Rather Royal Gin Distillery Botanica
It seems appropriate that the first spirit collaboration the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden has undertaken is with Distillery Botanica – both the distillery and the Garden are huge proponents of sustainability and conservation and maintain iconic regional herb gardens. When Philip Moore, head distiller at Distillery Botanica in Erina, was approached by the Garden’s Head of Horticultural Management, Jimmy Turner, to produce a unique gin using varietals available in the 200 year old Garden it seemed like a natural partnership. The stunning result is the Rather Royal Gin, a limited release of 1000 bottles where 50% of the proceeds go towards the Garden’s conservation program.
A tour of the Gardens: When we arrived, the heavens opened up, with the cool rain lending a beautiful lushness to the garden. Jimmy led us on a tour – plucking petals and leaves from various plants, crushing them in his hands and inhaling their scent deeply, encouraging us to do the same. The warmth of our hands on this rainy day helps to release the volatiles as we scrunch the leaves and we can witness the transformation of the botanicals that make this gin special, as well as the various problems they can pose. Aside from the juniper, orris root and murraya normally found in Distillery Botanica’s gin (sourced from its own supplies), the spirit has been infused with botanicals harvested in the Garden including the white Pope John Paul Rose (a unique type of soft-fragranced rose found in the Vatican), Mandarin Leaf (producing a sweet citrus note), Horehound (lending a musky front note), Lemon Verbena (an intense lemon initially which warms to a fishy aroma), Curry Leaf Plant (piquant and spicey on the nose which hits you at the back of the throat in large doses), Lovage (an intense celery sensation) and Chamomile.Whilst the initial smell might be very pleasant, the perfume sometimes transforms to muddy or fishy scents as it gets exposed to air or heat. It makes you appreciate what a difficult job it is for a distiller to determine what will work in their gin. Philip maintains the integrity of the essential oils in his distillation by using the enfleurage technique – an expensive and arduous process where petals and leaves from the botanicals are left for 2 days in large trays of copha fat before being replenished to allow the oils to saturate the solid mixture.
To showcase the gin, bartenders made two cocktails, the first being a gin and tonic with a touch of sweet white wine and lemon thyme. The second was a light but robust cocktail mixing the gin with Montenegro, Cocchi and Lagavulin 8 year old whisky to produce a slightly sweet, floral and herby drink with wafts of smoke on the finish. Philip describes this gin as being a round complex gin and you can see why. When you bring the gin to your nose, you get a blend of all the notes – hints of spice on top of the orris root as well as a savoury herbaceous note to the citrus tones. On the palate there is a pleasant viscosity to the clean sweetness from the juniper and that moves to a hint of the spicier citrus notes to the finish. It is hard to pick out the unique components in this gin but hints of it remain in the spirit, either on the nose or on the palate. A delicate and complex gin for the gin lovers and those new to the spirit alike.
Rather Royal Gin is available for RRP$129 from distillerybotanica.com, selected stockists and over the bar at the Botanic Garden Restaurant. 50% of the proceeds from the sale of Rather Royal Gin goes to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Post by May Lawrence