The plants, or “botanicals” foraged on Islay were chosen for both their individual properties and for how they complemented one another. There are 22 different species from 12 different families; hence the red number in a prominant place in The Botanist’s packaging. All are found on Islay, although seven of them have been introduced from elsewhere at some point in the island’s history, in the case of lemonbalm or apple mint as domestic pot herbs, in the case of mugwort, most likely as an early beer brewers’ additive.
From the pea/bean family, Fabaceae, we use gorse flowers and red and white clover flowers. From the rose family, Rosaceae, Hawthorn blossom and Meadowsweet. From the Daisy family, Asteraceae, come Chamomile, Thistle, Tansy, Mugwort. A significant plant family, Apiaceae, the carrot family, is represented by Sweet Cicely foraged on Islay, and by Angelica in the core botanicals. There are five members of the mint family, Lamiaceae, apple mint and watermint, and lemon balm, thyme and woodsage also belong to it.
Lady’s Bedstraw is from the same family as sweet woodruff and goosegrass (aka sticky willy) and perhaps surprisingly coffee, Rubiaceae. The heath plants – ling heather flowers and bog myrtle – are Ericaceae and Myricaceae respectively. Then there are two familes of trees – downy birch from the birch family Betulaceae, and a sprig of Islay Juniper from the cypress family Cupressaceae. Elder is a shrub from the Adoxaceae family, which includes those other garden favourites, Viburnum and Sambucus genus.
To some degree, it was the personal taste of our master distiller, and a process of trial and error that led to the selection of these plants. The world is full of aromatic herbs and edible plants. The thing about gin, as is evidenced by the variety of brands currently on the market, that as long as it has the characteristic pinene notes from the juniper, there are a kaleidoscope of other potential flavours to play with.
It’s in our ethos to be creative and to try things out – that’s how The Botanist originally began at a single malt whisky distillery – and to look locally for what those flavours could be. But also on a practical level, we believe that The Botanist, because of the spectrum of plants and flavours present in it, is a particulaly hospitable platform for wild garnishes and further experimentation.
Have fun, and please consider listing your creations in our drinks section!