A few months ago while we attended the release of the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Tourbillon, we visited the Sipsmith distillery in London. Sipsmith is the first copper pot distillery in London in nearly two hundred years. A classic and refreshing London Dry Gin that is bold, complex and very aromatic, this well balanced gin is perfectly suited for a Negroni or a classic Gin and Tonic. As refreshing as the look on the recently launched Vacheron Constantin FiftySix collection, Sipsmith is produced using a complex mix of botanicals that include the fundamental juniper berries —without them you can’t make Gin—, Bulgarian coriander seed, Belgian angelica root, Chinese cassia bark —from the same family as cinnamon—, Italian orris root, Spanish ground almond, Madagascan cinnamon bark, Spanish liquorice root, Seville orange peel and lemon peel.
While juniper berries are what gives gin most of its aromatic properties, Sipsmith London Dry Gin also presents other interesting notes that come from the Belgian Angelica root that provides a long, dry finish and sweetness derived from the cinnamon and the liquorice as sugar cannot be added to any gin that is labeled ‘London Dry Gin’.
While coriander is a very common ingredient in many gins, the use of liquorice, almonds and cinnamon is a killer combination that gives Sipsmith those very unique notes and finish on the palate. Sipsmith London Dry Gin distillery was established only 10 years ago in 2009 at a tiny workshop in Hammersmith, London, the same area where the legendary Hammersmith Palais was located up until 2007 and which was immortalized by the popular song “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” by The Clash.
The founders of Sipsmith Gin are two childhood friends named Fairfax and Sam who had the unwavering belief in things well made the way they used to be, the way they should be. So they set up London’s first traditional copper distillery since 1820. Every bottle of Sipsmith is hand-crafted in genuinely small batches. Every drop of every batch is lovingly labored over by hand by skillful passionate distillers like the ones we met during our visit.
While gin dates back to the middle ages, this spirit flourished in the late 1600s in what is Belgium and the Netherlands today. Referred to as ‘genever’ —the Dutch word for juniper berries— in a 13th century Flemish manuscript, gin was heavily produced in the 1600s by the dutch across hundreds of distilleries in the city of Amsterdam alone.
Gin owes its popularity to the tax cuts proclaimed by King William of Orange a.k.a William III of England to help England’s finances back in 1689. William of Orange was the sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from 1672 and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. While gin was originally produced as a remedy for certain ailments like gout and dyspepsia, today we just enjoy because we like it. Nothing more refreshing that a gin and tonic when it comes to cocktails.
Sipsmith London Gin is made in the most traditional way by starting with a neutral base alcohol —purchased rather than produced on the premises — to which the botanicals are added in order to let them macerate in a copper pot still and then distilled to reduce the content of ethanol and create a much smoother final product.
Sipsmith London gin is available in five different varieties that include the traditional Sipsmith London Dry Gin, the Sipsmith Sloe Gin 2016 flavored with autumn sloe berries; Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin flavored with sun-dried lemons; Sipsmith The Original London Cup created with a sublime concoction using Sipsmith London Dry Gin with infusions of Earl Grey tea, rose petals and lemon verbena, alongside a host of other botanicals much like a Pimm’s; and lastly VJOP —Very Junipery Over Proof— which is created by using three times more juniper berries than on the regular Sipsmith London Dry gin and with a much higher alcohol by volume content at 57.7% —115.4 Proof. Recently, Sipsmith has also released a super smooth sipping Vodka worth trying.
An award-winning gin at the San Francisco World Spirits in 2012 and 2014 and the Great Taste Award, Sipsmith London Dry Gin is very floral on the nose due to the Italian orris root, but also very junipery and citrusy. A relatively smooth and mellow gin that is heavy on juniper notes, lemon and orange marmalade with a nice coriander finish. Refreshing and old school distilled very much like the old school but refreshing design of the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar.