Caitlin Hill, the Brand Ambassador of The Botanist, known for her passion for foraging and sustainability, started her career as a cocktail waitress in 2012 at the Orphanage Cocktail Emporium in South Africa’s Cape Town. Three years on the job, she had developed a ravenous appetite for cocktails, nurtured a strong understanding of not only where they come from but also how were they created.
Nicknamed as South Africa’s Gin Queen, Hill went on to become the General Manager and part owner of Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar in Cape Town. She took over as the Niche Brands Ambassador for Rémy Cointreau in South Africa. With the Botanist, which is an artisanal distilled gin brand based at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Hebridean Island of Islay—her curiosity about creating spirits and the ingredients used for the creation—helped pursue her passion to forage.
She looks after The Botanist Islay Dry Gin; Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore Islay Single Malt Whiskies; and Mount Gay Barbados Rum. In 2018, Caitlin was promoted to On-Trade Portfolio Ambassador for Rémy Cointreau Africa, Middle East & India and was awarded Brand Ambassador of the Year (2018) with B.A.R – Bartender & Accolade Recognition Awards in South Africa.
LuxeBook spoke to Catlin Hill who was in Mumbai in August; about gin, foraging, sustainability and trends.
How has foraging helped you understand the nitty-gritty of gin? Can you please elaborate on it?
As Gin includes an abundance of different botanicals throughout the category, foraging has helped me understand flavour profiles – perhaps it’s tasting things that aren’t common and certainly tasting things that grow in the wild v/s what you can get in a supermarket. So, in short, I would say that foraging helps one understand flavour and there’s a lot of flavour in the world of gin – especially when it comes to The Botanist Gin!
Can you please shed some light on the sustainability aspect?
With everything that I do, I try to approach it in a sustainable way; at Rémy Cointreau we do this as well when it comes to events/activations/packaging…but I guess for me, more than anything it’s looking at how we can get the most use out of something and not wasting. For instance, when Cape Town was going through a severe water drought, I designed cocktails that didn’t use any freshwater – so rocks instead of ice, ocean water instead of brine, juices instead of syrups for water. Sustainability is a way of life and a way of thinking – doing something for a greater purpose, longevity and having an impact that’s greater than just within oneself.
What kind of changes have you observed in the gin consumption in South Africa, worldwide and in India?
In South Africa, there has certainly been a noticeable rise in gin consumption as well as gin production – therefore increasing gin knowledge all around, the same could be said worldwide and I think that India is touching the tip of the gin iceberg, if you will!
How has whisky consumption evolved over the years?
Whisky is becoming more and more a drink choice for a variety of people and less and less constricted by being boxed into specific categories. People from all walks of life are enjoying whisky these days and more people are becoming curious about the category, which excites me.
When it comes to India, what are people more receptive to? Gin or whisky?
I think India is more familiar with whisky but is quite excited by the gin category too. It’s hard to compare these two categories of spirits because that’s just it – they are two different categories! That being said, there are people who enjoy both and people who enjoy one or the other – variety is the spice of life.
How does your bartending experience help in your profession today?
Having an understanding of many different roles/aspects of this industry has definitely helped me in relating towards others and knowing what their needs/wants are in their roles. When speaking to bartenders, it certainly helps that I have been one. I know what it’s like and I appreciate it. Also, I think if you work any job in the service industry and you want to have an influence on the service industry, it’s a bonus! That and the fact that once you’ve worked in the hospitality industry, you appreciate the hospitality industry in an entirely different way.
As the Brand Ambassador of The Botanist, what have been your learning experiences?
There are so many. I would say one of the biggest though, is to be open-minded towards people, flavours, opinions and to always be prepared to travel. That and making sure that you have a good balance between health (physical, mental and emotional), friendship, family and work…you’re no good to anyone (including yourself) otherwise. Spending time outdoors is also incredibly important for this balance.