The University of Oxford is known for many things. Alumni like Stephen Hawking and Oscar Wilde, for example, and the Oxford comma. Soon there will be another, boozier accomplishment to add to the list: the first university to be in the commercial spirits business.
Oxford is creating a gin using ingredients from its Botanic Garden, The Guardian reports. It’ll be called Physic Gin, and will be distilled from barley grains that Medieval farmers once used. Flavors will come from 25 botanicals that were planted after the founding of the garden in 1621. The name comes from the archaic word for a cathartic medicine, as in, “drink a physic to ease the occasional tedium of studying English literature.”
The gin is a collaboration between the director of the Botanic Garden, professor Simon Hiscock, and The Oxford Artisan Distillery, which goes by the acronym TOAD. The distillery was Oxford’s first, and until recently, it had no association with the university. It now has the exclusive license to make spirits with the university’s brand for 25 years.
“TOAD is that rarest of things—a true craft distillery,” distillery founder Tom Nicolson says on the company website. “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 unique partnership with its revered university.”
The Botanic Garden was founded by Jacob Bobart the Elder as a tool to teach herbal medicine. In 1648 he wrote a catalogue of the garden’s 1,600 plants, which TOAD used to create the gin recipe. The ingredient list includes, in part, wormwood, Szechuan pepper, opium poppy seed, calamus and gentian root. The garden can’t produce enough juniper, however, so that’s sourced from elsewhere.
There’s nothing quite like it stateside. American college students tend to lean a little more toward Fireball and Jungle Juice than historical botanical creations. Not even Kentucky’s Moonshine University has its own name-brand liquor.
Those hoping to imbibe what is surely the most English of all upper-class English gins in the world will have to travel to Oxford to buy a bottle. The rest of us will just have to settle for less pedigreed spirits.