Liz Truss wants the drinks industry to set up a London Gin distillery trail to attract tourists

A tour that stands still

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Only a fuddy-duddy would call it  “Mother’s ruin” these days. As widely reported, gin in infinite variety is now served in Britain’s fashionable bars. And so it follows that a government minister wants to celebrate local producers by establishing an official “distillery trail”.

Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has asked the drinks industry to set up a London distillery trail to attract tourists and showcase the quality and diversity of locally made spirits.

Gin is booming, with the number of distilleries in the UK increasing from 116 in 2010 to 184 last year. Britain is now the world’s leading gin exporter, and Ms Truss thinks the spirit can eventually match whisky’s £4bn of sales overseas.

Ms Truss came up with the idea of establishing a gin trail last month, when she attended a tasting at Sipsmith’s and Beefeater’s distilleries in London with the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

In 2009, Sipsmith became the first new distillery to use a copper still – called Prudence – to produce gin in the capital for nearly 200 years. Beefeater, in south-east London, has been making gin since 1876, but only opened its doors to the public last year; Prudence has now been joined by Patience and Constance.

The WSTA is drawing up a trail to include these and other distilleries across London as a new tourist attraction, and to help Ms Truss’s campaign to raise the international and domestic profile of British food and drink.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said the prospect of a London gin trail would help “put the drink and its association with our capital city firmly on the tourist map”.

“We believe there will be significant interest from visitors keen to experience London’s celebrated specialist gin bars and its distilleries to learn about gin’s past and present in the city. A London gin trail would weave its way across London taking in places like Sipsmith in the west and the Beefeater Visitor Centre in the east.” Weave, presumably, being the operative word.

Renaud de Bosredon, brand ambassador for Bombay Sapphire, agreed that the gin trail would provide “plenty to see”, adding: “There is a rich history of gin in London and the scene is thriving.”

Mr De Bosredon, a self-professed “bartender super-geek”, is hosting masterclasses in the art of gin tasting at the Sanderson Hotel in London’s Fitzrovia. Dubbed Gin Journeys, the classes attract a diverse audience interested in learning how to distinguish the individual botanicals that combine to create the drink’s flavour. The one thing each taster has in common is curiosity.

A traditional London gin contains four botanicals within a juniper berry base. Brands such as Bombay Sapphire and Sipsmith have 10, but the possibility of adding more and more ingredients makes it easy for smaller craft distilleries to give the drink a unique flavour.

“The modern approach to gin is manipulation... and that’s the growing trend,” said Mr De Bosredon.

Ms Truss described British gin as a “real success story”.

“This is a particularly exciting time for the industry,” she said. “The UK is the biggest exporter of gin in the world, with enough exported last year to make more than 1.6 billion gin and tonics.”