Founder of zero-ABV spirit Talonmore has his sights set on the on-trade

January is a bit of a strange month in the on-trade. 

While some people will be opting to embrace ‘Dry January’ after a month of indulgence, others might be looking to combat the cold by turning to warming dark spirits. 

But what if there was a way people could do both? 

That’s the itch Scottish entrepreneur Lewis Kennedy is looking to scratch with his non-alcoholic, ‘dark spirit alternative’, Talonmore. 

Kennedy, still a fresh-faced 25 year-old, founded Talonmore during the first lockdown, when he was straight out of university. Early recipes were sampled with his parents around the family dinner table and the product launched initially online. 

Speaking to SLTN last month Kennedy said the concept for a non-alcoholic spirit was born during his student days, when he was an ambassador for a spiced rum brand. 

Though he enjoyed the experience, he said the combination of constant parties and alcohol ‘wasn’t particularly sustainable’. 

“So I was looking at more sustainable ways of still enjoying a social life but reducing alcohol intake,” he said. 

There were already several non-alcoholic spirits brands on the market, but Kennedy was convinced he could approach the growing category differently. After saying this to friends and family they eventually ‘called his bluff’, and Talonmore was born.

From the beginning, the goal was to develop a product that could stand alongside dark spirits such as whisky or rum without being based on either.  

The core ingredients in Talonmore are ‘superfoods’ including prickly pear, hawthorn berry and Assam tea, with ginger providing a warming burn akin to what you’d find in a spirit.  

“As a spirit alternative the easy thing to do is to distil and to follow the traditional spirit manufacturing processes,” Kennedy explained. 

“But when you take the alcohol out of a product like that there’s just nothing that combines the flavour together. And it’s very difficult to get that pleasant burn.

“So it was obvious to us, really early on, that we needed an alternative manufacturing process. 

“So we brew instead of distil, like an intense tea. And that just gives us that end result of that nice fiery pleasant burn that can really stand right by a whisky and a rum.”

While sales were initially focused online, the past 12 months has seen Kennedy set his sights on the on-trade, with listings secured with Royal Mile Whiskies and Dunns Food & Drinks. 

The non-alcoholic spirits category is, of course, still relatively young, and Kennedy said that even in the past year he’s seen attitudes changing within hospitality. 

He said: “When we first launched – about twelve months ago, which really is not that long ago – it was tough. 

“We were pitching more what the consumer demand was and we were taking what we’d heard from our face to face sampling and direct to consumer activity and we were passing that onto bar managers and bartenders. 

“Now it’s completely different. We don’t have to sell the non-alcoholic spirit opportunity, it’s now making sure that Talonmore is the right choice, which is a far easier sales pitch, purely because there is already a menu listing open. 

“There’s an opportunity for a menu listing in most venues, especially the ones we are working with, like cocktail bars and restaurants and places that need to cater for not only non-drinkers but drivers. 

“So now the kind of thought process is that there has to be high quality options, and they need to rival what’s on the alcoholic menu as well.” 

And he insisted that – although non-alcoholic options should be cheaper on menus than their alcoholic counterparts – a quality product can still command a healthy price point. 

“I think the general public are more than happy to pay for a premium non-alcoholic drink that rivals their alcoholic drink rather than just settling for a sparkling water or a tonic,” he said.