OK, so I know it's been a while since I wrote about real ale. But you have to forgive me this one last indulgence. Tonight I visited the Sipsmith's distillery in Hammersmith. It is probably no more than 100m from my front door, so pretty much criminal that I haven't been before. But in my (lowly technophobe) defence, if you google "sipsmith distillery tour" the results are woefully inadequate.
Back to the good stuff. I've been a fan of Sipsmith since I first tried both their gin and vodka at the Taste of London festival in 2009, soon after their launch. To the uninitiated the vodka is on a par with Uluvka and the gin with Hendricks, although more intense juniper flavour. They have that beautiful mellow smoothness, combined with fullness of flavour that makes them immensely drinkable time and again.
This is of course smoothly wrapped up in a brand that feels like it has alot more provenance than 2 years worth. Sublimely delivered to the consumer by the enigmatic Sam Galsworthy on this occasion, one of the founding fathers, so to speak. To the backdrop of the lovely "Prudence" (the first copper distillery in London in 200 years) Sam guided us through a potent mix of history, science and 40% alcohol to the eager audience. I confess I know a little bit about wine, a little more about beer and precious little about distilling (before tonight).
For instance, I didn't know that distillers didn't actually produce their own aclohol. Although they carefully select it, it nonetheless arrives in rather unromantic large black containers of 96% ethanol (ah the nostalgia for 1st year chemistry practicals at uni). To this are added immense quantities of "botanicals" - largely juniper berries and coriander seeds, which float on the top of the brew in the pot still, but subtle cinnamon and other flavours (10 of them) create the well balanced flavour of Sipsmiths gin. And the vodka? That is simply distilled barley vodka - not filtered, but distilled, because this process is more selective about the off-flavours it extracts.
If you haven't yet, you simply must try them (neat if you can), or better still, get down to Hammersmith for the full background and tutored tasting. I'm a total convert and never leave my spirits cupboard without Sipsmtihs gin, although the vodka is somewhat harder to track down. Let that be a challenge to you...