Introducing Mark Williams, Forager


Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods is Scotland’s only full-time foraging tutor. In anticipation of his visit to Islay to work with us on The Botanist, we asked him to write a few words about foraging and how it relates to drinks…

“Ask any experienced forager what they love most about foraging and you might expect to hear eulogies about baskets of delicious mushrooms, amazing jams and free gourmet feasts. But over and above all of these sensual delights, most will express a deeper love: the connection that foraging makes between people, time and place; an intimacy with season, landscape and the flora that they support.”

“As somebody who gathers and eats wild food every day and teaches about it for a living, I feel this connection strongly. Some of my happiest moments are spent tasting the landscape around me, sucking the nectar from a vetch flower in a spring hedgerow or browsing blaeberries on an autumn moor.”


Mark Williams at work in the field

Sense of place and “terroir” are at the very heart of foraging, so when I was asked to hook up with Bruichladdich’s The Botanist Gin to help facilitate a foraged cocktail competition, how could I refuse?

“Sense of place and ‘terroir‘ are at the very heart of foraging, so when I was asked to hook up with Bruicladdich’s The Botanist Gin to help facilitate a foraged cocktail competition, how could I refuse? The gin is made with foraged island botanicals, and for the competition, was mixed with a wealth of foraged spring flavours by the best bar tenders in the country. You can see what we got up to at the Caledonian Bartenders Cup here. Though I make a fair amount of boozy infusions and wild drinks myself, I was blown away by the skill and passion behind the ‘foraged mixology’ on show. From simple ideas like bruising sorrel leaves with ice to the complex infusing of sea shells into nautical cocktails, there was skill, imagination and alchemy on show at every turn. And the results were delicious!

“Most people are aware of the rising popularity of foraged wild ingredients among chefs. The sense of place and season inherent in wild food is irresistible to food lovers – so the crossover into the drinks world is inevitable. Introducing a new wild ingredient to a chef, cocktail maker or distiller is like giving a painter a new colour to work with.

“So I’m delighted to have been invited up to Islay to work with the team at Bruichladdich. We’ll be ‘tuning in’ to their natural larder, making connections between the place, its plants and their remarkable flavours. We’ll be looking at new and old ways to (physically and metaphorically) distill the essence of the island into a glass. We’ll be tasting Islay’s wild landscape and preparing foraged infusions and ferments to complement The Botanist’s complex chemistry. From the heady scent of elderflowers to the aromatic bitters of bog myrtle and the umami-rich brimstone of pepper dulse, nothing will be off limits.”

Mark Williams


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