The Beatles sung “Dear Prudence, come out to play”. There is a girl called Prudence who plays all year round and with that she helps us to play and enjoy life. If you have ever had a Sipsmith Gin or Vodka, then your life has been touched by Prudence. I guess I should explain. Prudence is the still that produces Sipsmith Gin & Vodka. I have been lucky enough to meet her. A glorious gleaming copper still, sitting proudly in a quiet street in Hammersmith. She quietly goes about her business of making two fine aromatic liquors that we love. To steal a line from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I would go as far to say she is a phantasmagorical machine.
We met Prudence by going on a tour of the Sipsmith distillery, well I say tour but it is really just one room, that’s all there is to the building. Now I knew it was small but was still surprised as to how small. So small in fact we were lucky to get there this year as the company is going from strength to strength and may be having to expand very soon to larger premises. The tour itself starts with the various guests mingling over gin and tonics (very generous gin and tonics, a seemingly never-ending supply of gin and tonics in fact). The group was largely taken up by students and anyone who just grimaced when i said that, yes, that was our initial reaction. I will tell you this, the best behaved, polite and great bunch of students I have ever met. We had quite an in-depth discussion about gin with a couple fo them, discussing the various types and brands. It was quite funny as these students were learning the business, how to distil and their knowledge was clearly technical where ours was more from experience of drinking the stuff. I felt like the wise old sage at one point as I went through the various spirits I have tried over the years, what I liked about them and passing on my advice of enjoying the drink, savouring, don’t binge. Glad I said that to them before I staggered out quite tipsy at the end.
Back to the tour. Sam, one of the owners, talked us through the history of Gin and I took in every word and can’t remember a thing now, sorry Sam, I blame the Gin. We moved on to Sipsmith’s themselves and me and my wife even got a special mention as “batch one” owners and supporting them from the start when they launched at one of the Taste of London festivals. I felt very proud. While Sam continued his interesting and often humorous talk about how the gin is made, how they came to their choice or aromatics, Prudence sat quietly behind him, hard at work on the next batch.
One story I do remember is the struggle Sam and his Partner in the business, Fairfax, had in trying to get a licence to distil in London. You see, Sipsmith are the first to ask for such a licence for a long long time, Prudence is actually the first copper still in London for nearly 200 years. When trying to get their license, they found no one really knew how to do it. Well, there’s no one alive that last issued such a license in London. They ended up having to speak to the office in Scotland as apparently they have som experience in issuing licences for distilleries. I know, you’d have thunked it. Eventually, after I think 12 months, if memory serves (note, buy a notebook Simon), they were granted the licence and were able to bring a new product to the market, Sipsmith Gin (not forgetting the Vodka too).
Anyone who’s drunk this gin will probably know why I rave about it. Aromatic, smooth, drinkable neat. It’s one of those spirits that makes you feel like you’re drinking a quality product and that’s from the flavour, not from the look of it. Bottled with understated labels that use the feature of the Swan’s Neck from the still in the design. A label that is just stuck on a fairly plain bottle. No fancy shapes, embossing or fancy glass work for these guys. It is definitely a case of the product speaking for itself. So what are you doing sitting here reading this? Get out there and get yourself a bottle and while you’re there, get yourself a bottle of vodka too. Grab a pack of Fever Tree tonic as well as it works very well with both, a few limes, ice, a glass and enjoy.
I’d like to say thank you to Sam and Fairfax for a great evening, we will see you again at Taste no doubt. And to all of you, there is only one thing I can say now, “make mine a double”. For more information on the tours, gin, vodka and the company:
Follow Sam on twitter @SipsmithSam