Great name, Sipsmith. It conveys pride in artisan skills, has character and sticks in your head. The London distillers set up in 2009 by friends Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall has grown swiftly, from exciting new name in premium gin to well-known luxury booze brand, on sale in Waitrose, Selfridges and Majestic. We head to a calm residential street in Chiswick to meet Prudence – the all-important copper still – and observe a native tradition revived.
It’s a modest space, barely bigger than a domestic garage, and attractively non-industrial, with paperwork at one end, shelves of samples along a wall and, I’m glad to note, a small reproduction of Hogarth’s Gin Lane propped against one window. Prudence is an absolute beauty: a unique copper column still of double-wall construction, gleaming and, we observe, bubbling away with either gin or vodka – one batch daily, or around 300 bottles.
Head distiller Chris explains how the gin infuses for 14 hours, heated with juniper berries, cassia bark, angelica bark, coriander, cinnamon and orris root, the copper smoothing and refining the flavour. It is a ‘one-shot’ gin, meaning that it isn’t made from concentrate; the vodka is unsweetened and unfiltered. We taste. The gin is warming and, yes, smooth. The vodka is clean and elegant. There’s a sloe gin, now, and a damson vodka, perfect for hip flasks.
Sipsmith is a boutique brand, created by a small team and hand-crafted on surprisingly humble premises. It’s bound to expand but, at present, this is as home-made as a luxury brand can get.