Gin and tonic is a summer classic: simple and sexy; the perfect thirst-quencher; makes you want to go skinny-dipping. If the seasonal heat wave has got one reaching for a good gin, give The Botanist a try. The small-batch artisanal Islay gin produced at the Bruichladdich distillery on the Scottish isle contains nine classic gin aromatics with a heady harvest of 22 native island botanicals, resulting in a gorgeous flavour profile that works wonders for both tried-and-tested G&Ts as well as freestyle recipes. The guys from Charlie Parker’s are definite fans, and they tell us why:
What makes The Botanist different from other gins?
Tim Laferla (T): What sets The Botanist apart is its locality. It’s all about where the ingredients come from, which resonates with what we do at Charlie Parker’s. It’s got a lot of botanicals in it, but 22 of them come from Islay, which is this tiny, rugged island in Scotland, and they’ve managed to turn it into an elegant product.
This spirit of foraging is something you practise at Charlie Parker’s as well.
T: Charlie Parker’s bar is in Paddington, which is quite close to the city. So it’s an urban area, but there’s a national park right next door called Centennial Park. At one stage, we had a drink on the menu literally called Centennial Park, with only ingredients coming from there, and the idea of it was to capture the feeling of taking a walk in that park. It’s a big part of what we do, using ingredients native to Australia.
Colin Tam (C): There’s so much growing there naturally, different ingredients like chamomile just off the flowerbeds. We grow our own ingredients as well; we’ve got a little rooftop ecosystem which we use to grow garnishes, mint, and whatnot; just to be more environmentally sustainable.
T: We’re even looking into putting in our own beehive this year. But there’s only so much we can grow in our little garden, which is why we’re working closely with the local farmers too. It’s this whole idea of working with what you have rather than designing a finished product and then finding the components. We’ve got a restaurant, and our chefs work with the farms to get a list of what’s good at the moment that’s not going to get any better at any other time of the year. We’re not going to do a pineapple drink in the middle of winter, because the pineapples are going to be hard and sour, for example. And that’s how The Botanist kind of started as well: foraging from the island at the best time of the year, and preserving that essence of the season in a liquid.
C: That’s important; you want to pick and forage at the peak times, so you get the best flavours.
So what are the best ingredients to forage for in the summer?
T: We’re at the tail end of summer now in Australia, but things like dandelions and wild fennel are good. There are a lot of leafy greens, which is good for food but tricky for drinks. We actually went on a foraging trip with a professional forager a few weeks ago, and there was this really cool one called a pepper bush – you eat the leaves, and it literally tastes like green peppercorn. Summer’s interesting because there are all sorts, and it’s all about the Australian produce. We use a lot of different varieties of eucalyptus – most them are poisonous, but a few aren’t – and one I really like is strawberry gum because the leaves smell like strawberries.
C: Another Australian native is lemon myrtle. We tend to use it in gins because it gives that citric lemon flavour. It can also be a garnish if you want to steer away from the citrus.
Who is The Botanist for?
T: It’s for everyone, really. It’s well balanced and has many different elements, so it can work within a variety of cocktails. Goes great in a martini, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, it goes well in something refreshing like a Tom Collins. Even in a classic gin and tonic as well.
C: And for people who actually care and appreciate the effort they’ve put into the gin. It takes craft to raise the product, so it’s not just mass marketing; they actually give a crap.
What’s the best way to enjoy The Botanist in the summer?
T: The best drink for summer is a Tom Collins.
C: You stole that from me! [Laughs] I love a good Tom Collins, especially in the Australian heat. Even a martini’s great because of the many different botanicals.
T: A martini is one of those drinks that are good for exploring layers of flavour because different flavours are released at different temperatures. When it’s super cold, it might taste slightly earthy, as it warms up you get the citrusy notes, and towards the end, it gets more light and floral.
C: You can make a day of it too: Start with a Tom Collins in the morning for breakfast, followed by a Snapper (a Bloody Mary gin), then finish at night with a martini. I wouldn’t recommend it, but shooting gin? Delicious. [Laughs]
T: Drink responsibly! [Laughs]
Photography Jeff Chang
Styling Sapphire Chin
Photography assistant Alif
Grooming Benedict Choo using M.A.C. Cosmetics