Clutching a glass of gin and tonic at the end of an arduous day, how little thought one gives to the long process that results in this elixir, soon to work its magic on frayed nerves and dulled palate. Well, that was us anyway, until we accepted a kind invitation from noted London distillers Sipsmith to take a tour of their operation.
When Sipsmith began production in 2009 theirs was the first new London distillery in more than 150 years, this they did in a garage in Hammersmith. But times change, and now they perform their alchemical feats in a garage in Chiswick. It’s a big garage, previously used by nearby brewers Fullers, with high ceilings and a long bar, behind which are rows of bottles and demijohns. Dominating the space are three sculptural copper stills, dubbed Patience, Prudence and Constance, names suited to their matronly forms, industrious purpose and distinctly English character (despite being made in Germany).
A tour is not arduous, it involves little more than walking from one side of the room to the other, listening to the story of gin in general, in London particularly, and that made by Sipsmith specifically. It begins at the bar with an exemplary gin and tonic, progresses to the lab across the room, pauses in front of Patience, Prudence and Constance and, as thirst for some hands-on research reaches its peak, returns to the bar for some very enjoyable tastings. The tour is informative, even educational, an insight into the combination of science and artistry that goes into making Sipsmith’s wonderful gin and vodka, and all without ever being dry. Perish the thought.