One of the polarizing things about gin is that when it gets away from the juniper-heavy, London dry style, it tends to go in a lot of strange places.
Skipping ahead, Uncle Val's Botanical gets a "recommended" rating, which I really only give out to spirits I think are unquestionably good. But with gins like these, I always second guess myself. They're so distinctive that while I like them, and while I think they're worth tasting, they are just unconventional enough that I worry that someone will impulsively buy it based on my thumbs up and say, "Hey: this isn't at all what I was expecting. And now I hate this guy and I hate his stupid website for disappointing me."
So to state things plainly, Uncle Val's Botanical is not a gin you mix into things. I am recommending it for people who already drink gin as they would a scotch: that is, for the guys and gals who pour it into a glass and appreciate the flavors. In other words, Uncle Val's Botanical Gin is running in the "best actor" category, rather than "best supporting actor." Once again: it supports diddly shit. I don't know what classic cocktail you'd make with this and be happy with the result.
However, when the UV Botanical has the chance to be the star of the show, it has a lot of endearing qualities. Uncle Val's is interesting. That holds true for all three of its expressions (the Restorative and Peppered gins being future entries, most likely), but with this bottle in particular I've never had a more earthy gin. Bar none.
Smelling and tasting this stuff, it's hard not to be reminded of the things you'd be proud to pull out of a backyard garden. Cucumber is a big element of the taste experience here, as is bell pepper and—strangely enough—zucchini. This gin arrives big, and it arrives funky. On the way out, it becomes a little less irreverent and has some more traditional notes of lemon and juniper mixed with the veritable farmer's market of tastes from before.
The only thing that really keeps it from the echelon of being what I'd consider an utterly great gin is that it's so distinctive that it's hard to find a time when you'd be in the mood for it. I tend to blast through bottles of Martin Millers and Nolets, not only because they're great on their own, but because I see a lot of new gin-based recipes and think, "Oh, ________ would be perfect for that." Not so here.
I've gone on record of saying that I think the "try before you buy" ratings are a little wishy-washy, but you know who you are. If you're looking for that gin to open wide the doors of possibility and turn you into a convert, look elsewhere. However, if you have more than four different gins on your shelf right now, pick this up without hesitation.