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.