A prevailing ambition we hear from our guests is that they wish to become a distiller and be able to produce all these creative, alcoholic concoctions at home. We consider this a noble goal and one we very much applaud. A significant part of your bottle of gin begins with your botanicals and botanicals have their origin within the garden. If you have a green thumb or even just a passion for drinking gin (and we have a sneaking suspicion you might) then you may be interested to know exactly which botanicals you can grow in your own garden.
As a core base botanical, coriander is an essential ingredient in all gin recipes. We find there is a frequent misconception amongst our guests that coriander may only be grown in warm climates. It may come as a pleasant surprise that we grow our own within a few miles of our site; the only trick you’ll need to know is the soil must be kept moist with regular watering.
Coriander will add a slight kick to your gin with its spicy, herby qualities.
Important note: Take care not to overwater as this may encourage the coriander to flower prematurely.
Angelica seeds:Again, often a foundational botanical favoured by many distillers for its fragrant floral and herby notes. We use Angelica seeds in our beloved Oxford Rye Dry Gin and Oxford Botanic Garden Physic Gin. We try to source as many ingredients as possible from within 50 miles of our distillery and so Angelica seeds, which grow across Oxfordshire, are an ideal ingredient. You may observe Angelica has a woody, slightly musky, bittersweet aroma to it; this allows it to complement its neighbouring botanicals and brings harmony to your gin.
Angelica seeds also have a history of being used in the preparation of liqueurs such as Chartreuse and Vermouth, necessary ingredients for classic cocktails such as a Final Word and a Negroni (both of which can be made by our bar team and enjoyed in our beer garden).
Arguably, one of the more beautiful botanicals you can choose to grow. Rosemary will be certain to add a savoury punch to your gin with its slightly peppery character. The key to growing rosemary is to sow the seeds along a path so that each time you pass by, it will be encouraged to release their aromatic oils. For best results plant in clay soil and ensure you cut the plant back regularly in order to avoid it becoming woody.
Rosemary is also a rich source of antioxidants which, to us, means your gin may just about count as one of your five a day. You can boost that if you garnish with an additional sprig of Rosemary and potentially some form of citrus.
One of the most effective herbs for inviting beneficial insects to your garden including bees, hoverflies and butterflies which will encourage the creation of an ecosystem. Mint is also an efficient botanical to grow as it may thrive in both the sunshine as well as the shade, making it pretty low maintenance for those of us whose thumbs aren’t too green.
For the best flavour, you’ll need to keep tending to the mint with your scissors as frequent trimming will encourage the stimulation of growth, full of fresh flush leaves. This will reap worthy rewards from the cool, refreshing flavours it will inspire within the final gin result.
Any excess mint may be used to garnish or added to your new potatoes for dinner accompanied with a gin and tonic!
Chamomile typically grows best in cool conditions and it is often recommended by gardeners to begin the growing process indoors. The process will take no more than 12 weeks in total.
A major advantage to this is that you can successfully plant chamomile from tea bags, simply spread the contents into soil, press them into the soil but ensure you do not cover and water sporadically. It will not require fertilizer to grow and grows pretty rapidly so if the gin is needed imminently, chamomile may be the way to go.
Much like mint, this botanical will also draw in welcome insects such as butterflies.
There you have it, five botanicals you can grow with minimal intervention in your own gardens or alternatively, in pots. Should you try any out, please let us know by sharing on social media and tagging us (@theoxfordartisandistillery).
If its seeds you’re after, we now proudly sell ‘Seeds for a Physic Gin Garden’ in our shop, located at the very top of South Park. This will provide you with a selection of the seeds grown at Oxford Botanic Garden, which are also distilled within our own Physic Gin, a firm favourite amongst many of our guests. You can also learn more about the realm of botanicals by attending one of our distillery tours.