Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sipsmith Distillery

Our first taste of Sipsmith London Gin was at the Real Food Festival shortly after they had just started out. The Sipsmith distillery has only been in action since 2009, producing a London Gin and a Barley Vodka. I remember that we were both very impressed with the flavour profile of the gin, and when I found out about the visits I booked us a couple of places.  

The distillery is small - you couldn't really describe it as a tour, as it's just the one room, but you can see from the photos that they have some lovely kit. The visit starts with a gin and tonic, and our host then proceeded to tell us about the history of London gin, how the distillery was set up, and some details about the different processes used to distill their spirits.

We then moved on to a tutored tasting, first up was the barley vodka. The vodka is unfiltered, as the filtration process results in loss of character and flavour. To taste you don't get masses on the nose - mostly alcohol - but to taste you get a sweet and spicy flavour. It's surprisingly smooth and sippable, and you don't get the 'burn' you would get from a cheaper vodka. We thought it would be great in a martini.

Next up was the London gin. As much as I love a gin and tonic, I very rarely drink gin neat as I find it a bit much (the same goes for vodka), so I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how complex the flavours were. Sipsmith are the only distillery to use fresh botanicals rather than concentrate, and this is reflected in the freshness and depth of the flavour. This also means that there is a potential to have slightly different flavour profiles between different batches. The predominant flavour is the juniper, but there are also floral, citrus notes which bring sweetness, and a spicy pine flavour.

The next tasting was the new summer cup, which is a Pimm's style drink. We tried it neat, but it would normally be mixed in a 1 to 3 dilution with a mixer. It's very dry as sugar isn't added to it, and is made with gin, lady and earl grey tea, lemon verbena, cucumber, herbs and spices. You can clearly taste the cucumber and the tea coming through. We both loved this and Sam will be following up this post soon with our findings from a number of cocktails we tried using the summer cup.

Last but not least was a limited edition (winter 2010) sloe gin. This is made with a fifth of the sugar that would normally go in a sloe gin, and the sugar is added at the end to adjust the sweetness accurately. Sipsmith feel that adding the sugar at the start blocks the extraction of the fruit sugars. It has a brown whiskey like colour and is boozy on the nose. To taste it's quite dry, Sam commented that he got jolly rancher boiled sweets, and we also got hits of plum jam. It tasted remarkably similar to one we made ourselves last year, but with a far more balanced sweetness and a much smoother finish.

Sipsmith's spirits can be purchased from selected Majestic and Waitrose stores, or online via the Sipsmith website.

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