Sipsmith

Sipsmith

Two brands are credited for the resurgence in British distilling, and one in particular broke a 189 year run and became the first copper-pot based distillery to start-up in London back in 2009 (Beefeater being the last in 1820). So how did Sipsmith come to break this, and more importantly, become a staple in many a bar?

Sipsmith is the brain child between three gentleman – Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall, respectively former Fuller’s and Diageo employees. and Jared Brown who is the Sipsmith Master Distiller. Building from scratch, they utilised former whisky and beer writer Michael Jackson’s former residence in Hammersmith, L0ndon and ordered themselves a copper pot still designed by Germany’s oldest distillery producers, Christian Carl (a family business who have been in the industry since 1869). Naming the still ‘Prudence’, it became multi-functional with the design combining a pot with a carter head and a column still, thus allowing them to create and produce both vodka and gin from the same still. ‘Prudence’ also gave birth to the swan motif that adorns each bottle of Sipsmith. It’s in reference to the ‘swan’s neck’ pipe located on top of the still that diverts the spirit vapour away to the condenser.

Being part of an elite group of London distillers (Beefeater Gin Distillery, Thames Distillers, Sacred Microdistillery and The London Distillery Company being the only others), Sipsmith had high hopes for a bright start, until they realised that their distillery roof sloped and therefore could not actually fit ‘Prudence’ in. Looking past that slight inconvenience and much impromptu renovating, they moved onto the task of sorting out London’s first distiller’s licence in nearly two decades. As the Government had not written a distillers licence for a while (189 years), the process had to be written all over again. All good and well, until it was granted and then realised that it had been date stamped with a year ahead.

Perseverance! So how do Sipsmith create their two different spirits?

Sipsmith is created in small batches, usually just a few hundred bottles a time. A base spirit is produced that they then distill once to produce the vodka. Some of the product is then re-distilled to make the gin (the still is always cleaned before starting again).

The base spirit is poured into the copper still, which can hold up to 300 litres, and then heated. The vapours rise and travel through the swan’s neck, then condensing and fall down into the cooling chamber where it turns back into a liquid. It’s held for a short time and then heated once more before passing through the condenser and becoming liquid again. It then sits in the spirit safe where it is ‘cut’. This means the removing of the initial product (named the head) and the end of the product (the tail) which are both of poor quality. The middle is kept (the heart) and it’s pure enough that it doesn’t need to be filtered. 40% of the heart is kept, diluted with pure water from Lydwell Spring in the Cotswolds, and bottled to become their vodka. The remaining 60% goes on to make the gin.

The ten botanicles – juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice, orris root, almond, cassia bark, cinnamon, orange peel and lemon peel, that Sipsmith use for their gin are left overnight in the pot still at 75 degrees so that they can release their flavours. Once released, it makes the journey though the still but bypasses the distillation column. Once in the spirit safe, the liquid is cut to remove the heads and tails, and the remaining heart blended with the Lydwell Spring water and then bottled. Sipsmith creates one of the only gins in the world that uses the traditional ‘one-shot’ method instead of the usual concentrate. This nods to the times of the original days where there were ease in distilling and no ‘flashy’ botanicals.

So how does Sipsmith fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on their range –

Sipsmith London Dry Gin – 41.6%

Distilled using 10 botanicles – Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Liquorice, Orris Root, Almond, Cassia Bark, Cinnamon, Orange Peel and Lemon Peel. On the nose it gives off a soft floral scent with a fresh citrus and slight juniper note. The palate enjoyed the sweetness of the Seville orange, with a hit of juniper to follow. It led to a dry finish with a slight kick of spice at the end.

Sipsmith Barley Vodka – 40%

The nose enjoys a mix of nut and barley that transfers itself onto the palate. A hint of spice emerges on the tongue to create a well-balanced spirit. Slight pepperness near the end.

Sipsmith VJOP
Sipsmith VJOP

Sipsmith Sloe Gin 2011 – 29%

Distilled Sipsmith London Dry gin left to rest on wild sloe berries that are hand-picked in the autumn. Aromas of red currant and cherry on the nose mix together and are bold on the palate to create a warm, rich flavour of currants and plums. The finish is sweet that balances well to a crisp finish.

