Why Islay’s only gin, The Botanist, has won critical acclaim

Why Islay’s only gin, The Botanist, has won critical acclaim

From an island and distillery celebrated for its poignant whiskies came a light-footed contender that’s now loved by all.

If bottles could speak, nothing would tell the tale of “being the odd one out” better than The Botanist.

Hailing from a Scottish island that’s by now synonymous with whisky – here’s where your peaty Laphroiags, Arbegs, Bowmores and Lagavulins get made – the Islay gin spent its early months battling preconceptions from consumers and critics alike. Was it a pretender riding on the coattails of its darker cousin? What would whisky distillers Bruichladdich know about botanicals?

“No” and “plenty” are the answers, apparently. The 31-botanical gin (yes, thirty-one, we’re spelling that out) springboarded its left-field entrance and impressed critics with its balanced complexity and dynamism. In other words, it is a heck of a drink to sit with while discovering its many facets.

The typical juniper lead is handed a supporting role as menthol and citrus perk up the variegated floral notes – not surprising for a distillery that prides itself on being progressive. The combination won it multiple Spirit of the Year awards, some from whisky-based platforms, no less.

Then Master Distiller Jim McEwan, a revered figure in the world of whisky – but not gin.

Much of the spirit’s technical success can be traced to the man behind The Botanist, former master distiller Jim McEwan, to whom the gin was clearly a passion project. McEwan spent almost four decades in Bowmore, making a storied run from apprentice to top distillery dog, before he was called upon to revive the ailing Bruichladdich in 2001.

With half a century in the business so intricately tied to Islay, he found himself compelled to express its story through a drink (what else?), and so worked into The Botanist 22 hand-foraged botanicals indigenous to the island. The rest is awards history.

McEwan retired less than two years after its launch (though he’s up and about once more, helping out a fledgling distillery), so it’s safe to say the gin was in some ways a swan song. And what better analogy to remember The Botanist by than the parable of The Ugly Duckling?

, , , , , , ,

Type keyword(s) and press Enter