Skip to content

Canada is home to North America's only in-airport distillery

June 11, 2022
4 min read
distillery in airport
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Pubs are common at airports these days, but actual breweries are not. That's why Airbräu at Munich Airport (MUC) in Germany and Cigar City Brewing at Florida's Tampa International Airport (TPA) are rare — they brew beer on-site.

In-airport distilleries are just as hard to find. There are currently only two in the world, and one of them has been open less than a year.

The first one, called The Nicholas Culpeper pub and restaurant, opened in 2016 at London Gatwick Airport (LGW). It's named for a 17th-century botanist, herbalist and physician who once lived nearby. The pub still produces a London Dry Gin using a recipe initially created by master distiller Matt Servini and his team at the Craft Distilling Business; the team also designed and built a special still for the airport site.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
(Photo courtesy of London Gatwick Airport)

Although it was closed for a while during the pandemic, this in-airport distillery has since reopened. It has been so successful that a larger still was installed in 2018 to meet demand, according to Vanessa Rapier, Craft Distilling Business' co-founder and director. She told TPG that “as long as the recipe and ingredients are consistent," distilling gin in an airport “should have no impact on [the gin’s] taste.” The distillery is located in the pre-security/landside section of the airport’s North Terminal.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Canadian airport gets going with gin

Victoria Distillers, which has its headquarters in Sidney, British Columbia, had already been planning to open a distillery at Victoria International Airport (YYJ) in British Columbia before the pandemic started. And despite the decline in air travel and the implementation of travel restrictions, the company pressed forward and opened North America’s first airport distillery in September 2021.

The company makes a variety of highly regarded, handmade spirits, but it's best known for an indigo-colored gin inspired by the legendary Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. The grand hotel opened in 1908 and serves a signature blend of black tea during its popular afternoon high tea service.

That hotel’s tea is one of the ingredients in Victoria Distillers’ Empress 1908 Gin; it also contains traditional botanicals as well as butterfly pea blossom, the trendy exotic herb that gives the gin its purple hue. The gin’s color changes to bright lavender, soft pink, or fuchsia depending on what mixer is added.

Victoria Distillers has set up a still and a shop in the recently expanded departures lounge of the airport.

(Photo courtesy of The Empress Gin for The Points Guy)

“Our base spirit distillation is carried out at our parent facility on the Sidney Waterfront, about 10 minutes away,“ Tomas Dosil, hospitality and experience manager for Victoria Distillers, told TPG. “The manufacturing at our Victoria Airport location consists of infusing, blending and bottling with a custom blending and bottling unit that uses circle clad stainless steel and copper elements intended to mirror the stills at our parent Sidney distillery.”

Dosil said that although the shelves at the airport shop are well-stocked with the beautiful and recognizable indigo Empress 1908 Gin, customers can watch through the distillery’s floor-to-ceiling windows as their personal bottles are blended, bottled and labeled.

(Photo courtesy of Victoria Distillers)
(Photo courtesy of Victoria Distillers)

What's more, the distillery offers travelers complimentary half-ounce tastings of the Empress 1908 Gin that's produced on-site.

“We like to add a splash of quality tonic after the initial first taste,” Dosil said. “Our team focuses on how the gin is made, what botanicals are used and what flavors you might expect. We also tell the story of Empress 1908, from the inspiration to its inception and what makes the gin unique.”

If you want to sample the gin in cocktail form before committing to buying a full bottle, you can order from the menu at the Spinnakers Lounge across from the airport distillery. Dosil said a signature cocktail featuring the airport-made gin is in the works.

Travelers who want to go home with a bottle of the purple gin can easily do so. Right now, the airport distillery produces 50 to 60 bottles daily, but it has the capacity to increase production as passenger traffic grows. And here's a tip: Dosil said the bottle prices at the airport are lower than any you’ll find in local government and private retail stores.

Featured image by (Photo Courtesy of Victoria Distillers)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases