The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

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Although distilled at a distillery better known for Scotch (Bruichladdich) and in a region of the world better known for Scotch (the Southern reaches of the Hebridean islands), The Botanist Gin is no Islay Scotch.

Rather, The Botanist Gin is an exploration of Hebridean flora.

In 2011, what the Bruichladdich distillery was still rather unusual. Foraged botanicals are commonplace in gins that make a statement of place. Of the massive 31 botanicals in The Botanist, a full twenty-two of them are locally foraged and they range from the quotidian  (spearmint) to the hardy, weedy, and unusual in gin (yellow bedstraw).

Yellow Bedstraw in a gin? This one is interesting for many reasons. Firstly, another plant that goes by the name of Bedstraw is more common in gin. The sweet woodruff or just plain woodruff is sometimes called bedstraw and is a not-too-unusual flavoring ingredient.

Yellow bedstraw, or as The Botanist Gin team calls it “Lady’s Bedstraw” is a yellow plant that was once used as bedding and has a distinctive Tonka-Bean like aroma of fresh, creamy hay. Unusual in culinary applications, it has traditional uses as a dye and in Nordic spirits. Most of the world knows it as a weed due to its hardy and opportune ability to colonize sprawling and disturbed grasslands.

Tasting Notes

Dispel the notion that an excess of botanicals means you can’t have a classic gin nose: plenty of juniper, lemon and orange zest mingling with meadowsweet and woodruff.

The texture of the spirit rather nice, with a slightly oily, pleasant palate coating presence.

Cool mint and juniper, slightly pine-forward juniper at first. Citrus, primarily lemon zest on the early mid-palate before sweet spices and flower come through. Woodruff, chamomile and herbs de provence. Warm juniper late with echoes of vanilla cream, licorice and birch bark. Fairly long, fairly dry finish with a gentle, pleasing astringency.

I really like the way the seemingly boundless list of woodland herbs and flowers come together so nicely to create a harmonious, well-balanced accord. Whereas many gins with a kitchen-sink list of botanicals seem to be a battle for attention; every botanical amped up as if to scream, “I’m in here, notice me,” The Botanist Gin manages to include a lot without seeming like there’s a lot. It’s focused, and surprising to the palate, in the way that a good perfume seems to be composed of so much less. I’d say that the Botanist Gin on the palate is a perfumers’ gin.

Cocktails

The Botanist Gin is a versatile mixing gin in the sense that it works well and delivers a classic gin flavor to most any cocktail; however some of that nuance and aromatic layers that can be tasted neat don’t quite come through. Well that is on any except The Martini, which I wholeheartedly recommend with this gin. I suggest a drier than usual 9:1 with a twist, owing to the botanical complexity you don’t need as much botanical complexity from the Vermouth.

My shortlist would also recommend The Aviation and The Clover Club Cocktail, though really any mixed drink like The Gimlet or of course, The Gin and Tonic, are good with The Botanist. In mixed drinks, it adds a pleasant floral and herbal undernote to the gentle juniper-forward profile it already brings.

Overall 

The Botanist Gin is certainly evidence that the Hebridean Islands are about more than just Scotch. Well balanced, but sufficiently complex; The Botanist Gin may be the floral/herbal gin most well suited to entice the classic gin aficionado a bit step ever so slightly outside of their comfort zone.

This is a well-made gin with fine attention to detail. The Botanist Gin is more than just a gin with a huge amount of botanicals; it’s a well crafted and constructed gin that showcases the power of teamwork.

Recommended to both fans of classic and contemporary gin, though it may be too classic for the ardent contemporarians and too contemporary for the most ardent classicists. Though I hope both can recommend a good product.

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