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May 7, 2019

Normally, we would applaud the idea of 'botanically engineering' gin to be enjoyed at altitude as a pr masterstroke. After we had checked that it wasn't the 1st of April.

However, this story appears to have some legs to it. And, even if it doesn't, it's the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday Monday and we are perfectly happy to be blinded by science.

Besides, it makes a change from wall-to-wall coverage of a certain newborn.

Apparently, lemon myrtle is key to the altitude-friendly flavour profile of Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin. In contrast to other classic acidic citrus fruits, lemon myrtle imparts natural sweetness alongside the bold citrus flavour to the gin. This adds a fresh taste without the bitter edge, balancing with the sweet floral notes of heather and rose to deliver an enhanced sweetness and depth of flavour that is missing in many commercial gins when consumed at altitude.

Flavour enhanced for altitude

Professor Charles Spence from Oxford University's Crossmodal Research Laboratory, one of the world’s leading flavour scientists,  explained: 'At 30,000 feet, low air pressure and lack of humidity suppress our taste receptors and alter our sense of smell. Our perception of sweet and salt are somewhat muted whereas our ability to identify spices and bitter flavours are seemingly left unchanged. Surprisingly, our ears play a part in how we perceive taste too. Background noise such as the hum of the engines can render many people unable to detect salty or sugary flavours effectively.'

Head Distiller and Co-founder Matt Gammell said: 'To banish so-called airplane "taste blindness", we have carefully designed a botanical flavour profile that enhances what you lack when you’re soaring in the sky.

'As a distiller, developing a gin on the ground and then trialling it in the sky at different altitudes was a fascinating process. We trialled multiple iterations of the recipe in the air until we were confident that it would taste as good in the sky as it did on the ground.'

Tasting notes at 10,000 and 30,000 feet

Handily for those of us who tend not to spend much flight time trying out different gin samples, the Pickering's people have kindly provided tasting notes at both 10,000 and 30,000 feet.

At 10,000 feet and below, Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin is a 'complex and beautifully classic gin with a bouquet of bold, floral juniper and zesty, sweet, lemon myrtle citrus. Delicate hints of rose and Scottish heather, warming cardamom and cinnamon spice'.

At 30,000 feet it is a 'naturally balanced sweet and spiced gin with a beautiful note of juniper and citrus from the lemon myrtle paired alongside the heather and rose petal. This is balanced against the sweet spice of cinnamon and cardamom to give a lovely flavoursome gin'.

Distilled at Edinburgh’s Summerhall Distillery, the gin is available to drink onboard on all short haul flights and through the High Life shop as part of a trio pack.

Prestigious partnerships

The first distillery to be founded in Edinburgh in 150 years, the Pickering's brand was co-founded by Marcus Pickering and Matt Gammell in 2013.

The British Airways tie-in is not their first prestigious partnership. In June 2017, Pickering’s launched a bespoke range of gins, 3 Queens Gin, for the luxury cruise liner Cunard Cruises. The range continues the distillery’s seafaring pedigree as the makers of Britannia Gin, the Official Gin of the Royal Yacht Britannia. 

Pickering’s Gin is also the official gin of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and gin partner to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. They also produce One Square Gin, exclusively distilled for the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh.