Thursday, 27 September 2018

Andy and Sandy: the masterminds behind Byron's Gin

There was a nice article in The Scots Magazine this summer about how Byron's Gin came about. As John Harvey McDonough, CEO of Speyside distillery (creators of Byron's Gin) explains in the article "We are in the Cairngorms National Park, so we are acutely aware of the abundant nature on our doorstep. We're also members of the Cairngorms Business Partnership. On learning of our plans for gin distillation, they put us in contact with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland..."

The article goes on to explain how Andy Amphlett, the BSBI County Recorder for the area, visited the distillery and "using his deep-seated knowledge of botanicals, he hand-selected plants and berries from the distillery's gardens".

BSBI members may be nodding and smiling at this point because Andy's botanical knowledge is legendary! He has produced some excellent resources to help his fellow botanical recorders, such as the guidance notes on identifying the rather tricky subspecies of Reflexed Saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia distans which he sent us only last month for uploading to the Identification page (you can download a copy from there free of charge). He has also produced distribution maps and helpful species accounts of rare plants in Banffshire, such as this one for Heath Dog-violet, and in 2013 he produced a Rare Plant Register of the flora of the Cairngorms National Park.


Heath dog-violet Viola canina
Image: F. Rumsey
So it must have been quite a moment when Andy presented those "hand-selected plants and berries" to Sandy Jamieson, distillery manager at Speyside and by all accounts as legendary in his own sphere as Andy is in his! As the article in The Scots Magazine tells us , Sandy "created and crafted a whole new spirit from those raw materials. It's all quite something". 

So, Andy met Sandy and the result was Byron's Gin - and for every bottle sold, a donation is made to BSBI's training programme so we can offer grants that help more botanists follow in Andy's footsteps and deepen their botanical knowledge. Click here and here for a couple of examples of botanical training courses that botanists were able to attend this year thanks to BSBI's training grants.