A Clear Standout
I have always been a fan of the smoky, malty whiskies of Islay, the Scottish island known for its artisanal single-malt scotches. So I was excited in 2001 when the formerly shuttered, 130-year-old Bruichladdich distillery was revived. But it was really a surprise when, recently, Bruichladdich turned out a small-batch gin. The Botanist Islay Dry Gin ($38), the island's first such spirit, is infused with a potpourri of 31 botanicals, 22 of which grow wild on Islay. The spirit simmers slowly in a pot still, so that its vapors mingle for a good, long time with all those botanicals, taking on aromas of juniper and allspice, with dark, leafy, and pleasingly bitter herbal flavors. At 92 proof, the alcohol is noticeable, but a sweet note emerges as well. The gin's spicy and herbal subtleties really shine in straightforward cocktails like a classic Tom Collins or a very dry martini.