Spirit Review: The Botanist Gin

Lovers of great single malt venerate the name Bruichladdich, and justifiably so: Its range of whisky represents some of the finest in Scotland, and its commitment to the heritage of Islay, as well as to looking ahead to the future, have always impressed connoisseurs.
Now, from the hand of master distiller Jim McEwan, comes The Botanist, a thoroughly unique, wonderfully uncommon gin that is distilled in what’s affectionally called “Ugly Betty”--an amalgam of a pot and a column still that had lain unused for three decades before being restored for the specific purpose of crafting this beautiful spirit. [See photo below.] The result is one of the finest gins I’ve tasted in a long time.
The nose shows a subtle florality that nonetheless demonstrates serious balance: This isn’t an overly perfumed gin but, rather, one edged with a feminine aromatic profile. These notes are filled out by hints of mint, seaside air, and the kind of spice that gets carried on the wind. It’s all incredibly evocative, just what you’d hope for from a gin tied so intimately to such a specific, idiosyncratic place. And just like the famous single malts of Islay, this gin is thoroughly expressive of its terroir. It makes sense: 22 of the 31 botanicals are hand-foraged from, and indigenous to, this Southern Hebridean island. On the palate, a distinct salinity sings down the center of the tongue at first, providing balance and ballast to the higher-toned aromatics. This is joined by creamed fennel, anise seed, and a touch of floral sweetness. The finish lingers forever, with flashes of coconut, apple skin, and a gentle suggestion of clove. But to list specific flavor and aroma impressions is to miss out on the point of this gin: Its real magic, it seems to me, is in its impeccable balance and complexity. And just as you wouldn’t really single out one instrument’s contribution to a Beethoven symphony, so, too, wouldn’t it do The Botanist justice to key in on a handful of particular, isolated aspects of it. The individual parts are magnificent, yet the whole is even more impressive.
This is a thoroughly unique expression of gin, a beautiful evocation of the mysterious, wind-swept land of its origin, and a badge of honor for the team at Bruichladdich. I recommend this highly.