Victoria International Airport

Airport or gin joint? 2 Airports distill gin onsite

As far as we know, there are just two in-airport distilleries in the world.

The first one opened in 2016 at London’s Gatwick Airport and is located pre-security/landside in the airport’s North Terminal.

We’re planning a July visit and will report back on what we find – and drink.

But in the meantime, here’s what we know.

The Nicholas Culpeper Pub & Dining is named for a 17th-century botanist, herbalist, and physician who lived nearby. The pub’s onsite still produces a London Dry Gin using a recipe initially created by master distiller Matt Servini and his team at the Craft Distilling Business (CDB), which also designed and built a special still for the airport site. 

Victoria Int’l Airport’s gin distillery

Victoria Distillers, which has its headquarters in Sydney, British Columbia, opened a small distillery at Victoria International Airport (YYJ) during the pandemic.

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

That tea is one of the ingredients in Victoria Distillers’ Empress 1908 Gin, which also contains traditional botanicals as well as butterfly pea blossom, the trendy exotic herb that gives the gin its purple hue.

As a nice touch, the gin’s color ‘magically’ changes to bright lavender, soft pink, or fuchsia depending on what mixer is added.

At Victoria International Airport, Victoria Distillers has a still and a shop in the recently expanded departures lounge. Passengers may sip complimentary tastes and watch their bottles be blended, bottled, and labeled onsite.

Those that want to further explore the gin in a full cocktail can order from the menu at the Spinnakers Lounge across from the airport distillery.

Greetings from Victoria, B.C.

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These flowers welcome travelers at B.C.’s Victoria International Airport. Courtesy of the airport.

Two airport firsts for me this weekend on a very short trip to Canada.

I took my first Kenmore Air seaplane ride from Seattle to Victoria, B.C. and I finally had a chance to visit Victoria International Airport.

I actually took two seaplane rides.

Kenmore Air

The first flight from Seattle to Victoria had to turn around due to low visibility and return to Kenmore Air’s Lake Union base. While some passengers (there were five of us on board – plus one tiny dog) rushed off to find alternate transportation to Victoria, I considered myself lucky to have gotten a bonus scenic tour and settled in to wait for the next flight.

Clearing customs on arrival at the seaplane terminal in Victoria, B.C. was incredibly easy: just two Canada Border Services Agency employees in a shack on the dock asking each passenger if they had fruits and vegetables with them and if they’ve been near anyone with Ebola. The entire plane was processed in two minutes.

The  Victoria Seaplane Terminal is tiny, but packed with amenities that include free Wi-Fi and complimentary computer workstations, newspapers, coffee, fruit and morning pastries.

Then it was on to Victoria International Airport  (YYJ), about 30 minutes away, for a tour.

The airport serves about 1.5 million passengers a year and besides being on lovely Vancouver Island, it has a lot going for it. Here are snaps from my tour:

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Inside the terminal, the foliage is live and the color palette for the finishes draw inspiration from “At Beacon Hill Park,” a painting by the well-known Victoria artist Emily Carr.

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Spinnakers On the Fly, an airport outpost of a popular local gastropub, has 12 Spinnakers beers on tap, including one called, Departures,’ brewed just for the airport

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The gift shop sells lots of locally-made Roger’s Chocolates and a wide assortment of handmade gift items.

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In addition to a play area for kids, an art-filled indoor observation deck, pet relief areas, workstations and bike assembly stations with loaner tools, the airport has several water fountains with water bottle re-fill attachments and counters that keep track of how many plastic bottles are being kept out of landfills.

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Surrounding the airport is the Flight Path – an almost 6-mile biking and hiking path with informational signs about the landmarks and history of the area along the way such as Hospital Hill, once the site of medical facilities for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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An interactive map of the Flight Path includes the historical information listed on each sign along the path.

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