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THE BOTANIST COMES TO LONDON
"LUCKILY, I'M A BOTANIST" - MARK WATNEY
Photography by John Pickup
Hand-crafted and distilled on the Scottish island of Islay, The Botanist is a truly unique gin and a representation of the region’s progressive heritage. The bottle itself is a thing of beauty, distinct - almost clerical. With each of the botanicals pronounced on the front of the bottle in raised lettering, it's a bottle that you want to feel. Like a jedi reaching for his lightsabre, I will it to my palm for a closer inspection. And there it sat, without compromise. I slid my hand up and down its cylindrical shaft to ingest the bottles Braille-esque tangibility, all the while knowing I was engaging in something deeply homoerotic.
The Botanist is the first and only Islay dry gin. Nine classic gin botanicals are augmented by 22 local herbs and flowers, all foraged responsibly and by hand from the hills, shores and bogs of the Hebridean Island by botanical scientists. Last year I was a guest at the Bruichladdich distillery where the Botanist is produced. This year the mountain has come to Muhammed, or more precisely, Mr Fogg's Tavern tucked away in a side street off Leicester Square. A perfect landscape steeped in Victorian British adventure with its own Gin parlour upstairs. The room, adorned with decadent chaise longs, is also a temporary host to the Botanist Infuser.
The Infuser is not a 80s action exploitation movie starring Carl Weathers as a cop who has to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel, but a handmade, cold-drip coffee brewer, imported direct from Korea. Along with Mr Fogg’s, The Manor (Clapham), Mission (Bethnal Green), Nightjar and Worship St. Whistling Shop (Shoreditch) have each been given a Botanist Infuser. Bartenders from each establishment have been tasked to forage in their local areas and use the infuser to come up with homemade syrups and infusions to mix with The Botanist. The bar deemed to have concocted the best cocktail by an esteemed panel of judges will be gifted the infuser forever.
The Botanist has no signature garnish to encourage the exploration of seasonal serves at home. Unlike most of its contemporaries, it needs no garnish to apologise for a lack of piquancy. I take a few hits and enjoy that soothing citrus flavour. Later I get scolded by those present for referring to the motion as a "hit". My puerile vernacular, especially when drinking, has always exposed my charlatanry in the field of professional journalism. I often think people would find me be less insufferable if I managed their expectations by switching the title Lifestyle Journalist to something more appropriate ’functioning alcoholic that writes a bit'. I digress. The Botanist is the perfect stocking filler for the festive season and I shall certainly be stocking up.