Historic botanic garden inspires University of Oxford gin

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The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD) has unveiled its second premium gin, created for the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden.

Physic Gin, which carries the exclusive University of Oxford brand, is the first spirit to be launched under a 25-year licence allowing the distillery to produce alcoholic spirits for the university.

The new gin’s formulation and design celebrate the history and current usage of the university’s botanic garden – the oldest of its kind in the country.

It is made with 25 botanicals, mostly from a 17th-century list of plants grown in the garden that was founded in 1621 for the teaching of herbal medicine. Many of the botanicals have been foraged from the garden.

TOAD’s master distiller Cory Mason said: “This gin is medicinal – in a good way. Botanicals like wormwood, rue and sweet woodruff bring a deeply complex flavour to bear and take us back to the time when plants formed the base of all medicine. Expect rich, earthy notes from this gin – like nothing you have tasted before.”

Available in 50cl bottles, Physic Gin has ABV of 42.1%. In retail, it is priced at £34.95.

The Oxford Botanic Garden was planted during the 1640s by its first keeper, Jacob Bobart the Elder. In 1648, he created a catalogue of all the plants that he grew, now preserved as a treasured manuscript at the Garden. TOAD is the only distiller in the world allowed access to the catalogue and Garden to both inspire and flavour its recipes.

Physic Gin has been distilled from ancient populations of grain grown exclusively for TOAD in fields close to Oxford as part of a “grain to glass” provenance. The grain is farmed sustainably in ways once common in medieval times, contributing to biodiversity and soil health in the English countryside.

All of the grain used for TOAD’s spirits, led by Oxford Dry Gin and Oxford Rye Vodka, is distilled in a hand-crafted copper still, with all bottling by hand on site.

TOAD founder Tom Nicolson said: “TOAD is that rarest of things – a true craft distillery. We care deeply about the quality of our spirits but also about the impact of our production. We are the first distillery in this brilliant city, known all over the world as a centre of excellence. We are delighted to hold this valued partnership with such a revered university.”

Professor Simon Hiscock, director of Oxford Botanic Garden, added: “I was so impressed by the integrity and passion behind TOAD. It makes perfect sense for Oxford Botanic Garden to align itself with Oxford’s first distillery. I’m looking forward to making spirits inspired by our historical collections and having some botanical fun along the way.”

TOAD opened for business at its purpose-built site in Oxford in July last year. It also produces absinthe and whiskey and specialises in spirits with grain-to-glass provenance rather than buying in grain neutral spirit.

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