Plant Families

IN

Plant families cross the world. They connect a thing that is rooted in one specific spot with another thousands of miles away.  They are networks of common characteristics, or common ancestors, common genes. Plant families, and the related species within them, are identified universally in one language – Latin – underpinning their local names. That’s the language that we emboss on our every bottle; even if you don’t “speak” Latin, you can feel it. Our gin’s named for someone that makes it their business to know the shared patterns of plants – a botanist.

When you’re drinking The Botanist, it makes sense with a myriad of different locally foraged garnishes. It could be because our ingredients present you with a potential relationships with tens of thousands of other species. Because the plant families captured in the liquid are like a previous introduction to the plants that are growing wherever you are.

There are 31 flavoursome plants used to make The Botanist. 22 of them are foraged in the temperate and fertile climate of Islay, although not all the things that grow here are strictly “native”.  31 ingredients is a lot compared to other available gins, sometimes more than three times as many, depending on the brand. But the taste isn’t confusing or explosive, it’s harmonious. How? One answer is that the 31 plant ingredients belong to 14 different families, so there are bridges and touchpoints within the complexity from the outset. It’s subtle, intuitive. But behind it is solid science, biology, chemistry.

Flavour matching by plant family is a thing well known in gastronomy circles. For instance, rose will go with stone fruits because they’re the same family – read more at https://www.thebotanist.com/news/real-food/rose-tinted-martini-glasses/ .  It doesn’t follow that members of the same family contain all the same aroma or flavour compounds, which are basically pieces of organic chemistry, but it might help you make sense of good combinations – for example carrot and coriander (both in the carrot family Apiaceae), or lavender and thyme (both in the Lamiaceae family – the mint family, also known as the dead nettles), cherry and almond (Rose family.)

Playing with The Botanist in your own environment means you can extend the flavours in multiple directions, without straying outside of the plant families that are already in the team. It’s like having a delicious plant passport to wherever you are. 

14 families, giving you globally tens of thousands of associations. The rose family includes a lot of fruits, and two of The Botanist’s ingredients.

Here’s some more detail about our ingredients:

From the Asteraceae (daisy, or sunflower) family, we have tansy, thistle, camomile, and mugwort (pictured above). This is the biggest plant family in the world with 23,600 species of herbs shrubs and trees on its current roster. We also have a strong showing from the third largest plant family in the world, another with 20,000 species, the Fabaceae, or pea family. The clovers and gorse that are picked on Islay and the licorice root we use in the base of the still belong to it. And it’s funny, when you know that gorse is in the pea family, you can taste it!

From Lamiaceae, the dead nettles, mentioned above, we have apple mint, water mint, thyme, wood sage, and lemon balm. From the rose family, Rosaceae, we have hawthorn and meadowsweet.  The carrot family, Apiaceae, contains a lot of edible members, like parsley, parsnip, fennel, and three that we use in making the gin – coriander, angelica, and sweet cicely.  It’s a family you have to be extremely careful with, however, see The Carrot Family >. We have a bedstraw in the gin (rubiaceae), a laurel (cinammon), an iris (orris root), an Adoxaceae (in elder) and a Betulaceae (in birch). Orange and Lemon whose peels we use are in the rue family (rutaceae). Bog myrtle is from the small family of Myricaceae. And our final ingredient, heather, is in Ericaceae, the heath family, along with blueberries, cranberries, lingonberries and huckleberries and co.

It would be predictably arrogant of us as a species to assume that our human networks and hierarchies were the only global systems worth caring about. The cool thing is, if we can tune into the plant world’s organising principles too, we stand to benefit in terms of flavour. And if we value flavour, we value the plants, and if we value the plants, we value the environments they grow in, and if we value the environment, we value the planet. So there’s some context, and some hope, to have with your next Botanist cocktail…

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