Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall grew up
together as childhood friends in Cornwall, England and both pursued careers in
the Drinks Industry, most recently for Fullers and Diageo respectively. Returning
back to the UK in 2006, having seen the craft spirit movement in the USA and
developing a passion for handcrafted drinks, they established Sipsmith on 14th
March 2009. This came after 2 years of administrative battling (as no one had
sought a distillery license in London since Beefeater in 1820) and the selling
of their homes to fund the “Gin project”.
With the first copper pot distillery to open in London for nearly 200 years (189 to be precise), the company is ably supported by Master Distiller Jared Brown and Distilling Manager Chris Garden. Their mission is to create exceptional small batch artisan spirits and it is more than fair to say this is achieved with great aplomb. The distillery was founded on the site of an operational microbrewery from the 1700’s to the 1900’s, and more recently was the prior residence of the late and great beer and whisky writer Michael Jackson. 2014 expects to see them move to a new distillery venue in Chiswick, West London - where they also plan to add a third still to the production facilities. Tours and tastings are available on site, but check for times and dates and only by prior booking - especially important as these visits also sell out fast.
This, their first Gin, was launched in Summer 2009 and eventually made available in the USA during the fall of 2013.
Using methods and recipes dating back 300
years to the early 18th century the Gin is made from a 5 times
distilled base spirit of English barley – a rare and certainly more expensive
choice of grain and just like a malt whisky. The botanicals are steeped in the warm
base spirit for 12 to 15 hours after which it is distilled in a “one shot”
method using one of two unique 300-liter copper pot stills called Prudence
(installed March 2009) and Patience (installed April 2013). Each have been made
by German company Christian Carl and possess both column and carter-head
facilities. The spirit is made in small batches of up to 500 bottles (usually
around 300 - 400 bottles) and hydrated with Lydwell Spring water from the
Cotswolds, one of the sources of the River Thames (that flows through London).
The Gin is presented in a clear squat cylindrical bottle with rounded shoulders. The mostly dark green colored label has a square of copper foil in the middle, reflecting the use of a copper pot still. On the label are hand drawn images of juniper and their copper pot still, which transforms into the neck of a Swan (a play on the term “Swan’s-neck” to describe the turn at the top of the still where the vapor trail starts it’s journey of condensing). Each bottle has a batch number which can researched on their website to find out what was happening on the particular day it was created.
London Dry Gin.
41.62% (83 Proof).
Uses 10 botanicals including: almond powder
(Spain), angelica root (Belgium or France), cassia bark (China), cinnamon bark
(Madagascar), coriander seed (Bulgaria), juniper berries (Macedonia), lemon
peel (Spain), liquorice root (Italy or Spain), bitter orange peel (Seville,
Spain) and orris root (Italy).
Co-founder Fairfax Hall’s father is a
silversmith and he suggested that an artisanal distiller was an equally
specialist craftsman who is entitled to use the suffix of “smith” also. Just as
you have blacksmiths, silversmiths and more recently wordsmiths and songsmiths
the distillers realized they enjoyed all things “sippical” it was this
background that pointed to the birth of “Sipsmith” - not to mention their
initial location being in “Hammersmith”.
On the nose is a floral and grassy aroma
with pine (juniper) and citrus notes plus a very subtle hint of spice. On the
palate this full-bodied velvety smooth (no doubt from the barley grain base
adding depth) and oily spirit has building juniper with warm zesty tart citrus
(coriander, lemon & orange) and light spice creating a slightly sweet (barley
base & liquorice) and harmonious compilation. On the close is drying
juniper, zesty citrus and a creamy warm peppery burst of spice in the lingering
sweet liquorice finish. This is a finely balanced, complex and aromatic Gin.
Note: some people notice fruity, almond, vanilla and cinnamon flavors but our
(no doubt unsophisticated) palates were unable to indentify any such traces.
This is an expertly made spirit indeed and is everything a classic London Dry Gin should be - the juniper is clearly present but without being over bearing. A small proportion of third party reviewers have found this Gin overpowered in a Gin and Tonic, however we have only found this makes a very enjoyable and richly balanced classic G&T – try a 2:1 ratio to be sure. Even with Schweppes this is true and with Fever Tree it is sublime, and a citrus slice certainly adds to the experience. In a Martini our experience is one of perfection - a very smooth and incredibly pleasing drink that for us cries out for an olive garnish (although a lemon twist is more than suitable too) or even add olive brine for a Dusty Martini or a Dirty Martini (although this may, in some people’s minds, adulterate the fine taste). This is a very versatile Gin, with many aspects making it suitable all year long, representing the Sipsmith symphony we have truly fallen in love with.
Overall this is a great understated and stylish Gin, with a real taste array, making it easy for us to very highly recommend, particularly for traditional Gin lovers. This is firmly in our top 10 favorite traditional Gins, managing to blend old school with a satisfying modern touch. Sipsmith have everything to be proud of, and pleased with, in this their first of many wonderfully crafted spirits – keep them coming gentlemen.
93 Points, Beverage Testing Institute.
Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2013.
Gold Medal, International Wine and Spirit Competition, 2012.
Gold Medal, Great Taste Awards, 2012.
Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2012.
Overall Master & Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2011.
Gold Medal, Great Taste Awards, 2011.
Silver Medal, International Wine and Spirit Competition, 2011.
Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2011.
Spirit of the Year, Mixology Bar Awards, 2010.
Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2010.
Silver Medal, International Wine and Spirit Competition, 2010.
Bronze Medal, International Spirits Competition, 2010.