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Review: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (2012)

By now my foolish claim that Scotland made only one gin has been widely disproven (by myself, even), but The Botanist makes a more specific, and so far irrefutable, assertion: It’s the only gin made on the island of Islay, that part of Scotland that gives us its peatiest Scotch whiskys, the ones with (arguably) the most character.

The Botanist is made at Bruichladdich, distilled from wheat and infused with a massive collection of botanicals: All of the traditional ones (nine here), plus a whopping 22 additional, native botanicals which are picked wild on the island of Islay (see complete list below). The gin is infused in two stages: First the standard gin stuff goes in, then the second batch of goodies are infused using a basket infusion process. Bruichladdich claims it’s a slow operation, taking three times as long as most gins to make (which, to be honest, is not that long anyway).

15,000 bottles were made in the first batch.

Results: The Botanist offers a surprisingly clean aroma, very light on juniper with some citrus and cinnamon notes in the forefront. With all this stuff going on (and in) I was expecting a monster gin, but The Botanist is surprisingly easygoing and, dare I say, not Islay-like at all. Smoke? Absolutely not. This is a gin that’s surprisingly sweet and really fresh tasting. Evergreen is there, but it’s all the basil-like tones that make it so much fun — not to mention lots of citrus, cinnamon, and mint tones really rounding things out. There’s a reason they call it The Botanist, and not because it’s meant to evoke a scary old man that still lives with his mom. The body is a bit oily, but quite smooth and easy in spite of its higher proof level.

This is really an exceptional gin that deserves seeking out, or calling by name in any proper mixed drink.

92 proof.

Complete botanical list: Angelica root *, Apple Mint, Birch leaves, Bog Myrtle leaves, Cassia bark *, Chamomile (sweet), Cinnamon bark *, Coriander seed *, Creeping Thistle flowers, Elder flowers, Gorse flowers, Heather flowers, Hawthorn flowers, Juniper (prostrate) berries, Juniper berries *, Lady’s Bedstraw flowers, Lemon Balm, Lemon peel *, Liquorice root *, Meadow Sweet, Orange peel *, Orris root *, Peppermint leaves, Mugwort leaves, Red Clover flowers, Sweet Cicely leaves, Tansy, Thyme leaves, Water Mint leaves, White Clover, Wood Sage leaves. (* = Non Islay Botanical)

A / $33 / bruichladdich.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (2012)



Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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  1. Anonymous January 16, 2012

    Sounds delicious, but is it available anywhere in the US?

  2. Christopher Null January 16, 2012

    Yes, it’s available here. Ask around at your final liquor stores!

  3. Anonymous January 19, 2012

    Found it at Rochambeau Wines. Good stuff!

  4. Edoc February 11, 2012

    I’ve been seeing this gin on the shelves all over the place in the NY/NJ/CT metro area.

  5. Edoc February 19, 2012

    Just tried this gin for the first time this evening. Picked up a bottle locally for a very reasonable $27.
    I’m impressed. A easygoing, elegant gin. It has a very slight sweet edge to it. Almost creamy. I generally prefer the new modern style gins. This one is a nice hybrid. It should please the traditionalists and modernists.

  6. Scott September 25, 2012

    I’m inspired! Picking a bottle up on my way home. My favorite beverage in the planet is Martin Millers & Tonic w/ a lime. Or even Miller’s gin on the rocks w/ a lime. I’m hoping to be blown away with this one!

  7. Edoc September 25, 2012

    The Bruichladdich distillery was bought by spirits giant Remy Cointreau this summer. I pray that they decide to continue making The Botanist. This delightful gin is becoming scarcer in my area now, and I’m starting to get panicky.

  8. Sam July 15, 2014

    Ahhh, my new favorite gin!! Fantastic stuff, truly.

  9. Doggyodog March 2, 2015

    I’m glad we all agree how good it is, but I’m surprised by the characteration of it being sweet and gentle. To me it’s the quintessential “good stiff drink.” It’s Strong and “harsh” in a good way, like a shot of single malt scotch neat. I’m a gibson drinker and I recommend you try this gin in a martini with good cocktail onions, which will nicely bring out the gin’s sharp, clean, astringent qualities.

  10. Sam March 3, 2015

    I have to agree that it’s sweet and gentle. My wife usually HATES gin, but this is the only one she’ll drink. To me, it’s a very well-balanced gin with a definite floral profile to it.

  11. Dawn July 6, 2015

    Never a gin drinker in the past, but with a more mature palate and inspiration from the Drunken Botanist, I decided to search out a decent bottle of gin. After much research, decided on this one AND NOT DISAPPOINTED!!! Okay, they had me at Islay & botanicals. I do love a good single malt, why not a gin from a premium Scotch maker? Put in the fridge when got home (anyone familiar with genever from Holland? This is how it is served, iced down in temp but not diluted) Oh, my the cucumber essence!!!! Have tried both neat & with minimal tonic as well… I say minimal as in the same way you open up a good single malt with the barest dribble of Water. I’m sold!! If you want to be silly & have a cocktail, add a paper thin slice of English cucumber to your glass & maybe a twist of lemon or lime. I have developed a list to search and compare. Sometimes it is fun to grow up!

  12. Dawn July 6, 2015

    **PS…on West Coast, @Bevmo & Total Wines

  13. The Investigator March 7, 2016

    It has very recently come to my attention that the spirit used to make the Botanist Gin is transported by tanker to Bruichladdich Distillery on the Calmac ferry from Kennacraig to Islay. The spirit is produced on the UK mainland from wheat as there is no wheat grown on Islay.


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