Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Botanist Gin with Robert Atkinson's Island Going

The Botanist gin is a product of Bruichladdich distillery - whisky fans will know that it's one of Islay's 8 working distilleries and was rescued by a private consortium in 2001. It had been in danger of being mothballed. It's a great whisky with a reputation for innovation - in the early 2000's the new owners played with seemingly endless bottlings of old stock to keep the cash glowing whilst they waited for their new spirit to mature. Somewhere along the line they also realised that their Lomond still (Ugly Betty, who is apparently the last working Lomond still around) could be used to make an excellent gin, and with gin taking off the maths must have been obvious.

Whisky isn't officially whisky until it's been maturing for 3 years and a day, a single malt generally needs somewhat longer to be ready, so it's a huge capital investment to have tied up. The Botanist might be relatively slow to distill (17 hours) but then it's pretty much good to go. It's something more and more distilleries seem to be doing, and for anyone looking to start up a new whisky distillery starting with a gin is now common sense.

The Botanist also offers a great opportunity to think about botanicals - the botanicals are simply the herbs, spices, and fruits used to give gin its flavour. One of them has to be juniper (or it's not gin), coriander is another core ingredient, as is angelica. I read something really interesting the other day about how they work together - coriander gives a citrus flavour, juniper is self explanatory, and there was something else that tied those more volatile flavours down and stabilised them - I can't remember  what it was or where I found the piece - which is annoying. The point I'm getting to though is that it's perfectly possible to make an excellent gin with only 4 botanicals (Tanqueray is rumoured to use only 4, No.3 uses just 6). The Botanist uses 31. That's 9 core, traditional botanicals, and 22 foraged from around Islay many of which are less traditional.

The Botanist is a lovely gin, floral but with a distinctive juniper edge, well balanced, and full of interesting, but always well integrated, hints from all those elements. Essentially it's a beautifully crafted gin made by people who know their business, but I think it's important to say again that more botanicals is a choice not a neccesity, and not in itself a guarantee of quality.

Meanwhile I've been meaning to read Robert Atkinson's 'Island Going' for years now, I've certainly had a copy for a while, and having seen it in Slightly Foxed recently, and again on Kate McDonald's blog it's moved to the top of my list. It's the story of 2 young men setting off to the Western Isles in search of Leach's Fork-tailed Petrel's and all the other things they found there. What could be better to enjoy side by side with that than a gin which celebrates the flora of another of the western isles? Nothing. Nothing could be better, so I'm saving this bottle for the day I open the book.


  1. I'm loving your book/alcohol pairings.

  2. Thank you! I find it's a surprisingly helpful way to think about drinks generally, and perhaps things like gin/whisky/rum in particular. It certainly helps me remember/define them in my own mind far better than traditional tasting notes do.

  3. I like the sound of both gin and book. I will endeavour to remember to re-read your blog when I have a clear credit card again. (Not long)

  4. I'm keeping clear of Amazon etc at the moment for similar reasons - keep hearing about new gins and the urge to order is hard to resist.