Our Process

THE BOTANIST IS DISTILLED SLOWLY IN A UNIQUE STILL TO EXTRACT THE MAXIMUM FLAVOUR POSSIBLE.

Despite its unappealing aesthetics, the affectionately named “Ugly Betty” is an incredibly unique piece of equipment. A far cry from the elegant curves of the traditional pot still, this Lomond still, one of only six ever built, is an experimental cross between a column and a pot still. The modular copper vessel was designed to be re-configured to create different styles of spirit.

Lomond stills were developed in 1955 by an engineer at Hiram Walker named Alistair Cunningham.

The Lomond Still concept was never fully embraced by the whisky industry, and only 6 were ever made. For a brief period in the 1950s, it seemed like the Lomond still were becoming popular. Hiram Walker installed others at Glenburgie, Miltonduff, and Inverleven, but eventually, their use was discontinued.

The only functioning Lomond still in use for whisky today is at Scapa distillery. Several modifications had to be made to Ugly Betty to produce the desired style of The Botanist.

Jim had discussions with Forsyths (a coppersmith based in the North East of Scotland) about how these changes could be made, how much it would cost and how difficult it would be to make them.

Though this was the easy part and several other physical and practical obstacles then stood in the way – namely the physical installation of such a large piece of equipment into the still house.

“An oversized, upside-down dustbin made of copper”

Tom Morton, “Spirit of Adventure”

Luckily, one of the whisky stills required essential maintenance, which involved removing it completely, meaning that the opportunity arose to squeeze Ugly Betty into the still house through a hole in the wall. Once it was in, the modifications could be made. Jim wanted to distil very slowly and at very low pressure to allow maximum reflux of the vapours during the distillation process.

Reflux enables the lightest, purest elements of the vapour to be condensed to a liquid. Copper contact is integral to this. The more contact made between vapour and copper, the purer and lighter a spirit will be.

With that in mind, 4 baffle plates inside the neck of the still were also modified. These plates were originally adjustable to suit various distillation styles. Jim modified them to make sure they’re were at a fixed angle, acting as a barrier to the vapour as it rises the still, effectively increasing the reflux and, therefore, quality of the spirit. Finally, the installation of an infusion chamber to the still’s neck, inside which the muslin sack of the 22 Islay botanicals was placed for each distillation.

How do we make the botanist gin?

The distillation of The Botanist is a slow, slow process…

  • Temperature

    1

    Step 1

    The temperature of the spirit in the still is increased until it is hand-hot. Literally, hand hot. It is tested by hand until it feels right – no thermometers are used.

  • Core botanicals

    Step 2

    Then the core botanicals are manually loaded into the pot of the still in a particular order and spread using rakes to form a sort of mat that sits on the surface of the liquid. They are then steeped for twelve hours before the steam pressure is increased again to simmering point, and the vapours start to rise up the neck of the heavily modified vessel.

    2

    Core botanicals

  • reflux

    3

    Step 3

    The rising vapours first hit a cluster of 85 small bore copper pipes in the neck, which provides a massively increased surface area of copper, a powerful cleansing agent. It then hits a water box at the head of the still, which cools the vapours and causes reflux of any heavy oils that have escaped the copper.

  • Islay botanicals

    Step 4

    Only the purest and lightest vapours turn through 90 degrees and enter the lyne arm into which the casket containing the Islay botanicals is built.

    4

    Islay botanicals

  • condensed spirit

    5

    Step 5

    The Islay botanicals are held in loosely woven muslin sacks through which the vapour can easily pass, but even at this stage, there is a reflux pipe that returns any heavier condensed spirit to the neck of the still.

  • middle cut

    Step 6

    The final stage of the journey is down the long shell tube condenser and into the botanist’s own unique spirit safe, from which the Stillman takes the samples to determine the precious middle cut.

    6

    middle cut

Features on The Distillery

Discover more about Bruichladdich Distillery

Wild Islay

Islay, a small Hebridean island in the teeth of the wild Atlantic ocean. Battered by wind and rain and two hours on the ferry from mainland Scotland.
6 minute read

Simmer Distillation

You really pick up the complexity in The Botanist Gin. It’s about the quality of the distillation bringing those flavours through.
5 minute read

Two waters, three uses

There are two vital sources of water that feed The Botanist…
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