You’re seeing this increasingly – distilleries producing clear spirits in addition to aged spirits. Whisky’s a long waiting game, so being able to distill something that can hit the shelves immediately really helps cash flow in a small distillery.
Jim McEwan, the master distiller at Bruichladdich, entered into the task of gin production by sampling different grain alcohols. Typically, a gin is made by buying pure neutral grain alcohol and soaking botanicals in it. This is then re-distilled with a still that filters the vapours through a container holding more botanicals.
Jim went for a 100% wheat alcohol, due to the sweeter flavour. This gets loaded into the Laddie gin still, the fierce lady known affectionately as “Ugly Betty”. Betty is an old Lomond-style still, and so is squat and dumpy compared with the tall, slender necked whisky stills. She puts out an 80% ABV gin which is then watered down with spring water to a bottling strength of 46%.
Mary, one of the distillery’s “ninja grannies” decided one day to make a cheese cake. To make it more fun, she decided to add some Botanist gin to the recipe. Somehow, she “accidentally” used the concentrated pre-bottling strength gin… and you can guess what kind of an afternoon the staff had at the distillery when she shared it out!
Nose: Mint, juniper, aniseed, cumin, lemon, touch of coconut.
Palate: Very refreshing neat. Tangy salted lemons and bitter citrus peel.
Finish: Slightly drying cloves.
The Botanist contains nine base botanicals which include juniper, cassia bark, angelica, liquorice, and citrus peels.
The condenser box contains twenty-two foraged botanicals from Islay which are infused during distillation – these include three types of mint, bog myrtle, sweet Sicily, heather, and (to my delight) gorse.
Gorse is that yellow flower you see growing on knarled clifftop bushes by the coast. At the right time of year, they smell of coconuts – a bit like the smell of some sun cream, or maybe even a Piña Colada.