Sipsmith Damson Vodka 2011 – 28%

Sipsmith barley vodka left to steep with fresh English damsons. Sweet, fresh plums blends with bitter damson on the nose whilst the palate gets hit with a sharp damson hit to begin with. Cherry and plum become evident as it mellows out into a tangy finish.

Sipsmith Summer Cup – 29%

Sipsmith London Dry gin blended with a host of summer ingredients including infusions of Earl Grey tea, Lemon Verbena and Cucumber. Fresh herbal aromas on the nose, with lavender and cucumber dominating. The palate enjoys subtle flavours, more perfumed than anything, with citrus and juniper coming through to create a slightly dry yet refreshing finish.

Sipsmith V.J.O.P – 57.7%

Meaning ‘Very Junipery Over Proof’, extra juniper is added and bottled to a higher strength.
Incredibly aromatic with the juniper, with hints of dry wood coming through. A sharp start on the palate, hits of aromatic citrus, juniper and spice on the long, fresh finish.

A fantastic range, and versatile enough to create gems like these –

Gin Fizz
Gin Fizz

Gin Twist

Glass –

Tea cup

Ingredients –

100 ml boiling water
25-40 ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
25 ml Fresh lemon juice
25 ml Simple syrup or sugar to taste

Method –

Combine ingredients in a teacup or Irish coffee mug. Stir and garnish with a lemon twist.

or

Dainty Damsel

Glass –

Damson and Champagne
Damson and Champagne

Champagne Flute

Ingredients –

30 ml Sipsmith Damson Vodka
English sparkling wine, Champagne or prosecco

Method –

Pour Sipsmith Damson into a flute. Top with sparkling wine and serve.

Fantastic. A range to definitely enjoy at home, and to look out for in your local bar. Always worth a look around the distillery too if you’re in the neighbourhood. That’s what I did a few years back!

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cocktail Of The Week – Summer 75

The latest Cocktail of the Week by collaborator and Head Barmen at the Vineyard at Stockcross David Coveney is Summer 75, using three of his favourite brands that he says are ‘working in harmony so well. Set your summer of with a ‘Great British Bang!’

Summer 75
Summer 75

Summer 75

Glass – 

Champagne Flute

Ingredients – 

25 ml Sipsmith Summer Cup
20 ml Blossoms Sloe Syrup
Gusbourne Blanc de Blanc top

Method – 

Shake the Summer Cup and sloe syrup together and top with the sparkling wine.

Cocktail of the Week – Dandelion Honey

The latest Cocktail of the Week by collaborator and Head Barmen at the Vineyard at Stockcross David Coveney is the rather delectable Dandelion Honey using some of my favourite items.

Dandelion Honey
Dandelion Honey

Dandelion Honey

Glass – 

Coupette

Ingredients – 

50 ml Sipsmith Gin
1 Large Spoon Of Pure Honey
50 ml Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock
1 Drop Of La Fee Absinthe
2 Slices Of Red Pear

Method – 

Thrown between two Boston tins with ice.

Check out previous editions of David’s cocktail of the week here.

Sipsmith Valentines

Damson_and_Champagne

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration to impress someone special on Valentines Day, why not try out the Sipsmith Dainty Damsel cocktail? It couldn’t be easier to make and looks great!

A delightful way to kick off a special evening. The damson vodka adds a lovely rich plummy undernote to offset the acidity of the sparkling wine, and gives it a pretty pinky hue at the same time. A dainty damsel indeed…

Dainty Damsel

Glass – 

Champagne Flute

Ingredients – 

30 ml Sipsmith Damson Vodka
English sparkling wine, champagne or prosecco

Method – 

Pour Sipsmith Damson Vodka into a flute. Top with sparkling wine and serve.

