Those nice people at 31Dover.com, in return for my complimentary review of their excellent service gave me a 10% discount on my next order. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I did my research and selected two very different but excellent Scottish gins.
The island of Islay, the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides, is best known for its whiskies, including one of my favourites, the incredibly peaty Laphroaig, and so it was a bit of surprise to me that the Bruichladdich distillery has turned its hand to producing a contemporary premium gin, the Botanist. I was a little wary of ordering it as it uses 31 botanicals in its distillation process – a case of going overboard if there ever was one – but, astonishingly, the result is almost perfection.
The hooch is distilled in Ugly Betty, an over-sized upside down dustbin made of copper and the process takes some 17 hours. Naturally the wonderful Islay spring water is used in the process sourced from Dirty Dottie’s spring on Octomore farm. There are nine botanicals used which are not sourced locally – angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon bark, coriander seed, juniper berries, lemon peel, liquorice root, orange peel and our old friend orris root. The gin is then passed through what might be termed a basket of botanical delights, twenty two botanicals foraged from the island itself – apple mint, birch leaves, bog myrtle leaves, sweet chamomile, creeping thistle flowers, the flowers of elder, gorse, heather and hawthorn, prostrate juniper berries, Lady’s bedstraw flowers, lemon balm, meadow sweet, the leaves of peppermint, mugwort, red clover, sweet cicely, thyme, water mint and wood sage and not forgetting tansy and white clover. Phew – you can see what I mean.
The bottle is squat and round with an artificial stopper and the Latin names of the Islay botanicals dimpled into the glass. At 46 per cent proof it packs a punch, is clear and to the smell is pungent and floral. The initial sensation when in the mouth is of the bitterness of the juniper but then the spices come into play and then a wonderful, complex and delicate fusion of tastes and sensations. The aftertaste is again dominated by the juniper but there is a faint taste of pepper and liquorice. I found it very acceptable, an excellent opener to an evening’s drinking and one not to be drowned by an overpowering tonic.
My other choice was the classic Tanqueray No Ten, distilled at Cameronbridge Gin Distillery in Windygates. It is 47 per cent proof and comes in an ornate green bottle which can only be described as a fluted dustbin with a conical lid and a red seal bearing the letter T just below the screw cap. It takes its name from the 500 litre pot, known as Tiny Ten, in which it is distilled.
A citrus flavour dominates, unsurprisingly as the whole fruit of grapefruit, lemon and lime feature among the ingredients, rather than just the peel, as well as botanicals such as fresh chamomile flowers, juniper, angelica, coriander and liquorice.The gin is clear but has a very silky, rich texture in the mouth and the flavours are kept in the aftertaste with an almost buttery finish. Very different from the Botanist it comes across as a more rounded, balanced, elegant and dare I say, sophisticated drink and would be wonderful in something like a martini.
Until the next time, cheers!