Gin. The Other Islay Spirit.

the-botanist-gin-Creeping-thistle-IMG_4049_0
Creeping Thistle flowers. One of many gin botanicals. Via The Botanist.

Yes, this is still Whisky + Arch. Emphasis on the “whisky.” But trust me, you want to read on.

Full disclosure, I’m a child of the 90’s. I grew up watching Animaniacs, Freakazoid and Tiny Toon Adventures. My idea of video games was rewinding a VHS tape of The Lion King as fast as I possibly could, when I couldn’t go to my friend’s house to play Killer Instinct on his Super Nintendo. Downloading music was hitting the record button on my cassette player during my favourite DJ’s radio segment and some of my fondest memories were made in my backyard; just me, my friends and a football (soccer ball for my American friends). Yes, I’m a child of the 90’s. More than anything though, what really stuck with me – throughout the 90’s and beyond – was the music. I listened to everything. From Soca, Dancehall and Pop, to Hip Hop, Rock and Grunge. From artistes local to my country, to performers from abroad. None more so than from America. At the time, the sounds emanating from the American west coast were jarring, controversial and, more importantly, resonating. It struck a chord with a lot of my friends and me. The nonchalant, self-confident attitude of “G-Funk” was appealing and the idea of partying it up with my friends, even when we were all too young to know how alcohol tasted, was alluring. There was one song in particular that embodied that idea for me: Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice.

With perhaps one of the catchiest hooks of all time, everyone and their “momma” knew what Snoop was doing. He was rolling down the street. Smoking indo. Sipping on gin and juice. That was probably the first time I ever heard of gin. And I wanted some. It would be years before I actually had any, especially coming from a rum obsessed country, but I distinctly remember when I first had it I was singing that famous Snoop Dogg hook. Alas, as time passed, my palate became pickier and, well, it’s clear what my spirit of choice is now. However, like many other whisky drinkers I’ve interacted with, gin continues to hold a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s how refreshing it can be. Maybe it’s because of the range of complexities the spirit has that allows whisky drinkers to appreciate it. Whatever the case, we still like that shit. A lot.

Now, I still don’t consider myself a true whisky connoisseur, so far be it for me to claim an expert knowledge on any other spirit, but as I’ve stated countless times before, when I like something, I like something. I recently had The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, and this stuff, I like.

Botanist-Gin
Bruichladdich sure know how to make a bottle. Via The Botanist.

Scotland is no stranger to gin. With 70% of the spirit in the UK being produced there, they pretty much have a firm grasp on the market. But Islay gin? This is relatively new territory. Coming out of the same distillery that brought you Octomore 7.4, The Botanist is Bruichladdich’s foray into the juniper infused spirit. We’ve already discussed how forward thinking and experimental Bruichladdich is, so it’s no real surprise then that they would take the leap of faith into the clearer side of liquor. Similarly, I took the leap of faith to try it out.

Looking at the bottle, it’s hard to miss the glowing red ‘22’. One should note though, whereas a number on a whisk(e)y bottle typically signifies the age of the spirit, in The Botanist’s case, the number ‘22’ represents the amount of botanicals foraged for this masterful liquid. That’s right, 22 botanicals. All of which are local to the island of Islay. And that’s on top of the 9 botanicals typically found in a classic gin, which include juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon bark, lemon and orange peel, as well as liquorice and orris roots. For those not keeping track, The Botanist boasts 31 botanicals, providing it with an extremely complex flavour profile that, if I’m to be honest with myself, was slightly intimidating because I doubted that my palate was developed enough to identify each one. Needless to say, my palate wasn’t and thus I couldn’t. But that didn’t stop me from absolutely enjoying this thing. When I cracked the seal I felt like I was in one of those glade commercials and I half expected little animated flowers to be released from within the bottle.

Glade-Sense-and-Spray
The fact that they mention “the botanist” just proves my point. Via Glade.

The nose on this beauty is superb. I’m no botanist (no pun intended), so I can’t exactly give you scientific names of plants I smelled, but it felt like I was running through a lush field in the summer while simultaneously holding a bouquet of fresh spring flowers. Chronologically it doesn’t make sense. But few things do when you’re enveloped in an aroma as beautiful as this. What I was able to discern however, was lemon peel and mint. The citrus was very strong, though something else was there that I take to be the actual juniper. It’s an extremely pleasant smell that will never be mistaken for anything other than gin, however, it was by no means overpowering. You know what you do not get though? Smoke! Yes, an Islay spirit and absolutely no smoke on the nose. Yet, is it really that surprising? As many of you may know, Bruichladdich is just as famous for their non-peated Classic Laddie that has as much smoke as still water, as they are for their heavily peated expressions such as Port Charlotte, which brings the smoke in waves. Basically, this distillery knows what it’s doing.

With all the praise I’m giving the olfaction (yay for uncommon words!) of The Botanist, you’re probably wondering what it actually tastes like. Well, the nose was far from misleading. With nothing but the spirit in my glass, it’s smooth. But what shocked me the most was just how smooth. Admittedly, I fancy a dirty martini every now and then. Having The Botanist neat though, I almost had to blink and wipe my eyes to make sure that there was no vermouth nor olives in my glass. Seriously. It’s that smooth. And the taste lingers long after you’ve sipped it, sending a warmth throughout your body that is simultaneously comforting and energizing. Adding an ice ball really elevated the taste to the point where I can see having The Botanist on the rocks as a sublime summer cocktail. Minus the cocktail.

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There’s a joke here somewhere. Via animalia-life.

Speaking of cocktails, a mixologist I am not. Yet, I took the plunge and added some ginger ale, because at the time of writing this, I have no tonic in my pantry. I don’t know if that’s blasphemous or not, but let’s move along, shall we? The Botanist holds its own even with some Canada Dry ginger ale; the carbonation adding a lovely tingle to an already lovely drink.

All in all, I highly recommend The Botanist. For those who don’t usually venture to gin, I would say start with this, though I don’t think it’ll be fair to say “and work yourself up” because it’s honestly hard to beat. For such a smorgasbord of botanicals, The Bontanist accomplishes an incredible feat; its whole being oh so greater than the sum of its parts.

Huge thanks to Jennifer from The 5th Column PR for the sample.

Cheers – Peat

P.S. For more reviews on spirits other than whisky, be on the look out for our sister site, Bev + Arch, launching soon.

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2 thoughts on “Gin. The Other Islay Spirit.

  1. The Botanist is a very fine gin. Just got back from my Scotland honeymoon and happened to do a tasting at Bruichladdich (among 14 other distilleries, 6 of which on Islay). Also tried some Edinburgh gin, which is very good, but I think I like The Botanist better.

    Liked by 1 person

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