The Botanist is amongst the very best gins in the world—and certainly is for the price—which makes perfect sense given that it’s produced on Islay, the home island of the best Scotch Whisky on this planet of ours.
Islay is also home to a few defunct distilleries—Scarrabus and Port Ellen come to mind—as well as a few that are on the come-up but haven’t quite matched the legendary quality of their peers. (Most of the problem has to do with a distinct lack of aged whisky; turns out forecasting alcohol demand 20 years in advance might be harder to achieve than drunk Scotsmen imagined.)
Lately, two distilleries with names that the non-Scottish among us will struggle to pronounce have risen anew. Kilchoman suffered a destructive fire nearly 15 years ago but now offers a few younger malts and some aggressive non-age-statement single-barrel blends. Meanwhile, Bruichladdich has been born anew and is pioneering the smokey frontier with their insanely expensive Octomore lineup, on top of a few bottles like the “Classic Laddie” (also conspicuously missing an age statement).
Unlike Scotch Whiskey gin does not require a period of aging before the distillery can market and sell their product, so some Scotch Whisky distillers have branched out into the gin arena in the hopes that instantly available alcohol is, in fact, a good thing. For the record, it is.
Enter The Botanist, possibly the best gin in the world. With distillery tours getting so busy on Islay, most tourists are no longer able to stroll right in and receive the open-armed, warm Scottish welcome (and tour) they might expect. However, smarter distilleries will certainly charm their guests with a wee dram or two.
In the case of Bruichladdich, that wee dram can quickly turn into ten or twelve generous pours of their entire line—Octomores, Laddies, and new mash included—but to clean up the mess, they’ll also force a strange liquid upon unsuspecting simpletons (no doubt made simple by ten to twelve generous pours).
While Bruichladdich’s Scotches, on the whole, don’t particularly stand out other than for their ppm counts, The Botanist sure does. Distilled with botanicals hand-harvested on Islay itself, the gin is crisp and herbaceous, but without the overwhelming notes of a Hendricks or the heavyhanded juniper overtones of a Bols Genever.
The Botanist is perfect for a martini and, really, anything else is doing the spirit a disservice. If it’s sunny and hot, go for a twist. Are you in foggy London and your forthcoming dinner of bland meat with bland starch sounds bland? Get the olives—and order your second round in advance.
3 oz The Botanist (don’t skimp)
Hint of Vermouth (skimp, maybe skip)
3 Castelvetrano Olives (Or lemon peel)
Shake the gin and maybe one single solitary drop of the driest vermouth on the planet in a martini shaker until the metal is unbearably cold. Lace the Castelvetrano olives on a toothpick while moist and glistening with brine and mount them happily on their glass throne—or peel a slice of lemon rind. Strain into a martini glass ice-cold.