Planting Season 2023
After two intensive weeks of planting, we find ourselves at a point where we're comfortable enough to write about it. With the harvesting of our first batches on our fields, we have already forgotten the hard work.
From field to bottle, we take it seriously
The non-alcoholic beverage industry is experiencing a renaissance, with more people seeking healthier and more sophisticated alternatives to traditional alcoholic drinks. As a result, the demand for natural, real ingredients, and fresh produce in non-alcoholic beverages is on the rise. At least, that’s what global reports say. Knowing this information, we find it peculiar that Bôtan Distillery is the world’s only alcohol-free distillery from field to bottle.
Think with us. Can you imagine that we are planting now the botanicals for this year and the first part of next year? In reference to winemaking, you can imagine. In reference to non-alcoholic cocktails or wines, you cannot imagine. To tell you a secret: No other alcohol-free brand is planting and harvesting real botanicals and real flowers cultivated in full soil, nor using real botanicals and ingredients in its non-alcoholic drinks. That's why growing fresh produce on this scale and in the alcohol-free industry is unprecedented.
Kick-off of the planting season 2023
This year's planting season in open air started a week later than foreseen. In winter, we were hopeful and optimistic to start the planting season early in May, thanks to the mild temperatures. But the change of seasons lasted long, and it took a while for spring to kick-off. The microclimate was dominated by volatility, while the nights were still unpredictably cold. When mid-May arrived, the weather turned, and the weather projections looked bright. We prepared our minds and started planting on Monday, the 22nd of May.
It's now the third year since we started planting big volumes of fresh produce. Each year, we grow and expand our cultivation activities, including the fields and fresh produce. Compared to last year, the volume has been multiplied by ten. Our cultivation department now holds 1 hectare of fresh produce combined with a greenhouse. This is an ambitious projection, and we're more than ready to handle it.
The art of planting
The two weeks of intensive planting were dominated by hot temperatures with no rain. This brought some challenges. The biggest challenge was to keep the botanicals active. Both the soil and the plants needed long-lasting drainage to prevent the plants from letting their leaves drop. One day during the planting season, we invited around 10 people to plant with us to get a huge head start. Especially on that day, we couldn't give each botanical enough water. It was sad to see our precious botanicals in need of soil and water. We slightly underestimated the volume in combination with the weather. A lesson for next year's planting season.
From the end of May until now (mid-June), we spray our botanical garden each morning and evening for a couple of hours. We keep on draining intensively as long as there is no rain. The terroir of our main field is loam and clay, making the surface dry and chunky while the foundation absorbs the water well.
Today, or about two weeks since the last day of planting, the botanicals are performing well. The botanicals in the open air, especially, have revived well with full bushes as a result. In the greenhouse, the plants faced a little damage caused by the strong wind. As we open the sides of the greenhouse daily at the height of the day to lower the temperature in the greenhouse, the wind strikes firmly at the lower parts of the herbs. We were relieved to see that the heavy wind has subsided since last week. That has limited the damage and brought it under control.
From field to bottle means being patient
We still need to wait until mid-July to release our first batches made from botanical distillates from this year's season. As some of our alcohol-free Botanical Cocktails ran out of stock, including Wakataya and Shizo, we're counting the days. When we say that Bôtan Distillery creates drinks from field to bottle, we mean it. Nature can't be forced, and although the drained stock brings a lot of stress, we embrace it. In today's society, everything is always available. Isn't this the biggest lie we've become accustomed to?
While preparing our production, nature has already offered its first produce. As the weather is warm, the voluminous botanicals such as huacatay and shiso grow fast. Already two weeks after planting these botanicals, we harvested the huacatay, a Peruvian mint variety that is the main player in ou Botanical Cocktail Alternative Wakataya. This week, we're harvesting our precious shiso herb, a botanical originating from Japan and dominantly present in our alcohol-free cocktail Shizo. For the smaller herbs such as our varieties of verbena, basil, tagetes, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and many other botanicals, we'll have to wait another two weeks before the first cultivation.
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The impact of fresh produce on flavor
The use of fresh produce in non-alcoholic beverages significantly impacts the flavor profile of the drink. That's why our Botanical Cocktail and Wine Alternatives go beyond the current offerings. You can't compare the flavour with any other ready to drink cocktails. Fresh herbs, spices, and fruits provide a depth of flavor that cannot be replicated by artificial ingredients. That's why Michelin-star chefs adore our alcohol-free offerings. Our liquids tell a story, and this story is also reflected in the flavor, taking you on a journey impacting your nose, mouth, and aftertaste.
Additionally, these natural ingredients offer various health benefits, such as antioxidants and vitamins. This is logical as we extract all plant molecules and combine them in a bottle. Isn't it a nice thought to combine both gastronomy and health?
Thanks to our team
The planting season is the peak season in our distillery and company. One day during the planting season, the whole team of Bôtan Distillery gathers to plant. It's hard work with physical challenges and even some physical complaints that are (thankfully) in the past.
While writing this article, I feel blessed about what we've achieved, thanks to our wonderful team and those who gave a helping hand. Are you willing to be part of this gathering next year? Feel free to drop us an email. You're welcome for the planting season in 2024.