Spirited rivalry: Oxford and Cambridge battle it out for the best gin

Forget The Boat Race and University Challenge, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge have turned their attention to gin, with both institutions now boasting spirits made using plants from their botanical gardens.

Cambridge Distillery x Cambridge University Botanic Garden: Curator’s Gin.

Back in January this year, The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD) unveiled Physic Gin made in partnership with the University of Oxford.

The distillery was given access to the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden, which was founded in 1621 as a physic garden for the teaching of herbal medicine. The gin contains 25 different botanicals, many of which descend from those originally grown in the garden.

Now it seems the University of Cambridge is getting in on the act, having partnered with the Cambridge Distillery to produce a gin.

Curator’s Gin was created in partnership with Cambridge University Botanic Garden and the garden’s curator, Sam Brockington.

The gin has been produced in a limited run of 600 bottles priced at £39.99 per 500ml, almost £5 more than its Oxonian counterpart.

Among the botanicals include apples (from a tree descended from the one that dropped fruit on Sir Isaac Newton’s head), lavender, green ginger, rosemary and of course juniper berries.

It is described as having a “herbaceous floral profile” and is distilled to 40% ABV.

TOAD x Oxford Botanic Garden: Physic Gin

The Cambridge team hand-picked the botanicals from the garden, before cycling back with them to the distillery.

Master distiller and co-founder of Cambridge Distillery, William Lowe, told Cambridgeshire Live: “We’ve been using this system for various institutions, including many Cambridge colleges and even the House of Lords, ever since we were founded back in 2012.

“This year we received the highest accolade we could ever have hoped for, and were granted unprecedented access to Cambridge University Botanic Garden, which is a special place indeed, not least because of its beauty and tranquillity, but because as a site of academia it hosts a whole range of species that were otherwise unavailable to us.

“They have a whole catalogue of juniper, an apple tree said to be descended from Newton’s own, and stunning collections of both rosemary and lavender – two botanicals which became really key notes for us”.

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