Cutting a Dash through the 21st Century

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Sipping Gin at Sipsmith

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An unassuming alleyway in Chiswick leads to a world of twisting metal pipes and alchemical urns – amongst which sit three proud copper chambers where some serious magic happens. I paid a visit to the Sipsmith gin distillery to discover how some of this magic works. If there is one alcoholic drink that is so deeply embedded in London’s history and character, it is surely gin. Despite its Dutch origins (more detail here), the London Dry type of gin is as English as they come. And yet… Despite the 18th Century seeing gin knocked up in bath tubs and cooking pots all over town, production in London has steadily declined over the decades until only a couple of distilleries were left.

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The good chaps at Sipsmith decided to rectify this state of affairs back in 2006 by opening London’s first copper gin distillery since 1820. Today boutique gin is a growing trend, but eight years ago this was not quite the case. It was, in fact, such a long time since anyone had issued a distiller’s licence that no one in our dear Brittannic Majesty’s Government knew how to go about it. The Customs and Excise Office had to make up the process from scratch.

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Our host for the evening visit was the entertaining Briony, who supplied the history as well as the booze to sample. A splendid G&T was followed by tastings of gin, vodka, sloe gin, damson vodka and something called VJOP – Very Junipery Over Proof (and boy, was it junipery!) All of the spirits were decidedly excellent; especially drunk neat and savoured slowly. The sloe gin was probably the best I’ve ever tasted. Sipsmith have successfully put the London back into London Dry – the most delicately flavoured of the gins – and have to be heartily commended for doing so.

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The Sipsmith distillery runs regular tours so I’d suggest paying a visit should you get the chance. It’s incidentally located not more than a drunken stumble from Hogarth’s roundabout, named after the chap who painted Gin Lane of course – that 18th Century caricature of the evils of gin, a drink that is a decidedly classier tipple today.

 

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