Craft Spirits Spotlight: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

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The idea of making gin at Bruichladdich Distillery had been on Master Distiller Jim McEwan’s mind since 2004. Bruichladdich, for those unaware, is a well-known Scotch whisky distillery that has been in production on the Isle of Islay in since 1881.

He purchased a rare Lomond still commonly used to make gin, and he also contacted two Botanists, Richard and Mavis Gulliver, who live on Islay and explained his idea of using the wild plants of the island to give the Gin a unique flavor.

The gin is called Botanist to pay tribute to those individuals whose exceptional skills with flowers make gin possible. “The Botanists brought me lots of plants and wild flowers from which I selected twenty-two that I thought would be perfect for what I was trying to achieve,” McEwan says, “so all that was required was for me to learn how to make Gin.”

He did this by working with a Pot Still Gin distiller in Birmingham, England. “While there, I chose the main Botanicals like Juniper, Coriander, Aniseed among a few others that I personally thought would work with the natural flavors of the Islay botanicals,” McEwan says. With thirty-one botanicals in his recipe, twenty-two of which were foraged by hand on Islay, it was time to put the still to the test.

First, McEwan had to make some changes to the still that had by then been christened “Ugly Betty.” McEwan put a special chamber in the neck of the still where the Islay botanicals were placed so they’d be vaporized into the spirit.

The first distillation took place in August of 2010. “Betty and I set out on a most amazing journey,” McEwan says. “She distilled like a dream and when the first few drops trickled into the sample glass I was in total awe of the purity and the overall flavor profile. I still am in awe every time Betty and I get together.”

After a few years of distillation, McEwan has a very strong relationship with Betty. “Betty and I don’t distill, we dance to the sound of steam and hissing valves, she is so unique and rare as is the recipe of thirty-one Botanicals,” he says. “How all the flavors come together to create this fabulous taste experience is a mystery and some would say the work of a spirit, but myself I believe it brings place, people, and nature together as one, just as our families have experienced for centuries making unique Single Malts on this sacred Island.”

The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
Bruichladdich Distillery
Isle of Islay, Scotland

Find out more at The Botanist.

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