British Airways has partnered with Edinburgh-based Pickering’s Gin to create a gin that has been ‘botanically engineered’ to be drunk in the air. Following the airline’s research into how taste is affected by the lack of humidity in aircraft cabins (acidity becomes more pronounced, for example) the spirit has been designed to have a unique balance of flavours for optimal enjoyment.
Available to drink on all short-haul flights for the remainder of BA’s 2019 centenary year, the ten-botanical gin combines juniper, rose petals, heather, lime, lemon, cardamom and cinnamon. Central to the flavour profile is the addition of lemon myrtle. The airline says that “in contrast to other classic acidic citrus fruits, lemon myrtle imparts natural sweetness”.
Distilled at Edinburgh’s Summerhall distillery, apparently, it delivers “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”.
The classic British drink will be served with Schweppes 1783 tonic water and slice of lemon over ice. Passengers will also be able to buy the gin as part of a limited-edition triple “Gin Flight” miniature gift pack, sold on board on all long-haul and non-EU flights through the High Life Shop.
What’s the science behind BA’s high altitude gin?
Flavour scientist professor Charles Spence, from Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, says: “At 30,000 feet, low air pressure and lack of humidity supress 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.”
Pickering’s Gin head distiller and co-founder Matt Gammell, says: “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.”
What’s the significance of the partnership between BA and Pickering’s Gin?
Lots of airlines collaborate with fashion and lifestyle brands when it comes to in-flight amenity kits in first and business class: BA has worked with Liberty and White Company, for example, while Etihad has partnered with Acqua di Parma and China Airlines with North Face.
Airlines also frequently work with Michelin star chefs to help design menus – Anne-Sophie Pic has worked with Air France and Shinobu Namae has designed meals for Japan Airlines. But when it comes to crafting a bespoke drink for the air, British Airways is leading the way. It also serves its own craft beer, an IPA from Brewdog called Speedbird 100.
Marcus Pickering, co-founder and head of export for Pickering’s Gin, says: “Five years ago when we established our small distillery in the centre of Edinburgh, it was all about local. While our local community in Edinburgh and Scotland is still extremely important to us, we now have the capacity for growth and export.
“Given our drive to take Pickering’s Gin into new markets, we are absolutely delighted to be working with an airline that gets us there – British Airways. It is an absolute dream to partner with such iconic brand. In my view, their focus on sourcing the best possible products and delivering the best experience for their passengers is unsurpassed.”
Jude Winstanley, British Airways’ head of ground products, says: “We have searched the length of the country to find some of the best British brands to partner with for our centenary. We are delighted these limited-edition products will be available to customers on board this summer.”