Monday, August 15, 2016

Sipsmith Gin with The Crimson Petal and the White

Sipsmith is the gin that makes so many of the current crop of artisanal craft gins possible, it's hard to overstate what a game changer it's been, and it all started with two men who had grown up as friends and both gone into the drinks industry. Sam Galsworthy, and Fairfax Hall.

Somewhere along the line they decided they wanted to make their own gin, and do roughly a decade ago that's what they set out to do. And instantly hit a huge HMRC shaped stumbling block. The problem was that they were proposing to produce under 300 litres at a time (Chase got around a similar problem by buying a bigger still) which would technically have classed their gin as moonshine. After a couple of years wrangling, and selling their houses to fund the project, the law was changed and a licence was granted. The first licence for a copper pot still based in London to be granted for over 180 years. Its still on the wall in the now expanded distillery premises in Chiswick, partly handwritten, because there was no dedicated form to fill in at the time.

With the help of distiller Jared Brown, and a still called Prudence (named after Gordon Brown's speech about fiscal prudence) they went into production in what had been whisky writer, Michael Jackson's garage (it had also been a micro brewery at one time; a garage with a serious drinks pedigree) and don't seem to have looked back since.

Sipsmith was the first gin distillery I visited, and after any number of whisky distillers it came as quite a surprise. Prudence looked tiny, she wouldn't even need a big garage, suddenly going into gin production seemed eminently possible...

Sipsmith's is a traditional London dry gin, has a nice balance between citrus and juniper, is well rounded and smooth, and is altogether a classic in the making. They continue to innovate, have a particularly good website (See here) where I've found some brilliant cocktail recipes*, and generally do a very, very, good job indeed whilst looking like they're having a great time in the process.

I've chosen 'The Crimson Petal and the White' to go with Sipsmith's because I feel they both demonstrate where craft meets art. Both pay homage to a certain Victorian can do spirit, neither get bogged down in nostalgia or historical trappings. Mostly though, it's the feeling that both book and gin are so very well crafted that makes me want to associate them with each other.

*It was on a Sipsmith label that I found a recipe for something called White Cargo. It's provenance goes back to the '20's, it's roughly equal amounts of gin and good quality vanilla ice cream, shaken until smooth. I can't say I personally loved it, but it's always been ridiculously popular at customer tastings, so it's worth a try - the ice cream means no need to mess around with ice, and it has the beauty of being simple. It's also where I found The Bee's Hot Knees - which is far more to my taste.


  1. stop the press ... I have just ordered the perfect gin to drink while reading L.M. Montgomery ... not the Anne stories which I never much liked but The Story Girl and then The Golden Road ... both available on gutenberg ... oh, the gin for them? a CANADIAN gin!

    Cnd Anne in England

  2. I have to investigate that. I love Montgomery (I very much want to make the pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island). I will look up those titles too, as outside of the Anne books I read as a child, I only know a handful of her books.