It is an unlikely starting point for a new business poised to revolutionise the Scottish drinks industry.

But an emergency gall bladder op did prove the catalyst for a product destined to bring joy to many – including those struggling with Dry January…

“After the surgery, I discovered I could no longer drink alcohol without having the hangover from hell for days afterwards,” explains Lynne Cadenhead, who created Immaculate Alcohol-Free Classic G&T with fellow founders Gaynor Simpson and Carolyn Currie.

“I did come to enjoy not drinking on a night out but after a while.... it’s really very boring asking for yet another Coke, yet another soda water and lime.”

She adds, frustratedly: “There just wasn’t much choice. There were some non-alcoholic beers, a growing number of wines, but really nothing when it came to spirits. All I wanted was a sophisticated, non-alcoholic, grown-up drink. It got me thinking.”

Many conversations, a crowdfunding campaign which raised £10,000 plus a ‘process of serendipity’ later, and Immaculate was born.

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The first product, a zingy, pre-mixed G&T which is completely natural and low in sugar, was developed in conjunction with ‘magician’ distiller, Hamish Martin of The Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh, using a selection of fragrant botanicals, including juniper, coriander, lemon balm, calendula and cardamom.

A floral version, for summer, and a spicy one for winter will follow, and the women have plans to expand further into other flavours and products.

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Creating alcohol-free drinks is only half the story however. 

Lynne, Gaynor and Carolyn all work for Women’s Enterprise Scotland and fifty per cent of the profits from Immaculate will be invested in projects which support women to start and grow their own businesses.

“It’s hard starting up a business,” says Lynne, whose career arc has taken her from fungal molecular genetics to computational linguistics, via pharmaceuticals and assorted other disciplines along the way.

“We know that, which is why, ultimately, we want to create the Immaculate Legacy Fund to support women for generations to come.”

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In La Bonne Auberge, the West Nile Street restaurant and bar which is running an exclusive pilot of Immaculate throughout January, Lynne, Gaynor and Carolyn are calm and business-like, unpacking boxes of samples, setting up product shots and posing for publicity pictures in preparation for the official spring launch.

Glasgow Times:

Later, chatting over ice-filled glasses of their new product (best served with a slice of lemon), their eyes gleam with excitement as they admit it is thrilling to finally have Immaculate on the shelves.

“It’s really exciting,” agrees Gaynor, whose background is in public relations.

“It’s fantastic to have the support of La Bonne Auberge. What’s important to us is the authenticity of the product – some non-alcoholic drinks have simply replaced the alcohol with chemicals, but ours is entirely natural and made in Scotland. It is distilled in water, too, so alcohol is not used at any point in the process.”

For Dry January devotees – and according to a YouGov poll, more than four million people in the UK do it – Immaculate could be a welcome arrival.
Former banker and now chief executive of Women’s Enterprise Scotland Carolyn explains:

“More and more people want to cut down the amount of alcohol they drink, for health reasons. The feedback we have had has been fantastic.”

Glasgow Times:

She adds: “In our day jobs, we support other women in business, so it has also been really interesting and a lot of fun for us to be go back to our creative roots, to bring a new brand to the market - a brand which could potentially change that market for the future.”
Immaculate Alcohol-Free Classic G&T  is available at La Bonne Auberge now.