Spring in Islay


We have been exploring Islay this week in spring bloom. Many of the botanicals we use in the distillation of the Botanist are at their best right now. Some already departed, others are yet to come. The weather has been extraordinary recently. Growth is afoot.

Water mint, red and white clover, bog myrtle in abundance; creeping thistle is just beginning to show its purple flowers, lady’s bedstraw will be a week or two yet. Heather we expect in late July. Each plant has its seasonal rhythms. Our botanicals are temporal, fleeting and we must be ready for each one.

We use 22 of these local botanicals here on Islay in our distillation of The Botanist, but this is not all about us. What you use locally, seasonally in your drinks is as much a part of the story.  We thrive on creativity and celebrate the extraordinary and simple alike.

This week we have been in good company – joined by Mark Williams, local forager from Galloway Wild Foods, Glasgow bartender and drinks creator Danny Whelan from Hawthorn Drinks and local Helensburgh chef Johnny Aitken, who have been out roaming the coastlands, meadows, bogs, hills and cliffs with us in search of foraged flavours.

Preparing foraged burdock root bitters

Mark talks passionately about his work, about tasting the landscape.

Mark talks passionately about his work, about tasting the landscape. We often walk, we feel the earth underfoot, we look at the views, we smell the sea air, often unconsciously so. But we rarely taste the world around us. That requires action. From fear, from ignorance, because it never crosses our minds to, we miss out.

Between us we walked a new Islay. Old lanes and hedgerows we know well offer tastes we have overlooked, a back garden new inspiration.

Wild hogweed, picked and cooked in butter over an open skillet by the sea. Lightly sparkling elderflower wine, a splash of The Botanist. And with tonic and water mint. Freshly picked and savoured in the open air.

Danny’s signature drink for the week, the aptly named ” Islay Spring

  • 50ml – The Botanist Gin
  • 25ml – wild Islay amaro
  • 15ml – ground ivy and and burdock shrub
  • 5ml – Japanese knotweed and sweet cicely tincture
  • Hogweed seeds
  • Meadowsweet tips

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