The Botanist Islay Gin is a special gin for a number of reasons. First off, it’s made in Scotland. Second, it’s distilled at the iconic Bruichladdich Distillery, on the shores of western reaches of Islay in a place called the Rinns. But the main distinction with The Botanist is in the 22 foraged botanicals that are infused into the gin after the first distillation. These wild botanicals are all harvested by professional foragers around the island between the spring and fall.
The result is magic in a bottle — our top-rated gin of 2020.
We aren’t the only ones to love this expression. The Botanist has also been a mainstay on the awards circuit since it dropped a few years back. The Whisky Exchange named it their Spirit of the Year back in 2014 (that’s above all spirits, including any whiskeys). Since then, the gin has racked up awards from all the major ceremonies and holds 91 points (out of 100) from the Internation Wine and Spirits Competition.
The downside? The Botanist has historically been tough to find on U.S. shelves. But since Rémy Cointreau purchased the Bruichladdich Distillery, The Botanist has gradually become more widely available across the U.S. and not just at niche liquor stores, duty-free shops, and high-end cocktail bars. Today, you can grab a bottle from most delivery services nationwide.
With that new-found ubiquity, we thought it was high time to try the stuff again (officially this time) and offer our tasting notes.
The Botanist Islay Gin
Distillery: Bruichladdich Distillery, Rinns of Islay, UK
Average Price: $40
The spirit is distilled from a wheat mash bill combined with Islay spring water in a bespoke Lomond still. The base combines a macerated blend of the nine core gin peels, barks, berries, and roots. That’s a mix of cassia, coriander, juniper, orange, cinnamon, lemon, licorice, angelica root, and orris root. The vapor distillate then passes through a botanical basket full of 22 wild botanicals that are foraged all around Islay. This makes for a bold gin that’s smoothed out by the wilds of Scotland’s islands.
You can check out the list of the 22 botanicals used in The Botanist here.
There’s a lot going on in the nose of this one — from lemony mint to hints of juniper to a clear sense of summery wildflowers. While other gins can get “oily,” The Botanist stays clear and velvety, with a sense of the juniper in the background as the florals, lemons, berries, spice, anise, wood, and vodka-esque wheat all balance one another to create a delightful sip. I get a hint of marzipan that’s not overly sweet but more imbued with rosewater. Lastly, there’s a faint sense of fresh herbs that feels more like parsley than coriander to me.
The taste ends fairly quickly but leaves you slightly warm, with a light sense of the briny sea, once again spiked with those botanicals.
I like to drink this with fizzy mineral water and ice to let all the botanicals shine. Naturally, this also works wonders in a gin and tonic with a quality tonic — but be careful, the sugar of the tonic can steal a little too much shine away from the gin here.
I also really dig this as a martini base. I like to use a classic 50/50 base of The Botanist with a nice, dry vermouth (I use Noilly Prat or Dolin). Stir in a drop of Angostura bitters over ice and stir until it’s ice cold. Then, I tend to stick with the spirit of the citrus and spritz lemon oils onto the cocktail and drop in the rind. It’s super refreshing, massively flavorful, and very crushable.