Posh gin from London garage bucks the trend

The history of London’s gin industry is peppered with tales of small-scale producers boiling up heady spirits in tiny sheds. So it was natural that the authors of an attempt to reinvent the practice would set up their venture in a tin-roofed suburban garage in Hammersmith.

Behind the double doors of this small workshop in a west London residential street bubbles Prudence, the first new copper still to be built in the capital for 189 years. It has been put to work by two childhood friends who sank their life savings into reinvigorating the production of London Dry Gin, in the city from which it gained its name.

Far from conjuring up the dissolute chaos which Mother’s Ruin brought to impoverished 18th-century Londoners – famously depicted by the painter William Hogarth – the producers of Sipsmith London Dry Gin are catching the attention of a more discerning clientele.

From their bespoke “micro-distillery”, the founders of the suitably Dickensian-sounding company, Fairfax Hall and Stamford Galsworthy, have secured regular orders. The bar of the Dorchester Hotel (where a Sipsmith gin and tonic costs £12.94), the Harvey Nichols department store and The Ivy restaurant have become loyal customers. All deliveries are made by Mr Galsworthy on the back of his moped.

Mr Hall, 36, who gave up a job as a strategist for the drinks giant Diageo to pursue his dream of becoming a small-scale distiller, said: “It has been a labour of love. The trouble was that it had not been done in such a long time that nobody even knew how to grant us a licence. When we finally got one from HM Revenue & Customs it had to be handwritten on a piece of paper.”

The success of the first artisanal gin to be produced in London for nearly two centuries is part of a wider boom in demand for premium versions of the juniper-flavoured spirit. Euromonitor International, the market research company, estimates that mainstream high-end brands, including Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, now account for 30 per cent of global gin sales. In Britain, where sales of gin have generally stagnated in recent years, the premium brands have bucked the trend and now have a 17.5 per cent share of the market. Globally, the market for posh gin is predicted to grow at about 5 per cent a year.

But while the big producers are each pumping out 30,000 litres of gin every day (and only one company, Beefeater, still makes London Dry Gin in London), production at Sipsmith, which also makes a vodka, has a more intimate scale. Each £24 bottle comes with a batch number that can be checked on the company’s website, allowing customers to see how the weather was when it was being made.

The nondescript exterior of the company’s garage headquarters conceals a dazzling tangle of gleaming copper piping and boiling vessels, alongside jars of botanical flavourings from orange peel to bitter Spanish almonds. It resembles a scene from a Jules Verne novel, or a medieval apothecary.

Prudence began production this summer and was made-to-order by a specialist firm in Bavaria. It produces only 250 bottles from each two-day-long production run and uses spring water from a source of the Thames. A secret recipe of 10 gin flavourings, including liquorice and coriander, is left to meld overnight before being passed once through the swan neck of the still – a technique known as “one-shot gin” that harks back to the drink’s 1700s heyday.

Indeed, the 1751 Gin Act, introduced to crack down on a vast Georgian cottage industry of backroom stills, where gin was often adulterated with turpentine and sulphuric acid, left the founders of Sipsmith with a series of problems.

In order to get their distilling licence, the two men, who grew up together in Cornwall before being reunited in America while working in the drinks industry, had to get a special dispensation from rules which ban any still with a capacity of less than 1,800 litres. Prudence holds just 300 litres.

With their gin due to go on sale in Selfridges at the end of the month, the pair believe they have hit on a consumer thirst for a small-scale spirit with a story behind it. Mr Hall said: “If I had tried to persuade Diageo that they should make a real London gin with Thames spring water in batches of 250 using a real copper still they would have had a heart attack. Our idea of export is selling a bottle outside the M25.”



Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot