A.S Apothecary’s Amanda Saurin Takes A Spirited Jaunt Beyond Skincare With Fierce Botanics
Amanda Saurin has a great excuse to day drink.
The herbalist and homeopath founder of A.S Apothecary has branched into the beverage business with the introduction of Fierce Botanics, a company that demonstrates the increasing reach of natural beauty businesses into adjacent categories. Simply named Apothecary Tonic No. 1, the first release from the new venture was tested over two years on what became known as gin Mondays to Saurin and her employees.
“I really like the idea of a traditional apothecary that would have made skincare products as well as drinks that were good for people’s health. We are becoming more and more like a proper old-fashioned apothecary where we cater to people outside and inside,” says Saurin, adding, “For my company, everything starts from the plants that we can grow, wild harvest or find, and our aim is to take as few steps as possible from the plants to the products.”
The plant that serves as the basis for Fierce Botanics’ debut tonic is actually a tree. To be specific, it’s a cinchona tree that provides the quinine in the liquid mixer. Saurin’s sister cultivates cinchona in Ecuador for Fierce Botanics. Two other trees, Saurin’s Nordmann fir Christmas tree and her friend’s spruce Christmas tree, played roles, too. She experimented with clippings from them to add resin-y, piney accents to the tonic.
Apothecary Tonic No. 1 also contains a blend of three bitters, one of which Saurin discovered shortly before falling into a bog in Scotland. “With the three bitters, instead of getting a quick hit of a bitter note, you get a lovely dry, long bitter taste that’s delicious,” she says. The bitter taste is complimented by fruity, sweet and tart flavors from elderberries, raw cane sugar and a dash of citric acid. Roses plucked from land that A.S Apothecary rents near its U.K. headquarters in Lewes infuse the drink with hints of flowers and spice.
Saurin wasn’t in Scotland just to stumble into a bog. She’s been a regular visitor to the Isle of Harris, the home of Isle of Harris Distillery. In 2015, A.S Apothecary unveiled a collection of products tied to the Isle of Harris that included Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water, an offering designed to bring a splash of the sea to the distillery’s spirits. The Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water was the gateway product to Fierce Botanics.
“I went to an opening at the Isle of Harris Distillery. They produce beautiful gin, but put a tonic into it that was passable. I thought, ‘These tonics are just so boring, two-dimensional and really uninteresting to drink.’ If you spend a lot of time making an incredibly beautiful gin, why would you put mediocre tonics into it? I started looking into it,” says Saurin. “Fever Tree and Schweppes are the big players that control the market. I tasted their tonics and thought the same thing. They’re dull. They don’t have that lovely botanical taste.”
With that botanical taste bottled, Fierce Botanics is making its way to customers. Saurin conjectures some open-minded beauty retailers that carry A.S Apothecary will probably pick up the beverage brand. A.S Apothecary is available at roughly 20 shops, notably Content Beauty & Wellbeing in London and its own store in Lewes. Saurin anticipates Fierce Botanics will extend beyond the realm of beauty retail to restaurants, museums and art galleries. The tonic’s label is a photograph by Laurence Winram, an art piece Saurin figures could appeal to gallery and museum goers.
“We will never be a volume producer nor would I want to be and that means you have to put your products in places where they are best suited. They will never be in supermarkets, so we can be very confident about keeping up with production without risking losing quality,” says Saurin. “The beauty of it is that, because we are so small, we can be really responsive. If somebody contacts us with a really great idea for where they would like to sell it, we can run with it if we think that’s a great idea as well.”
At the outset, Saurin shares that Fierce Botanics has been well-received, and she imagines it could be a formidable enterprise. However, she didn’t pursue it with profits front of mind. “My business has a curious model. I like to think of it as an organic amble. What I mean by that is most business have strategies for growth, and they have targets. It’s very clearly prescribed what they are expecting from their business year-on-year. We don’t do that,” says Saurin. “We don’t take any investors. As money comes into the company, we expand a bit, and we decide on the direction we want to go in collectively.”
Saurin’s business model may be curious, but she asserts it’s pretty fierce, too. “It’s a team of 10 women, and we’re mostly in our 40s and 50s. As you become a more mature woman, you tend to be overlooked in different walks of life, but particularly in business. I really wanted to show that you can be a group of strong, older women and do something exciting, but you have to be fierce and really work to do that – and we have,” she says. “The other part of being fierce is that I’m totally uncompromising about the quality of what we do at A.S Apothecary and Fierce Botanics. It’s about having as much control as possible over the plants, the process and the products.”