Making London Dry Gin, in Islay

IN

We call The Botanist an ‘Islay Dry Gin’. What’s the story with that?

Some History

Before we came along, a progressive team at a distillery in the heart of single malt whisky territory, there was no such thing as Islay Dry Gin. In fact, there wasn’t yet a fashion for local gins at all! 

There was such a thing as London Dry Gin, however. This is a legally regulated spirit that has to be produced in a certain way. It doesn’t have to be made in London, London is just where it was first made, in the 19th century. The legal definition is that flavours have to come from natural botanicals and they have to be distilled into the spirit. After distillation, the only thing you’re allowed to add is water, to bring it to the correct bottling strength. This differs from ‘Distilled Gin’, for example, where additives can be used after distillation to achieve the desired flavour. 

The Islay element

With our whiskies, we are very close to our ingredients. All the flavours are from 3 ingredients, water, barley and yeast, and the only thing we add is local spring water at bottling. We’ve been making “Islay Single-Malt Whisky” on site since 1881, so we are experienced distillers, confident in our technique for making a smooth spirit with rich, complex flavours. We don’t filter natural things out, take any shortcuts, or use any additives. It wouldn’t occur to us to approach gin-making in any other way. 

On our island, we are surrounded by fragrant plants and unspoiled land. We started to investigate the edibility of the wild flowers and aromatic plants that are characteristic of our locale – for example, sweet gale / bog myrtle literally scents the winds here. It’s a member of the myrtle family, like cranberry is. Mugwort grows wild near the beach and in the field edges – it’s in the wormwood family, like the plants that are used to make absinthe and vermouth. We wanted to capture these aromas into a spirit that speaks of Islay and it’s unique terroir, the same way we did with our whiskies.

… et Voilà!

In 2010, we started to experiment with a modular still we had acquired, tinkering with its shape and adding a unique botanical casket to the lyne arm, thus working out how to add the delicate local botanicals to the distillation without spoiling them. We were able to distill the purest gin, marrying generations of great spirit-making technique with a foraged bounty of beautiful, natural flavours.  The Botanist is technically a London Dry Gin, but we chose to coin the term, ‘Islay Dry Gin’, to show our pride at the spirit inside the bottle.

Further Reading

More on the backstory of our first distillation of The Botanist here:

How The Botanist Came to Be >>

More about our botanical ingredients from Islay here:

The 22 >>

 

 

Head Distiller Adam Hannett

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