Foraging for Botanicals with The Botanist Gin

On Tuesday night I drank a few cocktails made with The Botanist Gin. The Gin comes from Islay, that cold, windswept, rainy island just off the west coast of Scotland and famed for its smoky, peaty whiskies. Some of the best bartenders in South Africa made the cocktails. – and the drinks were among the best I’ve ever had.

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The occasion was the media launch of The Forager, showcasing creations from local bartenders who foraged for indigenous and seasonal ingredients to use in their cocktail creations. The Botanist Gin is made with 22 botanicals foraged from Islay, so the link between The Botanist Gin and the event is pretty clever.

AJ & his creation

I walked in to Barclay Studios, the intimate pop-up venue in Salt River venue to be met by Dominic Walsh and a Finnocio Punch, made with The Botanist Gin, grapefruit cordial, fennel fronds, coconut water, lime juice & an orange slice. Looking around I saw Gareth Wainright and Devon Cross (he devised the drinks menu for the post-competition session); AJ Snetler; Phil Bandarous and Caitlin Hill. Each of these cocktail personalities is a drawcard at an event. All six in the same room made it obvious that a good night lay ahead.

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Phil doing his thing.

Some of the other attendees were Raphael Cristini, who has the dream job of brand ambassador for The Botanist and brings his years of experience at bars around the world, to South Africa; specialist drinks marketing manager Phillip Voget, premium brand manager Simone Burns and Leah van Deventer, drink and travel writer, fresh from her trip to East Africa.

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Raphael with his pride and joy!

Gareth introduced the competitors – Caitlin, Phil and AJ, who each presented their own creation to the assembled audience. We tasted, re-tasted, discussed, deliberated and voted. It was a tough call and chatting with the other guests there was no clear favourite.

It’s clear that premium gin is the new big thing in the spirit world. Liquor companies are devoting a lot of resources into marketing their own brands. There are more specialist gin and cocktail bars in Cape Town than wine or whisky bars. A supermarket chain in the UK reported that 1 out of 3 bottles of spirits sold this year was gin. The really good products such as The Botanist will serve to grow the category. Using premium spirits in cocktail competitions and encouraging bartenders to be creative will ensure the cocktail culture continues its meteoric rise in South Africa.

AJ, Dom, Caitlin, Phil, with Gilad Yechiel on the far right. Ever seen such a talented team behind the stick?


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AJ, Caitlin & Phil with The Botanist and their botanicals

The winners will be announced in a while, but in the meantime my eyes are on Sunday. Sunday is International Martini Day and Father’s Day. I think I’m going to buy myself a present. You should too. And have a look at the press release below, click on the links, get tickets for the events and prepare to be amazed.

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Oh, the good photos are by Mike Eloff, the dodgy ones by me.

Click on the links to the documents to  see who made what and what was on offer…

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Presented by The Botanist Gin

[1 June 2016]: Next month a unique pop up concept, THE FORAGER, is opening it doors. Presented by The Botanist Gin, it will see a limited number of pop up evening events taking place between June and August in unconventional, secret urban spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Each event will be intimate hosting just 30 guests, who will enjoy unique gin serves and a selection of food experiences inspired by the local environment.

“Last year we introduced local bartenders and gin enthusiasts to The Botanist, a super-premium artisanal gin, hand-crafted on the wild Hebridean island of Islay. We watched the premium gin market boom as South Africans welcomed the concept of artisanal gins and an influx of new local variety. This year we are taking the philosophy of foraging and foraged mixology further by creating unique and memorable experiences that bring this concept to life,” explained Simone Burns, South African Brand Manager, The Botanist Gin.

In the lead up to each event at THE FORAGER, three of Cape Town and Johannesburg’s finest bartenders will attend bespoke foraging experiences led by local foraging experts, Roushanna Gray and Margaret Roberts. During veld, forest and sea forages in Cape Town, and highveld, lowveld and bushveld forage experiences in Johannesburg, the bartenders will personally hand forage indigenous and seasonal ingredients to create a unique foraged serve of The Botanist Gin with a local twist.

Then, on each night at THE FORAGER, the bartenders will compete in a challenge to craft the most interesting serves using The Botanist Gin and their own locally hand foraged botanicals. These will be presented to guests who will then cast their vote for the cocktail they felt was the most inspired.

At the end of THE FORAGER series, the bartender with the most votes and highest score will win an all-expense paid trip to the home of The Botanist Gin in Islay to experience first-hand the philosophy behind The Botanist and foraging in the Hebrides.

Tickets for the upcoming events are available online for R350 pp at the following links:

Cape Town:


Video link:

Follow THE FORAGER on Facebook at and on Instagram @TheForagerSA #TheForager #TheBotanistSA

The Botanist Gin is available at selected retailers from R499.

About The Botanist Gin

Conceived distilled and hand crafted by distilling legend Jim McEwan, The Botanist is a super premium artisanal gin distilled at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the wild Hebridean island of Islay.

It is trickle distilled and augmented with a heady harvest of 22 botanicals hand-picked by an expert foraging team from the windswept hills, peat bogs and Atlantic shores of the island. The botanists seasonally and sustainably forage for these aromatic botanicals by hand from the hills, shores and bogs of this fertile Hebridean island and then carefully dry them in preparation for distillation.

The layered complexity of The Botanist is an inspiration to professional mixologists who appreciate the flavour potential of ingredients foraged from their own local environments – to introduce a very personal dimension to this complex spirit.

Although it was originally designed to operate at significantly lower pressure than mainstream commercial stills, Jim McEwan then instigated a further series of radical modifications aimed at slowing down the distillation process even further. The aim was to maximise reflux of the heavy vapours while gently coaxing the essential oils from the foraged island botanicals. The distillation process is slow, almost painfully so, but: “the result,” claims McEwan, “is a highly seductive, satin-smooth gin with exploding floral aromas and a rich, mellow taste.

This is a gin as much for the mind as for the palate – a thinking person’s gin.

To find out more, visit