Gin has been made in London throughout the city’s turbulent history, but the capital hasn’t always the best place to get hold of it.
Following the infamous ‘Gin Craze‘ of the mid-18th century, and the series of laws that followed to curb its consumption, by 1823 there were no genuinely small-batch, copper pot distilleries left in the city that made gin using the traditional one-shot method. That sorry state of affairs remained for nigh on 200 years, until we opened our doors on Nasmyth Street.
When Sipsmith officially launched in Hammersmith in 2009, we were thrilled to describe our classic London Dry Gin as proudly “Made in London”. We had wanted to throw a party for other distillery founders, but they were all, well …dead. Now, five years later, the city is in the midst of a full-on distilling renaissance, and has become a pilgrimage point for spirits lovers. We couldn’t be happier to be a part of the thriving community that’s turning London into a true gin destination once again.
When Sipsmith officially launched in Hammersmith in 2009, we were thrilled to describe our classic London Dry Gin as proudly “Made in London”
Of course, London wasn’t dry when we opened our small distillery in Nasmyth Street. Beefeater, based in Kennington, has long been a steadfast local presence, while Thames Distillers, established in south London in 1996, produces a number of high-quality gins, vodkas, and other spirits. Absent, though, were artisanal producers that crafted gin in small batches – until 2009, that is.
Alongside Sipsmith, one of the first gins to be made in London was by Sacred Spirits Company, a micro distillery that uses a vacuum distiller, rather than a copper pot, to produce its gin. Its thrifty founder Ian even constructed his own stills, and began the operation out of his living room. Featuring frankincense among its botanicals (hence the name), Sacred Gin is rich and full-bodied, a clean and cocktail-ready spirit.
Three years later, in 2012, the City of London Distillery set up shop just off Fleet Street. More recently, Jensen Bermondsey Gin officially set up its own distilling space near London Bridge last year (though its roots date back to 2004, when it was initially produced by Thames Distillers). Founded by a Danish IT expert who’d stumbled upon a rare vintage gin while in Tokyo, the distillery produces a classic London Dry Gin as well as an Old Tom Gin.
…the growing appreciation of gin is inspiring us all to raise the bar, and we look forward to welcoming more committed craftsmen to the cause…
These days, there’s more than just gin being made in London, however. The London Distillery Company, headquartered in Battersea, is producing both gin and whisky. The distillery’s house Dodd’s Gin is a bright tipple made with red raspberry leaf and London honey, and while whisky will be at the heart of its production, it will be several years before it’s ready to be unveiled.
One of the newest of London’s distilleries is also one of the most ambitious: just opened in April, East London Liquor Company was co-founded by Jamie Baxter, previously of City of London Distillery. The first artisanal distiller to be located in the East End, East London Liquor Company will produce and import four spirits: gin, vodka, rum, and whisky. In addition to its London Dry Gin, the producer has also crafted an East London Gin, made in two batches that each feature different botanicals.
While these distilleries already constitute something of a renaissance (and evidenced by the amount of calls and emails we get each week), the growing appreciation of gin is inspiring us all to raise the bar, and we look forward to welcoming more committed craftsmen to the cause. A toast, then, to London: long a destination for discerning spirits sippers across the globe, the city has been born again as the new capital of handcrafted gin – and spirits – appreciation. We should organise that party…
Feature image © David Pereires Villagra/iStock/Thinkstock