When Syrco Bakker created Hierbas de las Dunas he did not give it much thought. He combined 18 different types of herbs, flowers and plants from Cadzand’s dunes to create what would turn out to be a versatile drink that had a pure salty-sweet flavour that made it perfect for an aperitif, after-dinner drink or even a cocktail ingredient.
The chef of Michelin star restaurant Pure C in Cadzand-Bad who works closely with Dutch celebrity chef Sergio Herman created the liqueur in his kitchen taking inspiration from a drink he had tried in Ibiza but he had no idea how to distribute it or the difficulty to compete with the marketing budgets of the giants in the industry.
That naivety may however be the success of this product which is sought after by some of the leading cocktail bartenders. “I spoke with my father and with Charlotte how he would distribute it and we decided to form a company. The beauty of it is that all of us do this in our own free time,” he said.
Today, two years later, Hierbas de las Dunas has managed to enter a deal to have a sailing boat wrapped in the Hierbas de las Dunas logo but more importantly to also be exported outside of the Netherlands and Belgium.
Hierbas de las Dunas is today available in the UK and Germany among others and Syrco explained that the aim is to build from the ground up starting slowly and getting people accustomed to the product before they push further.
“We now also have a brand ambassador and this will help us,” he said. “Moreover, the product has been very well received by cocktail bartenders and this has helped position the liqueur in a certain segment of the market.”
“There is a sense of exclusivity to the drink because it is not available in supermarkets and this helps us,” Syrco told Food and Wine Gazette.
Charlotte and Syrco explained how the liquor has evolved over the years. “We have more experience now and this helps. When we started we picked up the herbs and created the extract before blending without thinking much about when would be the best to pick up the herbs. Now, our farmer Nick knows exactly when it is the right time to pick the herbs to bring the best flavours. For example, for the elderflower we know that you need three days of sunshine before you pick it. The big difference is that we have more experience. And we pick the herbs at their best moment which is esential. Ultimately, the liquor is today purer and clearer.”
They have also had to adjust the blend depending on the herbs. “For example, two years ago the rosemary was very strong so we needed to use less in the blend. On the other hand, there was not much sun last year and the sea buckthorn berries did not have much flavour so we needed to use three times the amount of the previous year,” Syrco and Charlotte said.
“It is like making wine. Every year it is different but with liquors and spirits people do not understand that it can be different. Of course the flavour is nearly the same but it nice that nature can give us this difference which we can see from year to year. People should aware that this is a natural product and therefore there will always be differences. Making something taste the same is actually easier,” they said.
The herbs are picked at different times depending on when they are at their best. They are then infused in alcohol before they are mixed in small quantities until they complete the extract which is stored in different locations to ensure they can continue to produce the liquor even if they lose one batch.
For more information check out the website of Hierbas de las Dunas.