It is not uncommon, in 18th century depictions of London to see men and women reveling on the cobbled streets, bottle in hand, but it was not solely about bawdiness and gaiety. Amid the drinking, London distillers were refining their art and concocting the finest gin known to man. During this time it is widely reported that one in four buildings in parts of London were occupied with traditional gin distilleries.
When it comes to spirits, London and gin are synonymous. However, as the predominant industries in London evolved, gin was taken off the streets; distilleries were either closed down or relocated outside the city and until recently, Beefeater was the only premium-brand distiller with its own premises in London.
But the affinity between the British capital and the juniper-based drink is strong and unbreakable and slowly but surely, London gin in its truest form is making a come back. In the last three years there has been a resurgence of London gin, with small independent distillers dusting off their copper pots and refilling decadent glass bottles with the traditional London spirit.
Sipsmith opened in 2009 and was the first copper-pot distillery to be opened in London for 189 years – the last distillery to be opened before Sipsmith was Beefeater. Co-founded by Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall (who rather boldly sold their London homes to fund the ‘gin project’) - Sipsmith is an independent spirits company dedicated to creating exceptional small batch artisan spirits.
Tucked away on a residential street in Hammersmith, west London, the small company is located on the site of a former microbrewery for a local pub and latterly the offices of Michael Jackson. Now the premises houses Prudence, the bespoke, 300-litre copper still that produces Sipsmith spirits.
Sipsmith uses methods dating back 300 years to create small batches of gin – no more than 500 bottles - aimed at the upper end of the market. Each batch is made using Lydwell Spring water, one of the sources of the Thames, and is cut from the heart of the distillation to ensure a perfect balance of flavors and aromas. “By producing our spirits on such a small scale, we are able to give every batch our undivided attention,” says Jared Brown, Sipsmith’s Master Distiller. “We believe that drinkers will appreciate the craft and care that goes into every Sipsmith bottle.”
A gentle texture offering juniper, lemon tart and orange marmalade flavors, followed by fresh lemon zest and more intense juniper, with dryness leading another wave of flavor in the finish characterizes Sipsmith London Dry Gin.
Sipsmith London Dry Gin retails at RRP £23.99 for a 70cl bottle, 41.6%abv.
Sipsmith is available to order online at www.sipsmith.com and at select bars, restaurants and retailers.
Old Timey Drunk: Vintage Whiskey Cocktails For Ye
Sacred Gin is a microdistillery located in Highgate, London. It is unusual in that it distils its spirits under a vacuum in glassware rather than traditional pot stills but nevertheless, founder and master distiller Ian Hart is still helping to revive the London gin craze of the 18th century. The story of Sacred Gin is really a story of ingenuity, know-how and true British creativity – moreover, it’s the story of Ian Hart, the distillery’s co-founder and distiller.
Sacred Microdistillery was established in London in 2009 (at a similar time to Sipsmith) and is operated from Hart’s back garden. Formerly a city headhunter, Hart decided on a radical change of career when the economic recession impacted heavily upon his industry. Having studied natural sciences at Cambridge University he drew on his love of alcoholic drinks and decided to indulge in his passion for distillation.
Beginning with wine, Ian removed water from clarets using a two-stage rotary vane vacuum pump to find the higher quality wine within. The idea behind doing this was to create richer wines from lesser vintages and while the experiment worked, it would never be commercially viable. Thankfully for juniper fans, his sights soon turned to creating a contemporary gin and Sacred Gin was born.
Sacred Gin is unique. Each of its twelve organically sourced botanicals are macerated with the highest quality English grain spirit and then distilled separately in glassware under vacuum. This process is responsible for the distinctively lush, fresh character of Sacred Gin with strong tastes of botanicals, including fresh cut citrus, juniper, cardamom, nutmeg and a type of frankincense called Boswellia sacra.
Sacred Gin retails at RRP £29.85 for a 70cl bottle, 40%abv.
Sacred Gin is available to order online at www.sacredspiritscompany.com and at select bars, restaurants and retailers.
East Anglia, near London
Hayman Distillery, owned and run by the Hayman family is the longest serving gin distillery in England. The family company dates back to 1863 when current owner Christopher Hayman’s great grandfather, James Burrough purchased a gin rectifying the company in London.
Hayman joined James Burrough Limited in 1969 and was responsible for the distillation and production of Beefeater until 1987. Although James Burrough Limited was sold to Whitbread in 1987, Hayman retained part of the business and Hayman Distillery continues both its inherent passion and the tradition of distilling and producing fine spirits to this day.
Christopher himself has more than 40 years experience in the trade and has held a number of key positions including Chairman of the Gin and Vodka Association and a Trustee of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.
Hayman Distillery takes great pride in its range of gins, which follows the evolution and history of gin production over the last 150 years. The range includes Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin, Hayman’s Sloe Gin, Hayman’s London Dry Gin and Hayman’s Gin Liqueur.
The company’s production facilities and bonded warehouse are located about 40 miles from London in East Anglia, but very much encompass the traditional London distilling process.
Distilled to a recipe of 10 botanicals, Hayman’s London Dry is the culmination of over 40 years of gin distillation and expertise. Christopher believes it is the careful and consistent balance of juniper, coriander, orange and lemon peel which is vital to create the traditional style of London Dry Gin.
Hayman’s London Dry Gin retails at RRP £18.39 for a 70cl bottle, 40%abv.
Hayman’s Gin is available to order online at www.haymansgin.com and at select bars, restaurants and retailers.