Spirit of the Year 2014
Choosing The Whisky Exchange Spirit of the Year is not an easy task, so we enlist the help of experts in the bar world, top drinks writers and industry insiders. Together, we draw up a shortlist of the best spirits that we've tasted over the past 12 months.
Our shortlist covers a wide range of categories, including rum, vodka, Cognac, American whiskey and even coffee liqueur. But this year, our award goes to The Botanist Gin from Islay's Bruichladdich distillery.
Made at Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, this is very much a gin with a difference. Combining depth of flavour with the distillation know-how of Jim McEwan, the experienced master distiller of Bruichladdich, this stands apart from other gins currently available.
Released in 2011 and slowly building in popularity since, it has moved from being a secret known amongst whisky and gin connoisseurs to a widely loved spirit, often seen in bars around the world. It was by far and away the top selection amongst our panel, and is a worthy winner - we could say this is one of the Best Gins in the World!
Tasting Notes By Rocky Lancer
- Nose: Complex and overtly floral nose with elderflower and mint being the two botanicals that really start to stand out above the crowd after a few minutes.
- Palate: A rich yet silky smooth gin that is a rare beast in that it is pleasant to drink neat. A citrus note from the lemon balm is prominent throughout, balanced by a smorgasbord of floral flavours from the many botanicals used. Sometimes too many ingredients can be a bad thing, but in this case the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
- Finish: Long and complex, with the botanicals slowly disappearing, one by one to leave a lovely minty freshness at the very end.
- Comment: I can count the number of gins I have enjoyed neat on one hand and this is one of them. However it's versatile too and can stand up to Fentiman's tonic as well as making a deliciously floral martini. Betty's not done badly for an old girl!
The Botanist combines classic gin flavours with the terroir led approach that is at the heart of Jim McEwan's production philosophy. A backbone of orris, liquorice and angelica root, cassia and cinnamon bark, lemon and orange peel, coriander seed and juniper are joined by 22 locally foraged herbs and plants to create a gin that truly tastes of the island of Islay.
The botanicals are steeped in spirit and slowly distilled to preserve their aromatic flavours. Over the 17 hours of distillation the gin slowly appears, full of flavour and complexity.
The result of this combination of tradition, experimentation, locally-sourced ingredients and careful distillation is The Botanist, a hand-crafted labour of love.
Bruichladdich Distillery may have been established in the 1880s, but it has been reborn in the 21st century. After years of closure it reopened in 2001 with industry veteran Jim McEwan as master distiller and a new chapter has opened in the story of Bruichladdich.
Known for their experimental spirit, they have produced hundreds of expressions over the years since the reopening. While many of these used whisky maturing in their warehouses that had been laid down by previous owners, 2011 was a milestone in the distillery's recent history – the launch of a ten year old whisky distilled and matured since the reopening. Along with the launch of The Botanist in the same year this showed a focus on their own spirit, which has been embraced by both the whisky and spirits community. They have now joined with Rémy Martin and production is in full swing. Investment in the distillery continues and the future looks bright.