Top shelf! Ranking university spirits

Registrarism returns with an essential ranking of university-branded whiskeys and gins

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

Universities have come up with a wide range of approaches to fundraising over the years, developing new ways to offer exciting products to their alumni, staff and students.

Ideally such innovations will generate income as well as build brand loyalty. Perhaps not always in such a final way as we reported here a while back.

While the links between universities and alcohol is far from straightforward – and indeed plenty of US institutions have recently severed commercial tie-ins involving sports teams and brewers – there are still many willing to look at the opportunities for income-generation offered by exclusive branded spirits.

Most recently, Furman University has launched its own brand of bourbon, delightfully named FU All The Time:

Furman University fans and friends have a new way to show their spirit for the university. FU All the Time, a favorite Paladins cheer, is also now a private-label straight bourbon whiskey.

“The launch of the Clearly Furman campaign was an exciting time, with hundreds of alumni and donors and other friends on campus,” said Elizabeth Lichtenberg, senior director of brand strategy and visual communications for Furman. “We thought FU All the Time bourbon would be popular, and it was a huge hit. Everyone loved it. It felt good to be able to offer the Furman Family something new and unique that they can enjoy and take some pride in, and give them a new way to toast and celebrate Furman. We expect this new product to be a favorite for a long time.”

Go Paladins.


Universities named after spirits

It also seems that there are “real” institutions out there which focus on helping their students appreciate the finer spirits. For example there is Whiskey University, which teaches a series of tasting classes on the topics of bourbon and Whiskey. In fact, it claims to have over 100 classes that are delivered publicly at “restaurants, bars, country clubs, liquor stores, distilleries, casinos, lodges and civic clubs” throughout the US.

Many of these courses lead to high quality completion certificates like this:

Likewise the improbably named Moonshine University offers:

technical training and business management education for start-ups, industry professionals, and those looking for careers in the distilling industry.

And we also have Rum University, which promises a range of courses covering all things rum.

My top 10 university spirits

10 Oxford Physic Gin

This is a “celebration of Oxford’s extraordinary Botanic Garden” and features some 25 botanticals.

9 Heriot Watt Whisky

This one was blended by four students from Heriot-Watts’ International Centre for Brewing and Distilling – the first of what is hoped to be come an annual series of releases.

8 Cambridge Curator’s Gin

Another one developed in partnership with a university botanic garden, this one even features crisp apples from Sir Isaac Newton’s tree alongside other ingredients.

7 University of Lincoln commemorative whisky (limited edition)

This very limited bottling of 11 year old Glentauchers (just 100 were produced!) commemorates Queen Elizabeth II opening the University of Lincoln campus in 1996. If you are at Lincoln and have one of these tucked away in your office don’t make retirement plans just yet – a bottle recently sold for an astonishing £51.

6 Furman University’s FU All The Time bourbon

You have to suspect people don’t buy this one for the flavour.

5 Aberdeen Quincentenary whisky

This is a 20 year old Knockando single malt distilled, as the name suggests, for the University of Aberdeen quincentenary in 1995.

4 Harper Adams very limited edition Hands Free Hectare gin

Harper Adams of course forms the the third part of the prestigious “botanical triangle” with Oxford and Cambridge.

3 Osaka University Whisky

A demonstration of the strength of the whisky industry in Japan. Fans of Lost in Translation will be thrilled to learn it was distilled by Suntory. For relaxing times, make it Osaka University time.

2 New Mexico State University – Pistol Pete’s Six-Shooter Rye Whiskey

Funds from the sales of this one go to the athletics department.

1 University of St Andrews Class of 2020, onwards

In a superb initiative, the University of St Andrews’ bottles a single cask of 12 year old Glen Elgin each year. Only around 300 individually numbered bottles are made for each graduating class

Is there a Wonkhe whisky?

Unfortunately not. There was, however, a Wonkhe wine – produced in a very limited edition to celebrate our 2019 rebrand. We sent a bottle to a small number of senior sector figures – unfortunately many broke in transit, meaning that for some vice chancellors their first experience of the new Wonkhe was a dangerous package of damp cardboard and broken glass covered in alcohol.

Just one bottle remains at Wonkhe HQ, in case of emergencies.

If your higher education provider produces alcoholic beverages (there’s a forthcoming ranking of beers too!) Team Wonkhe would be delighted to sample them – do get in touch.

2 responses to “Top shelf! Ranking university spirits

  1. There was a SCoP (Standing Conference of Principals – the forerunner of GuildHE) Whisky. It was a special edition for an anniversary. Have other representative or mission groups gone down this line?

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