. Theobromine is an incredible compound that can promote positive mood and energy, so we like it very much. In some cases, we use ethanol to extract the flavour and functional compounds out of the plant matter. This method is often best for pulling delicate flavours and non-water soluble material from the plant. We use this method for plants such as lemon balm and white willow in Nightcap.
In other cases, we use vegetable glycerine to extract the desired properties from plants. This is an amazing method for pulling colour and flavour from the raw material and also has the benefit of adding natural sweetness with no addition of sugar. We brew our own hops for Nightcap and make an infusion with the fresh hop flowers before adding the liquid to our other extractions.
We work with independent farming co-operatives who ferment and age the nectar of coconut flowers for 12 months, harnessing the power of wild yeasts and natural mothers of vinegar. The sugars in the nectar transform into acetic acid creating coconut vinegar that is sweet and sour and full of prebiotics.
We use oleoresins (super sticky tar like extracts) made from black pepper, Sichuan pepper and habanero peppers that pack enough punch to knock out a small elephant, but we utilise these powerful flavours in minute amounts to deliver incredible mouthfeel and complexity that make our drinks memorable.
We make life hard for ourselves because taking the easy path often ends up with a mediocre result that is just not worth getting excited about. We offer a choice where there was none. On a daily basis we are trying to overcome product challenges and we do things that no one else has done or would do. Often it's like trying to get a square peg through a round hole, but there is always a way.
We have some amazing partners who cultivate many beautiful plant-based ingredients. It is really important for us that we find producers who are both innovative and ambitious as well as technically proficient and able to produce a consistent level of quality. That is not always easy. There is generally a divide between large mainstream ingredient suppliers with all the credentials and efficiencies and the smaller artisan producers who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. We like to work with both as they are good at different things.
When we work with the smaller producers, we can create bespoke ingredients that are made to the exact specification that we need. For instance, we source our guayusa in Livener from small native farming communities in Ecuador who grow the magic caffeinated leaf under the canopy of the rainforest, meaning that their cultivation methods are in harmony with the surrounding habitat that is so very rich in flora and fauna.
Those areas were once prone to logging, and slash and burn farming, but now by growing guayusa, it supports reforestation and improves biodiversity, as well as providing people with a salary, and isn't damaging agricultural practices.
The dried leaves are then meticulously processed using equipment and techniques that would never be available in the jungle. It is this balance of working with ancient plants and high-quality raw material and then finding modern techniques to get the best out of the plant for our needs. We need to be able to make it soluble, identify the flavour and functional compounds of interest and produce a consistent and safe extract that can be blended and bottled.
There are so many considerations, steps, people, places and challenges involved in making our drinks and putting our liquids into bottles. Plants have been grown and harvested - the fruits, seeds, roots or leaves have been picked - so now is the time to try and capture the magic and all the wonderful natural properties from the plant. We are all about active compounds, so this means some methods of extraction are better than others depending on the plant. We use a variety of techniques and processes to extract the desired flavour and functional properties from plant material. This is where the real chemistry comes into play. This means an obsessive focus on maximising the functional potency of our drinks, carefully extracting the active compounds from the highest grade, ethically sourced plants we can get our hands on.
Our processes are complex, delicate and take time - maceration, fermentation, distillation, reverse osmosis, freeze drying, ultrasonic extraction - you name it, we’re pioneering it.
It’s only by taking this time and mastering our craft that we can harness the potential of plants to uncover whole new worlds of sensation and flavour. This is what we call Botanical Alchemy.
What the future holds
We have analysed and considered so many plants for their flavour and function whilst developing our three core products. We are always working with new, exciting ingredients and recently launched our latest addition to our collection, Blurred Vines. Created by winemakers and plant scientists for new rituals beyond alcohol, Blurred Vines are our alt wines. We've used functional ingredients, ethically sourced plants, and innovative fermentation methods to create drinks for occasions and celebration.
Scientific rigour is extremely important to us and 2022 sees us investing further in research. One of our most recent collaborative projects was peer reviewed and published in the respected scientific journal ‘Frontiers in Nutrition’. The paper features an in-depth study of one of the key compounds within one of the primary ingredients of the Nightcap - β-myrcene. Future studies include lion's mane mushroom and schisandra.
There is a never-ending list of curiosities to explore and our alchemists are forever experimenting with new ingredients to best extract and combine their flavours and functions.