Sipsmith Independent Distillers was born in 2009. Like ‘wordsmith’ – a skilled user of words – ‘Sipsmith’ encapsulates the art of sipping, in their case, primarily London Dry Gin. Sipsmith is based in Chiswick, London, their second home – a larger space for production of their increasingly popular hand crafted spirits. We went along to find out more.
Disappointment all round. Sipsmith’s evening tours were booked up for the next two months. ‘Try emailing and get in on a cancellation’, so we did. A day later and we were paying our £15 at the door of Sipsmith’s distillery in West London.
At first it doesn’t feel you are quite in the right place – situated in a residential area, Sipsmith resides in a building crossed between a garage and a factory. Doors open at 6.30pm, an ideal time to come straight from work, which it seemed many other of the tour-goers had done. Upon entry you are given a fresh gin and tonic, made with their classic London Dry Gin and Fever Tree Indian Tonic- the perfect G&T needs the best gin and the best tonic they say.
You are given time to enjoy this drink in the same room where the gin was actually made. Sipping the G&T whilst gazing at the copper stills (the ‘gin machine’) was rather pleasing. In fact, once we had learned that these were the ‘first copper stills to launch in London for nearly 200 years’, it became even more satisfying – the history and tradition wrapped up in the drink and the room we stood was quite something.
The tour begins – (tour is used in the loosest of senses- you merely shuffle around one room) – and after a brief introduction to Sipsmith, their Sipping Vodka is passed around. Don’t think Tesco Value vodka here – this stuff is top notch. As they put it, this is ‘pure unadulterated, smooth, Sipping Vodka’. It really is very nice, and will/could change your perception of vodka altogether. To convey this simply – it really isn’t all that different to enjoying whisky neat – the tastes and aromas are different, but if you like whisky you’d like this.
We swiftly move on, and after a little more explanation of its history, ingredients and the process, we get to try their London Dry Gin (without the tonic this time). In comparison to the vodka, this is packed with flavour. Made with 10 real botanicals (no flavourings) from across the globe, this gin is a real adventure for the tongue. We are told there should be no burning feeling when you drink spirits (a sign of poor quality), just a warming – which there certainly is.
Finally, we move on to their Sloe Gin and Damson Vodka. Both sweet and thick, easily drinkable, and distinctly different. It is suggested that they would go well with a cheese board as a substitute for Port – and you can immediately sense they would, my mouth suddenly craving stilton.
After some interesting interjections from a rather loud and opinionated American – he disputed some of the tour’s facts, particularly that more G&Ts are consumed than martinis worldwide – the tour was finished, and we were free to mill around or leave.
Overall we give the tour a big thumbs up. The ‘guide’ was a young PR girl, who was clearly excited by Sipsmith – but not nerdy about it, and thoughtfully trying the spirits after they were described made them taste all the better. In fact, it might be true to say that the Sipsmith tour is possibly the cheapest ‘bar’ in London – 5 drinks for £15…