In 2009, Sipsmith was launched by Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall (formerly of Fuller’s and Diageo respectively) after many years of working in the drinks industry. The pair teamed up with Jared Brown (who in the past who has developed spirits in Sweden, Norway, Vietnam, and in the US) to pursue their passion for handmade spirits. As a result the trio have created a gin full of authenticity which is now on a seemingly meteoric rise.
Sipsmith became the first copper-pot based distillery to start up in London in over 150 years, a fact that made the process of being granted a license a long and tiresome affair. Undeterred and feeling inspired after spending time in the US, where a change in licensing laws led to small craft distilleries gaining popularity, Fairfax Hall and Sam Galsworthy even sold their homes to fund the project. They called the spirits they produced Sipsmith (they also distil a barley vodka) after the name they gave themselves “sip-smiths” – a celebration of the craft of distillation and their artisanal methods.
Balancing a whole host of aromatic botanicals to create a drink that is dry, spicy, and full of character, Sipsmith is made using ten carefully selected botanicals from around the globe: Macedonian juniper berries, Bulgarian coriander seed, French angelica root, Spanish liquorice root, Italian orris root, Spanish ground almond, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon, Sevillian orange peel and Spanish lemon peel. Each botanical plays their part but the noteworthy few being the liquorice, not for its own flavour but for its ability to counter some of the tannin in the other botanicals thus allowing for a truer, zestier taste and the coriander and angelica which give it a more traditional London dry profile. On the palate Sipsmith has strong notes of juniper but there are also definite citrus notes and a depth to the liquid that lingers beautifully.
The gin is distilled in a beautiful still affectionately named Prudence (after Gordon Brown’s favorite watchword) and is produced in small batches of no more than 300 bottles a time using the traditional three cuts (where only the heart of the distillation run is retained). Once watered down, it is bottled at 41.6% ABV. Every bottle is numbered with its batch number and although there may be minute variations between them, each batch will carry the distinct Sipsmith characteristics. Prudence, designed in collaboration with one of Germany’s oldest distillery producers Christian Carl (a small, family business who have been crafting stills since 1869), is as complex as she is beautiful. Following conversations with Desmond Payne, Sean Harrison and using Jared Brown’s understanding of creating spirits, the German firm have created a masterpiece. Originally designed to be smaller, the (still tiny) 300ltr still barely fits in the space with the swan’s neck centimeters away from the ceiling. Although not used for either the creation of their vodka nor gin, Prudence is capable of being both a pot still or a Carterhead. It must be said that despite these facts, it is impressive to see just how small a still she actually is, especially considering Sipsmith can now be found in many supermarkets nation wide as well as internationally.
Prudence along with the Sipsmith HQ, sits in a building in Hammersmith that could quite easily be described as full of character; a quality which is very in keeping with the gin they produce. The garage turned distillery was once the site of a former microbrewery and later became the office of legendary drinks writer Michael Jackson. When the team first saw the space, it was still lined with his beer and spirits bottles, amassed in a lifetime spent reviewing and appreciating drinks from the world over.
Production aside, (as with all good brands) the bottle design hasn’t let the liquid down in any way. The heavy based, smooth labeled and tactile bottle is a masterful touch that really tantalizes you into wanting to drink the contents. The label itself depicts a stylized pot-still with a swan’s neck and head – a reference to Prudence. Perhaps most satisfying of all however is the bottle top, with its wax coating and a cork that makes a faint sound which has come to mark the beginning of Martini time here at The Gin Blog HQ.
It is not surprising to see that both the gin and the brand have been well received as the liquid is truly exceptional and could well be a new bench mark in what a London Dry should taste like. Hand crafted is not a gimmick PR term used here, it is the very basis of the entire operation. Furthermore the Sipsmith team have an enthusiasm and a charm that is both contagious and inspiring, all of which contributing to why they are considered as some of the nicest gents in the drinks industry and why their gin is set to be on everyone’s must stock list.
For more information about Sipsmith Gin, visit their website:
They are also on Twitter: @SipsmithSam