A World of Spirits: Sipsmith Gin
Hello and welcome to another distillery visit edition! The aim is to eventually visit every distillery in the world and write about it. But as for the moment I am poor, it will have to be distilleries rather close to home. Being English that means one thing. Gin. Which I am perfectly happy to comply with as gin is tasty. In fact I think where most people have the equivalent to 9 nails worth of iron in their blood, I have 12 martinis worth.
And what better gin to write about than the relatively new offering, Sipsmith. Before I start I must note that this was the last set of photos taken on my old camera before I upgraded so please try and forgive the low resolution, regular high quality pictures will resume as of next post.
To read the post click the picture or follow the link below
So after a brief email correspondence with a friendly chap at Sipsmith, we had set a date and a time and he gave me the address of the distillery. I met a friend at the nearest tube stop and we proceeded to make our way to the street in question. We passed various banal nondescript streets passing various suburb highlights such as a primary school when we reached the street in question.
That’s right. It looked exactly the same as all of the other bloody streets! My friend looked at me skeptically. “Are you sure we are on the right street?” Even more dubiously, we soon happened upon the door.
This is it. The address. It looks like any other garage that you would find in this part of London (Hammersmith)
“You knock.” I said
“No way, you have the wrong place. You knock.” Is the reply.
This would be a pretty short post if I didn’t knock and simply walked away so I eventually managed to knock and was met by a super friendly chap named James who introduced himself as the Sales Manager.
As he led us inside I was met by this.
A veritable apothecary of hidden doodads and whatnots! Bottles of mysterious looking herbs and spices adorning the walls and vats of mysteriously coloured liquids scattered about the place with mysterious scrawlings on each, sometimes numbers, sometimes just a word like “mustard” or “sloe attempt 3”
By far the most impressive thing in the entire garage though (Saying entire garage makes it sound huge, it is literally the size of a normal garage) is the big copper still at the back. Sipsmith’s pride and joy, this makes their vodka, their gin, and any flavoured offerings they decide to make. They have nicknamed the still “Prudence.” But I’ll get on to that later, here is a picture of the still in the meantime.
Onto the history of Sipsmith. Sipsmith is the first copper distillery in London in 200 years. This is a pretty big achievement in my mind and I have the utmost respect for the process once I heard about the palava they went through to get their license sorted.
The site used to be a brewery in the 1700s and there was a pub attached that made “Low beer” to be served to school children. Times were a lot different back then and beer was a lot safer to drink than water. Back up to modern times and up until about 4-5 years ago it was office space that was rented by a chap named Michael Jackson – A whisky writer.
After being purchased by the Sipsmith guys they attempted to get a distiller’s license. This was around 2005. Under the old rules any amount produced under 1800 litres was legally considered to be moonshining. After a long struggle trying to get it, they finally received their license (no doubt written on parchment) 2 and a half years later, in 2007.
They hired a still making company to make Prudence, made by a chap called Christian Carl.
These guy’s aim was to bring back the craft of boutique, handcrafted gin back to its London roots. They tried to recapture traditional methods, basing their ideas on U.S microbreweries and microdistilleries. Every batch makes around two hundred bottles and you can really see the care, passion and dedication that these guys put into making this product.
Onto the geeky stuff, how it’s made, the botanicals etc.
For both the vodka and the gin, they buy in 96% barley based grain spirit. (There were big barrels of this lying around saying “No open flames!” etc.
This is then watered down to about 60% and put back through the still.
For the gin, at this step the botanicals are added. The botanicals that go in sipsmith are:
The master distiller (a chap called Jared Brown – you may have heard of him…) decides on the amounts to go in.
Distillation then brings it out at a higher ABV, the vodka comes out around 95% and the gin comes out between 88% and 90%
It is then brought down to 40% for sale. The sipsmith guys went back to the source of the Thames to get their water. The Cotswald Springs. I think this is a really nice touch because it really reinforces the whole traditional London style gin. It’s really interesting to see the approach these companies make in choosing their water supply. Millers being an interesting example, they famously use icelandic iceberg water. Hopefully they’ll send me an invite to their distillery soon (I think it’s in Birmingham) so I can write about it.
The vodka is unusual in that it is not filtered resulting in a vodka where you could actually pick out marked flavours.
If they want to run any flavours through, there is a carterhead section to the still aka a “flavour chamber” For example their sloe gin adds sloe berries to the chamber, and then they add sugar once it comes off.
Onto the most important thing, the taste. I am only tasting the gin today because that’s all we’re here for, right?
Nose: Light, summery floral hints, with a hit of juniper and a bright zesty freshness
Palate: The dryness of juniper hits you first, with waves of citrus rinds afterwards, reminiscent of fresh citrussy lemon curd and orange marmalade. All of the botanicals combine to create a smooth texture and harmonised flavour.
Finish: Mostly dry, with lingering freshness from the juniper and a final citrus zing.
I also couldn’t help but make a martini with it, which was also delicious, cue gratuitous martini shot here.
One final thing to cover, the name and the logo.
The logo is the image of a swans head coming out of a still (Picture below)
This is simply because of the still. Where a pot still curves is usually nicknamed the “Swan’s neck” The design spawns from this.
The name comes from a discussion the guys had once when trying to come up with a name. They were told
“Wow, you guys really care about what you do, you provide the same amount of care and attention to your product as a silversmith would. Except you don’t smith silver.. You smith sips”
Ladies and Gentleman I give you Sipsmith.
See you next week,