The Hebridean Island of Islay is known for many things – peated scotch whisky, possibly, above all else. Historically, it's not been known for its gin. That is, until now.
Over the past decade or so, The Progressive Bruichladdich Distillery has changed that, and in the wave-washed, weather-beaten landscape of the historic island, a spirit has captured the landscape like none before it. The Botanist Gin is its name, and its unique flavours are putting Islay on the gin map, as well as the scotch one, creating a unique spirit that has all the rich complexities of a London Dry gin, but which distils and infuses a piece of an environment that's like no other, resulting in a totally one-off product.
That's because the rugged isle of Islay happens to be full to bursting with bountiful herbs, flowers and botanicals that, when infused together with some more classic gin botanicals, create a spirit that tastes a little like what you know, but charts new and exciting territory, too. It's clear before you've even tasted it: on the nose, woodland notes, menthol, honey and flowers give a sense of what's to come, before citrus and thistle join them on the palate.
Many gins carry the 'London Dry' tag – a description that comes from the inclusion of core botanicals including juniper and coriander seeds. This means they're reflective of their history, but not necessarily instilled with a sense of place. That's why The Botanist is so special – it is, largely speaking, a one-island gin; 22 of its 31 in total are native to the island and hand-foraged by The Botanist's team of botanical scientists. They're infused into a liquid that's not shipped in from afar, but made via 'simmer slow distillation' on Islay in a pot still known as Ugly Betty, as old and world-worn as the island's rocky beaches and heather-strewn hills.
The Botanist is, by nature, a gin that's made to be experimented with; while the gin is equally at home in a gin and tonic as in a martini, its complex flavours make it a perfect testing ground for professionals and keen home bartenders alike. You could try making The Botanist Bramble, with Aelder liqueur, lemon and sugar syrup; or keeping it simple with The Botanist and Tonic, adding a foraged garnish, like a seasonal douglas fir. But, equally, you could just pour yourself a glass of The Botanist, inhale, taste, and let your nose and palate be your guide. The possibilities with this, one of the jewels in Islay's crown, are endless.
The Botanist Gin is stocked at premium retailers nationwide. For more information, visit thebotanist.com, or you can follow the brand on Twitter or Instagram: search @TheBotanistGin, #TheBotanistGin, #ForagedMixology or #WildDrinks