I had a bit of time to spare last Saturday so I popped to Brixton to check out the Chocolate Museum. It’s a relatively new establishment, with a café, an exhibition on the history of chocolate (complete with artefacts) and yummy artesan chocolate to buy. Well worth a visit if you’re a chocolate fan. They also put on events for both children and adults, including chocolate tasting and cooking with chocolate – yum!
The other week I finally got around to doing the tour of the Sipsmith Distillery that I booked back in June. The tours sell out so far in advance that I had to do this in order to get a place. I was supposed to be going with a few friends, but because of work and illness only one actually came with me on the night.
The distillery is in the middle of a residential street in Shepherd’s Bush and it is tiny – no wonder the tours sell out quickly, as there is very little space inside. It’s cosy and appealing though, and despite the clutter has a number of interesting things going on. I suppose ‘tour’ is a bit of a misnomer, since there’s nowhere else to go once you’re inside the building. ‘Talk’ and ‘tasting’ would be better terms, and our host was hugely entertaining – I thought he should have a career on the stage.
During our talk we heard about the history of gin and the hoops the group had to jump through in order to establish Sipsmith’s. I found it interesting to learn about the name of the brand – ‘smith’ comes from the concept of making something by hand, the artisan practice of crafting with care. ‘Sip’ is obviously what you do to the finished product! This is great quality alcohol – something to be savoured and enjoyed.
In pride of place stands Prudence, the first copper still in London for nearly 200 years. She helps to make the different spirits Sipsmith are known for, four of which we got to taste this evening: barley vodka, London dry gin, damson vodka, and sloe gin.
Sipsmith, with its beautiful bottles decorated with ornate swans, is best known for its gin, and we were greeted with a gin and tonic on arrival. We got to taste some of the gin straight, without a mixer, and though this isn’t the way I would choose to consume it, it was clear that the gin is high quality, crisp and refreshing.
A surprise was the barley vodka. Normally, straight vodka has me making faces, and it’s usually reserved for those nights when getting drunk as quickly and efficiently as possible is the aim (and I experience fewer and fewer of those nights as I get older). However, this vodka was surprisingly drinkable, and I could detect the different flavours with no nasty aftertaste.
The damson gin was very pleasant, rather sweet, and I think it would taste lovely with tonic or lemonade. However, by far my favourite drink of the evening was the sloe gin. I’ve had sloe gin before – I’ve a bottle of the Gordon’s variety at home – but this Sipsmith version is the nicest I’ve ever tasted. It was flavoursome, not too sweet, and would be perfect with ice for a Christmassy drink.
As the title suggests – I visited Uxbridge in order to tick the last-but-one station off my list. I’m sorry I didn’t go earlier, as it is quite a nice little town, with an old street full of pubs and some decent shops. There’s also a Liquid nightclub – I made a mental note to tell my friends.
The station itself was pretty impressive, a fine terminus to the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines.
The National Portrait Gallery‘s current exhibition is Elizabeth I And Her People, which explores Elizabeth’s reign alongside the lives of other important people of the late Tudor age. The exhibition uses portraits to explore how explorers, artists, soldiers, writers and merchants portrayed themselves and displayed their wealth and achievements.
I am fairly familiar with this period, having studied history at sixth form and university, and I thought the exhibition did a great job of looking at the sixteenth century and the kind of people who inhabited it, particularly the growing middle classes.
The second exhibition I saw at the Science Museum was Collider. Designed as an immersive experience, it looks at the largest scientific experiment ever constructed, the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. It started with a rather cheesy video presentation, then opened up to let you walk through the collider – which in real life is 27 km long – and learn about the uncovering of the Higgs boson particle.
I enjoyed the exhibition, particularly the video and multimedia aspects which helped me to understand what was going on. Having not studied science for over ten years, I really had to struggle to understand the concept behind the collider but I certainly came out with a better grasp of it than when I went in.