Wild foods, botanicals and indigenous edibles are enjoying resurgence at the moment. Celebrity chefs and passionate foodies in search of new ingredients have taken to the art of foraging from Mother Nature’s bounty. You will find these hunter gatherers searching forest floors for wild mushrooms, seeking out wild herbs, gathering edible flowers or scented leaves, plants often mistaken as weeds to the untrained eye.
Foraging is all about sustainability, using seasonal products found locally, literally from forest floor to plate. The trend has now become even more widespread with artisanal gin distillers taking the instinctive step and infusing these indigenous botanicals into their handcrafted products.
An example being The Botanist Gin, in which the philosophy of foraging is an essential part of the very make-up of the brand and the product. All gin has a base of a number of botanicals – usually about nine as standard, including the juniper berry – which is then augmented with a few more botanicals and infused flavours, to give that gin its signature taste. The Botanist takes this a step further, with an impressive 22 botanicals making up its base, all hand-foraged on the wind-swept Hebridean island of Islay.
The foraging team – a husband and wife, the Gullivers, both botanists – collect these ingredients, many of which are seasonal and indigenous to Islay itself. These are added during the distillation process, resulting in a rare expression that captures the essence of this remote Scottish island.
The gin is highly distinctive, complex and floral as a result, and the story of provenance to Islay is a compelling one for gin lovers looking for authenticity and uniqueness. In an age of re-badged industrial gins, The Botanist stands out as a truly artisanal, small-batch, hand-crafted labour of love and distiller’s art. A breath of botanical Islay in every glass.
The heart of foraging, however, remains in the belief of local ingredients. So how does a gin that’s very heart is Scottish translate this to a South African gin-loving audience? The Botanist has answered this by encouraging South African drinkers to explore and forage their own botanical heritage to use as ingredients and garnishes to their gin-based drinks and cocktails.
Some of the most favoured indigenous combinations that can be found in our own back yards are buchu, lemon pelargonium and even pine-needles.
A cucumber wedge or a slice of lemon? That’s so 2014.