Majestic staff are not just fans of great wines; spirits have been known to tickle the taste buds too. John, John, Steve (Majestic Aylesbury), Miguel and James (Majestic Milton Keynes) popped down into London recently to visit the Sipsmith Distillery in Hammersmith… by Steve McNeill
The first copper pot distillery to open in London for over 200 years, ‘Prudence’, is a sight to behold. Tucked away in a garage-come-workshop down a residential Hammersmith street, all of Sipsmith’s products are batch distilled on this site.
Fairfax Hall, one of the three partners in the business was the man to tell us all. Stepping into the ‘lab’ we were all taken aback by just how small a premises this was. I was curious to find out when Fairfax and Jared (his co-founder) had come up with the idea for Sipsmith. Was it in a pub perchance? A bar in New York in fact. It turns out Fairfax was studying business in the US when he and Jared, old friends from the UK set about putting their plan into action. On his return to the UK Fairfax completed time with Diageo, gaining valuable industry experience before setting up Sipsmith.
Sam was the missing piece of the jigsaw. American born and a ‘sheer genius’ as Fairfax describes him, Sam was the master distiller – the man with the experience, knowledge and magic touch it seems, tasked with creating a spirit that satisfied the palates of Fairfax and Jared, as well as his own.
Tasting through the Sipsmith range – Sipsmith Barley Vodka, Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Sipsmith Sloe Gin and Sipsmith Damson Vodka, I was struck at just how palatable all these spirits were – straight up. Sipsmith Barley Vodka is far from neutral with a slight sweetness on the palate and a beautiful creamy finish that is smooth and round. Sipsmith London Dry Gin bursts with juniper and citrus on the nose with marmalade and sweet spice on the palate. A classic London Dry.
Working with such high quality base spirits has allowed Sipsmith to add two further innovations to its range. Sipsmith Damson Vodka has a residual sweetness that marries beautifully with the damson freshness to create a 29% spirit. My favourite tipple (since discovering it last Christmas!) is the wintery Sipsmith Sloe Gin. Berry fruits and marzipan on the nose follow on the palate with sweet spices and the intensity of sloes. Far too easy to drink at 2pm.
Fairfax couldn’t have been more accommodating. Our visit provided a great insight into the determination and perseverance it takes to set up and run a micro distillery and was a great opportunity to try all Sipsmith products toe to toe with one of the founders of the product.
So anyone after a different take on Vodka and Gin, looking for something modern yet rooted in tradition should take a trip down to Sipsmith. I’m sure you’ll be equally as impressed as we were.
And all in a Hammersmith garage…