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Alchemist Dreams: A Dream Come True

A story of perseverance and well, booze

Written by . Published on October 21st 2011.

Alchemist Dreams: A Dream Come True

WHEN the recession hit, it struck fear into the hearts of thousands of recent graduates; were all those nights spent drinking in the student union really worth it? Shouldn’t we have gone out just the four nights a week instead of five and cracked open a few books once in a while? Are we now £12,000 in debt and doomed to wait tables and work soul-destroying internships for the foreseeable future now that there is a veritable army of qualified professionals vying for the jobs that should by rights be ours?

Well, one young woman decided to take a stand against the terrifying prospect of dull predictability that cowboy bankers and spineless politicians had forced upon Britain’s educated youth and the tastebuds of the entire nation can join together in praise for her brave and defiant move. Ruth Ball graduated from Imperial College London with a 2:2 in Chemistry and decided to eschew her former classmates chosen path of all applying to the same generic jobs that were related to their degree in even the most tenuous of links and set up her own business brewing, distilling and producing flavoured liqueurs. London Confidential swung by her Kennington laboratory to get a taste of what Alchemist Dreams is all about.

Szechuan pepper is a particularly tasty ingredient, which goes in the house blend Black(berry) Magic, along with blackberry and ginger and is probably our most popular blend.

Hello Ruth, thanks for clearing time in your busy schedule of brewing booze to meet us!  So, how long has Alchemist Dreams been going?
Well, I started trading in February of this year but it took about six months to get all of the licenses sorted out.  I’ve been fulltime since April; I had to do a little office temping to support it in the early stages as well as some soul destroying call centre work.

Wow, talk about suffering for your art…
Yes, I actually managed half a day at the call centre before I walked out.


We don’t blame you. Do you think that the recession had a direct effect on you starting your own business?
I guess so, yes. It was a good way to get motivated in order to do something for myself rather than just applying for the same jobs as all my classmates. I definitely prefer being self-employed, as you can choose your own hours and there’s nothing quite like being your own boss. I also run a stall at various food and drink markets most Fridays and some weekends, which helps with the promotion of the business.

Do you think that having a background in chemistry helped you with your current profession?
Well, I’ve always done a lot of home brewing, but I’ve never done it professionally. I suppose chemistry taught me to conduct the whole brewing process systematically, like measuring things accurately and keeping detailed notes. I certainly don’t miss the old labs, especially the six months that I spent in the airless, ‘clean’ rooms, where you have to where a bunny suit and hairnets… my kitchen is much nicer.


It certainly is. (Ruth works from home, with all of the ingredients and brews kept in giant containers that surround her work surfaces that looks like something out of Harry Potter.)  These all look so exciting; do you have a favourite blend?
Szechuan pepper is a particularly tasty ingredient, which goes in the house blend Black(berry) Magic, along with blackberry and ginger and is probably our most popular blend. The Blue Monday is also delicious, as it contains blueberry, elderberry and vanilla.  They are both house blends and we sell a lot of them, but people can also ask us for bespoke flavours, tailored to their own tastes.

That’s cool; what’s the weirdest flavour that you’ve ever made?
Well, one person once just gave me a quote and asked me to make a liqueur out of it! I can’t remember the exact line, but it was something out of an Oscar Wilde play.

That sounds like a very existentialist liqueur...
Yes, I remember that I put a dash of wormwood in it.

So, after tasting all of these weird and wonderful concoctions, do you find that going back to just drinking regular spirits is a bit boring?
Actually, because I drink these flavours all of the time, it’s quiet a nice break for me to go back to a standard gin and tonic.

Sounds like a fun working week…
I really like cocktails; my favourite at the moment is a strawberry, black pepper and basil martini, which actually inspired one of the new flavours that’s about to be introduced into the range, the basil flavour.

Have any of the flavours that you’ve experimented with ever been truly awful?
Of course! I once put cardamom in to a blend instead of chocolate, so instead of a chocolate orange flavour I got cardamom and orange… it was interesting to say the least. Sitting in my lounge is the stuff that went wrong, and that’s what I drink, the slight seconds!


OK, so, let’s see you put your money where your mouth is and line up four of the best for us.
Right, well I’ll give you a taste of the house flavours and you can tell me which ones you like the most.  We’ll start with…

Black(berry) Magic: This is a rich liqueur with an aromatic mix of British hedgerows and oriental spices and is certainly the most distinctive of the house blends.

Winter Warmer: A heavy emphasis on the fresh orange gives way to a light sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon, evoking similarities with mulled wine.

Everything’s Rosy: Definitely one for the girls, this mixture of raspberry, juniper and rose would be perfect for sipping on a summer’s day, out on the lawn playing croquet.

Chocolate Orange: Not on the official website list yet, this one tastes nothing like the Terry’s one that you get in your stocking each Christmas, but rather a heavenly infusion of freshly squeezed orange flavours and a slight hint at dark chocolate with citric aromas thrown in for good measure.

It’s hard to choose a favourite, although I have to concede that the Black(berry) Magic is definitely the most memorable and moreish of the bunch.  Finally, can your family pretty much guess what they’re going to get as gifts for birthdays and Christmas?
Well, as I’ve put all of my money into starting the business, so this year they can!



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