Although primarily a whisky distillery, its not the only trick the Bruichladdich team have up their sleeve. The beauty pictured to the left is a gin still, which to date has been used to produce a single batch. Its a great additional revenue stream to pay for the whisky in the stores which will typically take 12 years or more until maturity.
After installation the still was charged with a tonne of juniper berries and various other botanicals (see below). Aside from a half-hour of foreshots the still kicked out a good 15 hours of spirit, which has given the distillery a good cash injection for refurbishment and experimentation.
|The spirit safe|
The spirit run is controlled via a spirit safe in the same way as whisky. As you can tell from its sheen, this one is brand spanking new, whereas "Ugly Betty" was rescued from Innerleven distillery, alreadya venerable 50 years old. The team love her, despite her slowness.
|The botanicals "basket"|
The bulge on the lyne arm is where the botanicals sit, infusing the refluxing spirit with those volatile flavour compounds. Most mass-market gins only contain 4-10 botanicals whereas "The Botanist" contains a fantastic 31, 22 of which have been gathered from the wild on Islay!
They include: Elderflower, apple mint, wood sage, bog myrtle, sweet cicely, creeping thistle, peppermint leaf, heather flowers, meadowsweet, water mint, tansy, hawthorn flower, lemon balm, mugwort, thyme, gorse, white clover, red clover, birch leaf, sweet chamomile and lady's bedstraw. To maintain a tenuous link to beer, many of these were used in the past as gruit to flavour unhopped ales; so to revive their use in gin is to reconnect to the past of the island.
But enough about how its made, the big question is how it tastes, no? Its all very well using all of these fantastic flavourings but does it make any difference? In a word - yes! I'd always been averse to gin suggesting it ruined the taste of tonic water. It would appear I'm averse to crap gin, and this is far from crap! A small measure in the distillery shop led me to purchase a whole bottle. I decided to go for that classic of cocktails - the martini a.k.a the botini, which i've attempted to write about below (you can tell the world of gin is new to me!)
It pours clear with no discernible colour and has an enticing freshly squeezed oranges and lemons aroma with a touch of coconut and juniper in the background. In goes the vermouth and a touch of lime zest and that coconut jumps out stronger alongside mint and other herbal smells, a veritable apothecary! The gin climbs the sides of the glass and eddies around the lime. Its extraordinarily smooth drinking, sweet and buttery up front, with a good citrus burst, warming the throat on the swallow with a pithy but sweet finish. A lovely drop.
I'm also tempted by the "skelped boti" which includes chambord and fresh ginger juice, but will save that to try another day. Here's what the Bruichladdich team think of the gin.
So thank you to the Bruichladdich team for opening my eyes to a whole new spirit! Look out for it in the shops and on the bars as i recommend trying it.