I was originally so underwhelmed by The Botanist that this is one review which nearly didn’t happen, but a TV clip about David Bellamy reminded me of how people’s tastes change, and thus I decided to dig a little deeper into the depths of a spirit which is a favourite for top mixologists like Richard Gillam.
For those who don’t recall the once ubiquitous bearded botanist, he first came to prominence in 1967, offering an academic’s perspective on the damage done by the vast oil spill from the Torrey Canyon; but like the tanker hitting the Cornish reef, his TV career came to a shuddering halt due to his scepticism regarding man-made climate change.
However, having talked to him twice for building magazines, I can report the criticism he received was literally water off a Lotus leaf, and he died last December unrepentant; while his love of nature, and especially plant life, was never in question. I’d therefore imagine that Dr Bellamy would have endorsed the Bruichladdich Distillery’s diligence in seeking out 22 different plants from across the Scottish island of Islay to blend with nine more common botanicals: including citrus peels and coriander.
I realise Islay is a lot further from the Arctic, but remembering the thin pickings available to the makers of the Shetland spirit, Blackwoods, there are some species I wouldn’t have expected, and several I’d never heard of. Sure, the heather, gorse and thistle were a given, but I’d have bet the likes of lemon balm, chamomile and sweet cicely belonged in a Cotswold walled garden.
Then straight out of Professor Snape’s potion classes come Mugwort and Bog Myrtle, while amongst several debutants for this blog is ‘Tansy’: a bitter aromatic plant apparently long used in both cookery and medicine. And after all of these have infused the base grain spirit, a still called Ugly Betty brings the entire mix up to a robust 46%. Sadly it didn’t taste that strong to me.
I’m grateful therefore to Difford’s Guide for telling me that the Botanist has an “integrated herbal complexity and faint liquorice sweetness” as well as how the aftertaste’s “juniper pine dominance continues in the clean finish with faint lingering Parma violets, liquorice and black pepper.”
Positive appraisals like this, along with five star ratings, dominate across the internet, though purchase prices vary on line; with £25 being the best we could find. In summary then, I think we can say that just like the stricken Torrey Canyon bombed by Royal Navy Buccaneers to burn off the oil, my opinions of The Botanist have been blown out of the water.