Now to say that I don’t like flying would be a massive understatement.
Though perhaps that’s not quite accurate, and a little unfair on the aviation industry as a whole. You see, once onboard a plane, I’m quite happy with the flying element. In fact, I’m all for it and applaud the Wright Brothers for their efforts in finding the magic formula to keep me in the air. The bit that I’m far less jolly about is the idea of going in to the ground like a dart! At the end of the day, I’m fully convinced that these huge hunks of metal are encouraged off the ground by my willpower alone and that no amount of my arm flapping will help if ‘Mr.T’s’ reservations were to become an unfortunate reality! (I ain’t gettin’ on no plane – I pity the fool!).
So it’s of no surprise then that I’m often lacking in the enthusiasm department when it comes to airports and air travel. But all that could be about to change… What if I told you that I had found the perfect reason to not only arrive at the airport early, but also found something that will almost certainly give you the confidence to board one of these birds with a smile on your face?
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Gatwick Airport. Please ensure your trays are stowed and your seats are in the upright position. In the very likely event that we’re about to land in gin, there is a martini glass under your seat and a straw will drop from above your head. Please make sure that you fix your own gin & tonic before helping others. Now if you’re sitting comfortably, allow me to introduce your captain for this flight; ‘Nicholas Culpeper’.
Having only opened its doors in March this year, The Nicholas Culpeper is much more than just a bar & restaurant (though what a fine restaurant it is. Highly recommended for a pre-travel meal). It is also the first airport gin distillery in the world and a feat which its master distiller, Matt Servini, hadn’t thought possible until he finally saw the ribbon cutting with his own eyes.
Matt is known for being an expert in the field of 16th-17th century gin production methods (which is both a niche and ‘Master Mind specialist subject’ worthy area of expertise I’m sure you’ll agree!). And thank goodness he is, as through his vast knowledge, tireless experimentation in his garden shed of botanicals and disregard for mass production techniques (a man of my own heart), the ‘Nicholas Culpeper’ London Dry Gin was born.
The original Nicholas Culpeper, the man from whom this gin takes its name, was an English botanist, herbalist and physician in the 1600’s, who was born less than two miles away from Gatwick Airport. Now poor old Nick would obviously not have been able to sample the delights of his namesake gin and it appears that luck was perhaps not on his side at the best of times. When you read the menu you’ll find on your table, you’ll learn that his beloved fiancé was sadly struck down & killed by a bolt of lightening the day before they were due to be married. However, the thoughtful team at Nicholas Culpeper did decide to name their Copper Pot Still in her honour (‘Judith’) of which I’m sure he would have approved.
Matt & the team source and use only the finest botanicals from around the world, blending lemon grass, coriander seeds, cassia bark, angelica root, liquorice root, cardamon pods, cloves and juniper berries to fantastic small batch effect. How small batch you ask? Only 12 litres at a time. That’s how small!
I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the teams small, but impressive, facilities during my visit. The distillery is a beautiful little room tucked away just to the side of the bar, filled with shiny copper contraptions, glass mason jars filled with botanicals and empty bottles ready for filling. Magical.
Once the botanicals are added to the vodka base spirit, they are distilled for roughly 4-5 hours, with the resultant gin being left to rest for a further 24 hours before it’s ready for bottling. From that point on, the choice is yours. You can buy your very own individually labelled, bottled on site, bottle of said gin for £30 (did I buy one? Of course I did!). You can have a glass of the good stuff poured as a G&T or cocktail of your choice from the bar. Or you can even order a gin infused delight from the food menu (the gin cured smoked salmon looked incredible!).
So it’s small batch, one of a kind and has a quirky title & back story. Great! But is there any substance to this gin? Oh you better believe there is!
This is unlike any other gin I’ve tried before. As soon as you raise the glass to your nose you’re instantly hit by the sweet tones of the lemon grass, beautifully combined with the more classic juniper. The inclusion of the liquorice root provides a backdrop of aniseed, giving the aromas an almost minty warmth. With the inclusion of cassia, to give a cinnamon sweetness, the scent was almost like sticking your nose in to a bag of lemon sherbets (with gin? Surely the best kind?!) – it is gleefully mouth watering.
Tasted neat, those lemon sherbets deliver a welcome amount of spice on to the pallet, with the initial sense of sweet kaylied being replaced with a warming heat. Citrus remains the dominant botanical, with the lemon coming across in an intensely good way.
I would recommend trying this gin as part of the teams signature gin & tonic ‘The Culpeper G & T’. Served with Fevertree Mediterranean tonic and garnished with cassia and a sprig of rosemary, it is simply stunning and pulls out all of the flavours of the gin.
Will I ever learn to love flying? I doubt it. But with reasons like this popping up in airports, I think I could probably find a reason to book another holiday in the very near future. Move over ‘Red Bull’, there’s a new beverage in town – and this one really does give you wings…