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Review

The Botanist
Islay Dry Gin

Distillery

Bruichladdich Distillery (Remy Cointreau), Island of Islay, Hebrides, Argyll, Scotland, UK.

Website

Bruichladdich.

History

Brothers John, Robert and William Harvey originally founded the Bruichladdich whisky Distillery in 1881. Across the years it has had a rollercoaster of a ride with recessions, family feuds, wars (externally), poor business management and bad luck. Eventually, in 1994 it was all but closed down, with just watchmen employed to look after the safety and security of the buildings.

Re-established in 2001, it was bought in 2000 by a group of private investors (many Hebrideans) led by Mark Reynier (who retired in 2012) and was sold to Remy Cointreau in 2012. The ethics of the business clearly promote: authenticity, craft, place, provenance, terroir, community and traceability. The distillery employs around 50 Ìlich (people of Islay), many part-time.

Whilst clearly focused on Whisky production they took a departure from the norm and in 2010 started producing this Gin – the first Gin ever made on Islay. Initially this was produced as a limited edition of 15,000 bottles, filling a hole whilst production of whisky was temporarily suspended to make rearrangements in the distillery. Interestingly that Christmas, Gin sales out performed Whisky sales in their shop! Today it still outsells any of their individual Whiskies and perhaps accounts for the continued production of this “once limited run” spirit.

Production

The Gin is made from wheat to produce the base spirit. This is then distilled in small batches using an 11,600 liter Lomond copper pot/column still built by Ramsden of London and called “Ugly Betty” on account of the poor condition it was in. Having lain unused for over 3 decades, the still was lovingly restored and out of 5 made in the 1950’s (this was the first), it is the only remaining authentic Lomand in full operation (so it’s also the last). The still works at a low pressure (a mere 0.2 atmospheres) so each batch is produced across a very slow 17-hour period, lovingly cared for by head distiller Jim McEwan. Rather unusually it uses a double infusion method: the 9 classic botanicals are steeped overnight and then “cooked” in the pot with the 22 native botanicals being vapor infused above the pot. The water used in the process is from Dirty Dottie’s natural spring located in a small green sandstone valley, at neighboring Octomore farm.

The Gin is presented in a clear rectangular bottle made by Saver Glass from France, with a white label and simple black lettering.

Distillery tours are available, visit their website for information on dates, times, tastings, shop and prices.

Category

Distilled Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

46% (92 Proof).

Price Range

$$$ - $$$$. Available on line, try: Astor Wines, Toast Wines, Wine Transit, Ultimate Wine Shop or Calvert Woodley.

Botanicals

31 Botanicals are used (9 non-native classic Gin ones* and 22 wild hand picked ones, native to the island):

angelica root*, apple mint, birch leaf, bog myrtle, cassia bark*, chamomile (sweet), cinnamon bark*, clover (red) flower, clover (white), coriander seed*, elderflower, gorse flower, hawthorn flower, heather flower, juniper berry*, (prostrate) juniper berry (wild from the island), lady’s bedstraw, lemon balm, lemon peel*, liquorice root*, meadowsweet, mugwort, orange peel*, orris root*, peppermint, sweet cicely, tansy, thistle (creeping), thyme, water mint and wood sage.

Name

The name of the distillery means, “Raised rocky beach bank” and is one of many Gaelic words that are difficult to pronounce. It is actually two Gaelic words and most Scottish West coast Gaelic speakers pronounce it as “brew-ah-kladdie”, although this is sometimes anglicised to “broo-kladdie” – hence the “Laddie” range of whisky produced by the distillery.

The name of the Gin comes from the large amount of botanicals used and the two island dwelling botanists - who source and hand pick them – husband and wife team, Dr Richard and Mary Gulliver.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are floral (elderflower and chamomile) and herbal (lemon balm and thyme) aromas, the bouquet being a key highlight of this spirit. On the palate this very dry and bitter spirit (with a hint of liquorice sweetness) has strong juniper plus herbs and spices (coriander and cinnamon) with citrus (orange) and aniseed – there might even be a very faint hint of saline! The warming close is herbal, zesty and peppery spice and the finish lingers for a long time. Unsurprisingly, this is a complex Gin and every sniff and taste is a new experience trying to identify every botanical – although it is the sum of the whole effect, which ultimately makes this Gin. There is nicely orchestrated balance here but it certainly walks a tightrope in doing so.

This Gin had the potential, with this many botanicals, to be an overpowering assault upon the senses. Instead it is often soft and subtle and, although not as versatile in mixed drinks, it has a lot to offer. It is an excellent sipping Gin, smooth and creamy but not as smooth as one might expect. Think of it more as a Gin flavoured eau de vie: real crafted distinctive artisanal character rather than slick over-commercialized bland uniformity. This will not be to everyone’s liking (then again what is?) but for many Gin drinkers this will be a type of heaven only dreamt of previously. The distillers make much play on the importance of terroir (well known in wine circles) and whilst the jury is still out we can’t help but feel the terroir of this Gin.

It stands up reasonably well in a Gin and Tonic, Bruichladdich recommend using Schweppes and garnish with a slice of lime, although we have found Fentimans (with stronger citrus notes) works particularly well – also try a cucumber garnish for freshness or thyme for a greater herbal hit. In a Martini there almost seems to be a cancelling out of the herbs between the Gin and the Vermouth and thus we suggest making it a very dry one indeed, with a citrus twist rather than olive garnish. Certainly the citrus notes of the Gin are understated and on this basis it does very well in a Bramble, Gimlet or Tom Collins – just be aware this loses some of the Gin’s more subtle flavors.

All in all, this is a finely tuned dry Gin with floral aroma and juniper led taste supported by herbs and spices. Not overwhelmingly complex yet mixing with other drinks requires a greater art form than most Gins. This is highly recommended (especially taken neat) and whilst more for the gin enthusiast willing to experiment do not be put off from trying it – you’ll always find something about it to like.

Awards & Accolades

88 Points, Wine Enthusiast.

Diamond Medal, Monaco Concours of the Femmes et Spiriteux du Monde, 2011.



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