 

Sipsmith Distillery Review

Whilst in London, the Sipsmith distillery held an open bar day at their premises as part of London Cocktail Week, and not one to shy away from a chance to try something new and homegrown, I made my way to Ravenscourt Park. Now I have to admit, I’ve never been lucky enough to visit any kind of distillery, so going off what I’ve seen on tv and in books, I was hunting for either a large warehouse or a factory with smoke billowing out! But as I walked down road after road of residential housing, I came across a small garage, and low and behold here it was! Stepping inside, the first sight that will grab anyones attention is the copper still (named Prudence) and its many copper piping, apparatus and machinery that makes spirits including London dry gin, barley vodka, and sloe gin.

Greeted by James Grundy, one of the team behind Sipsmith, he started by giving us a run-down of the origins of Sipsmith distillery.
2009 was the birth of the first copper-pot based distillery to start-up in London in 189 years (Beefeater being the last in 1820) and is now one of only 5 city based licensed distilleries. As with all new ventures, it never goes as straight-forward as it should, and Sipsmith was no exception! Prudence (the copper still) was constructed as a one of a kind in Germany by Christian Carl (Germany’s oldest distillery producers), but when it arrived in Hammersmith, it barely fit! The measurements of the building were taken, but only realised the sloping ceiling at the last-minute! As with all distilleries, you need a licence, especially if your brewing alcohol in a residential area, but as the government hadn’t written a distiller’s licence in nearly 190 years, they virtually had to invent the process all over again! When it was finally granted, they realised the date stamped was a year ahead! After all that though, the licence is proudly displayed in a frame and hung for everyone to see.

James infront of 'Prudence'

After the history lesson, James went through the distillation process that they conduct to create the gin and vodka. A base spirit is produced that they then distil once to produce their vodka. Some of the product is then re-distilled to make their gin (the still is always cleaned before starting again). The distilled spirit is poured into the copper still which can hold up to 300 litres. The liquid is heated and the vapours rise up through a pipe known as the swan’s neck.

As the vapours travel along the pipe and away from the still, they start to condense and fall down another pipe into a cooling chamber where it turns back into a liquid. It’s held for a short time and then heated once more before passing through the condenser and becoming liquid again. It then sits in the spirit safe where it is ‘cut’. This means the removing of the initial product (named the head) and the end of the product (the tail) which are both of poor quality. The middle is kept (the heart) and it’s pure enough that it doesn’t need to be filtered. 40% of the heart is kept, diluted with pure water from Lydwell Spring in the Cotswolds, and bottled to become their vodka. The remaining 60% goes on to make the gin.

Inside 'Prudence'

The botanicals that Sipsmith use (named below in my tasting notes) for their gin are left overnight in the pot still at 75 degrees so that they can release their flavours, before once again making the journey though the still. Once in the spirit safe, the liquid is cut to remove the heads and tails, and the remaining heart blended with the Lydwell Spring water and then bottled.

James then announced it was time to taste some spirits! Below are my tasting notes on the Sipsmith products –

Sipsmith London Dry Gin – 41.6%

Distilled using 10 botanicles – Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Liquorice, Orris Root, Almond, Cassia Bark, Cinnamon, Orange Peel and Lemon Peel. On the nose it gave off a soft floral with a fresh citrus and slight juniper note. The palate enjoyed the sweetness of Seville orange, with a hit of juniper to follow. It led to a dry finish with a slight kick of spice at the end.

Sipsmith Barley Vodka – 40%

The nose enjoys a mix of nut and barley that transfers itself onto the palate. A hint of spice emerges on the tongue to create a well-balanced spirit. I noticed a slight pepperness near the after-taste.

Sipsmith Sloe Gin – 29%

Aromas of red currant and cherry on the nose mix together and dance on the palate to create a warm, rich flavour of currants and plums. The finish is sweet that balances well to a crisp finish.

Tasting time!

This finished off the afternoon really well and it was great to call Sipsmith my first ever visit to a distillery! Big thanks to James who has the most enthusiasm over gin and vodka I’ve ever seen! I’ll be returning for sure the next time im in London, as should you all.

Visit the Sipsmith website here – http://www.sipsmith.com/

You can purchase all the Sipsmith spirits here – http://www.thedrinkshop.com/products/productlist.php?text=sipsmith

 

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.