The first new distillery in London for nearly 200 years recently began operating out of a tiny former brewery. Sipsmith is an independent micro-distillery producing small batch spirits in the true sense of the word; they never make more than 500 bottles at a time and often just half that number. After years working in the drinks industry, Sam Galsworthy, Jared Brown and Fairfax Hall struck out on their own to "pursue a passion for beautifully handmade spirits." They called themselves "sip-smiths" to celebrate the craft of distillation and artisanal methods. Since no one had done it for so long they had a hard time acquiring a license at first; when they finally obtained one from HM Revenue & Customs it was handwritten on a slip of paper.
The first thing the partners did was to commission a custom handmade copper-pot still from Germany's oldest distillery producers, Christian Carl, a small, family business in Bavaria who have been crafting stills since 1869; they named it Prudence. Of course they decided to start with the classics: a London Dry Gin and a Barley Vodka. Both are blended with pure water from Lydwell Spring in the Cotswolds, one of the sources of the River Thames, and each bottle is inscribed with a batch number which customers can be enter into the Sipsmith website to find out exactly what was happening and how the weather was at the distillery on the day it was made.
Gallery: Sipsmith Artisanal Spirits
To create their London Dry Gin, Sipsmith distills English barley spirit with a 10 carefully selected botanicals from around the globe - Macedonian juniper berries, Bulgarian coriander seed, French angelica root, Spanish liquorice root, Italian orris root, Spanish ground almond, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon, Sevillian orange peel and Spanish lemon peel - samples for some of which were originally collected from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The result is a particularly dry gin with a zesty, citrus freshness. They have also made a quintessentially English mince pie-flavored version, available exclusively at the bar of the Oxo Tower in London.
To craft their Barley Vodka, they distill English barley spirit cut from the very top of the 'heart' run, and carefully blend it with the exceptionally pure water of Lydwell Spring. The result is a smooth, buttery spirit with a light, nutty finish and a hint of spice and pepper. For now Sipsmith remains an extremely small operation; Galsworthy makes deliveries to Harvey Nichols and London's Ivy restaurant on the back of his moped. However we have a feeling there are grand things to come.