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Review

Sipsmith VJOP Gin

Distillery

Sipsmith Distillery, Brackenbury Village, Hammersmith, West London, England, UK.

Website

Sipsmith Independent Spirits.

History

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 Navy Strength/Over Proof Gin was launched in late 2013, and followed two previous versions made exclusively for the Japanese market (at 47.7% and 52% ABV).

Production

Sipsmith have taken their original “Green Label” Gin and increased the amount of juniper significantly (some 75% more) whilst leaving it at a higher (over proof) alcohol content level:

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 3 days usually over the weekend (2.5 days longer than the original) after which extra juniper is added to the still and 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, with a further third dose of juniper added to the carter-head attachment. 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 black 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.







Category

London Dry Gin/Navy Strength Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

57.7% (115 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$$$ - $$$$$$$. Not available in the USA but try online at Master of Malt in the UK, but prepare to add about 40% extra for shipping. 

Botanicals

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).

Name

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”. VJOP stands for “Very Junipery Over Proof”, a very apt description!


Tasting Notes

On the nose is dominant pine (juniper) with a hint of citrus (lemon & orange) and faint spice (coriander). On the palate this very smooth spirit has strong juniper with citrus (lemon) and spicy notes coming through plus a faint hint of herbal violets (angelica & orris). On the warming close is long and dry juniper plus a slight sweetness (liquorice) with hints of cinnamon in the finish. A rich, smooth and strongly juniper forward Gin, with hints of complexity.

Wow! What a blast of juniper this offers: we like to drink this neat, in a Martini (with olive garnish) or in a Gin and Tonic (with lime garnish) - and loving every moment. This is a real celebration of juniper in a glass. Making an analogy to the botanicals in this Gin as instruments in an orchestra, Sipsmith’s augmented juniper Gin has created (in their words) “our very own symphony in “J” major”.

This spirit, a unique first, is a “Juniper Head’s” dreams come true – if you haven’t tried it before stop reading this and go find/order a bottle immediately. However, remember Ovid’s quote “Fortune and love favor the brave”, well this should by revised to “Juniper and Gin favor the brave” as this is recommended for only the bravest of Gin drinkers.

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.



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