The Botanist: A New Oscar-Worthy Gin
jgarbeeThe Botanist With Her (Irish) Whisky Colleagues
The Botanist has all the buzzwords of box office gin success. In addition to the typical gin aromatics (juniper berries, cassia bark, orange peel and such), it is distilled with "22 wild native Islay botanicals" (white clover, bog myrtle leaves, creeping thistle). They've been hand-picked by an "expert foraging team" from ocean-front shores, peat bogs and, we are told, even a few "windswept hills" for that full cinematic cocktail effect.
To thicken the plot, there's controversy. The gin is made by Bruichladdich, the 130-year-old distillery known for its bold, heavily peated, single-malt Scotch whisky. The distillery has never released a gin, or any spirit on such a delicate end of the flavor spectrum, for that matter. There's even a reference to Ugly Betty, although here, not the television show but the nickname of the Lomond pot-still used to slowly simmer -- for 17 hours, three times the average gin -- the 46% ABV potion. There's so much hype, we fully expected herbal overkill, a flavor flop.
Instead, The Botanist (It even sounds like an Oscar nominee, no?) is vibrant, clean and fresh -- certainly not the sort of gin to be muddied with olives, vermouth or other additions. It's layered with so many hints of flavor, we can't quite decide where to start. The fruits of all that foraging, we imagine. That we've never actually tasted creeping thistle and gorse flowers might have something to do with it. This is, straight up, one excellent gin.
Or as David Driscoll, the spirits buyer over at K&L Wine, sums it up:
What happens when you take one of the great single-malt distillers of all time, put him in a room with an old Scottish pot still, and have him make gin using only botanicals found on the legendary isle of Islay? Trouble. Trouble for other gin producers, that is.
The one downside, according to Driscoll, is that the $35 gin is difficult to get your (his) hands on, even though it's not a limited-release spirit (the gin was released in 2010 but only recently became available in California). He has about 40 bottles left in stock at the Hollywood store. Trouble for us.
Get the Squid Ink'd Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly food newsletter, which features top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips and a link to our print review.