Conceived, distilled and hand-crafted by distilling legend Jim McEwan, The Botanist is a premium artisanal gin created at the Bruichladdich Distillery in Islay, Scotland. Myself and Lindsay Rae from Dearheart Photos were fortunate enough to attend an event that introduced us to this fine spirit, in auspicious style at Haas in Buitenkant Street.
The arty space was tastefully turned into what felt like a Scottish gentlemen’s club, complete with blazers, hats and bow ties – guests made nothing short of an effort. It was also an opportunity for the brand to be introduced to South Africa’s top mixologists and gin enthusiasts.
A selection of 22 of the island’s herbs and flowers are seasonally (and sustainably) hand foraged from the hills, shores and bogs of Islay, and then carefully dried in preparation for distillation. The layered complexity that this process evokes is an inspiration to professional mixologists – it introduces a very personal dimension to this unusual spirit.
Kicking things off in traditional Islay style, Lindsay and I both had a B&T; unique in flavour but an excellent first impression. It consists of The Botanist gin and tonic combined with lime, rose geranium and wild lavender leaves. A touch of cinnamon adds extra spice. The flavours are potent and earthy, and it truly does taste of wild moors and ragged countryside. Expecting it to be a variation of Inverroche, I was altogether surprised that it is unlike anything I’ve tasted before.
We followed it with a strong and sultry Orange Lady; a White Lady with a citrus twist. Although being light and delicate looking, there was nothing weak about her.
The food, made of ingredients that had too been foraged, complemented the wild, earthy flavour of this dry gin. Pickled fish, foraged mushroom, mussels and herby naan made for excellent pairings. The food was met with great appreciation, and the smokey flavours suited the gin cocktails with great satisfaction.
The Botanist is an intellectual’s gin. It’s as much for the mind as for the palate – and it’s trickle distillation, exotic flavour and earthy power make it a gin to enjoy with your closest while philosophising on the true meaning of life.
Photography Dearheart Photos Words Lisa Wallace