For Waterhead’s Gin of the Month in February Anthony has looked North to Scotland and selected the Botanist Islay Dry Gin, the latest premium gin to be added to Waterhead’s collection.
The Bruichladdich Distillery
The Bruichladdich Distillery was built in 1881 by the Harvey Brothers. Over the years it has become renowned for a collection of great whisky, most notably the Bruichladdich 10 year old. It is this same distillery where the Botanist, an artisanal Islay gin, is created.
The Botanist is a gin of layered complexity and makes the most of the heritage from the Isle of Islay by using nine of the classic gin botanicals which are augmented with a further 22 local herbs and flowers. Each of these local botanicals are hand picked by their expert foraging team from the windswept hills, peat bogs and Atlantic shores of the Hebridean island. The result from the carefully sought after ingredients is a gin much for the mind as the palate – some say a thinking person’s gin. Once the gin is poured you will have a rollercoaster of botanical odyssey in the glass to enjoy.
Botanicals and Herbs
9 Botanicals – Angelica root, orange, coriander, orris root, cinnamon, licorice, juniper, cassia and lemon
22 Local herbs – Apple mint, sweet chamomile, creeping thistle, downy birch, elder, gorse flower, hawthorn flower, heather flowers, juniper, lady’s bedstraw, lemon balm, meadow sweet, mugwort, red clover, spearmint, sweet cicely, sweet gale or bog myrtle, tansy, water mint, white clover, thyme and wood sage.
The Master Distiller
Jim McEwan is one of the best known distillers in Scotland and was recently inducted to the Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame. He has held the role of master distiller at the Bruichladdich Distillery since it was reopened in 2001. Since its re-launch it has become one of the largest employers on Islay, opening up new relationships with the farmers and making the most of the local botanicals that can be found there. Jim has helped to look at the new challenges of what a distillery can do and the creation of the Botanist using local produce is just one.
The distillation of The Botanist is a slow process where the temperature of the spirit in the still is increased until it is hand hot and is tested by hand without the use of thermometers. When the right temperature has been reached the botanicals are added to the pot still in a particular order, and spread using rakes to form a mat that sits on top of the liquid. It is then left to steep for 12 hours, before increasing the steam pressure to a simmering point allowing the vapours to start to rise. The rising vapours then hit a cluster of small bore copper pipes that provide an increased surface area and act as a powerful cleansing agent. Only the purest and lightest vapours turn through 90 degrees and enter the lyne arm into which the casket containing the botanicals is built. The botanicals are held in loosely woven muslin sacks allowing the vapours to easily pass through. The last part of the distillation process is down the long shell tube condenser and into The Botanist’s own unique spirit safe, from which the stillman will take samples to determine the precious middle cut.
The Lomond Still
The still which is used to create the Botanist gin was an experimental cross between a column and pot still designed to meet the growing demand for single malts. The still was recovered by Duncan MacGillivray from Inverleven and transported down the Clyde by barge, around the Mull of Kintyre and finally to Islay. It was berthed at Port Ellen before making its final part of the journey to Bruichladdich. It is this unique and extremely cherished Lomond pot still that Jim McEwan head distiller calls “Ugly Betty”. Betty prefers to work at low pressure and won’t be rushed, so the botanicals are slowly and gently coaxed into the still relaxing their complex aromatics.
- Nose: Aromas explode giving off sweet delicate menthol, apple mint, spring woodlands, juniper, coriander with aniseed undertones, lemon and orange peel, a bouquet of summer flowers, honey from thistle, coconut from gorse, wild mint and summer meadows.
- Palate: The taste is rich and mellow, you can feel the warmth as it reaches the back palate.
- Finish: Satin smooth and totally seductive experience.