A renewed enthusiasm for mixing - and drinking - cocktailsin London (featured in our February 2011 issue) coincides with an increasing demand for small-batch spirits. And what better place for the rejuvenation of gin than its authentic birthplace? Centuries before mass production, many Londoners distilled and sold spirits right out of their homes. Today, these five distilleries revive certain distilling traditions while incorporating contemporary technologies into the mix.

 

 

 

Sipsmith

What Located in Hammersmith, West London, this distillery was started in 2009 by three friends. They produce a London dry gin, a barley vodka and a sloe gin.

What makes it special Sipsmith’s still (the apparatus that distills alcohol) is a handcrafted copper pot, made especially for them by Christian Carl, Germany’s oldest distillery manufacturer. Copper is favoured in the production of alcohol to remove unpleasant sulphur-based impurities. Sipsmith is the first London distillery to receive a permit for a copper still in almost 200 years.

Tippling notes The barley vodka is light and nutty and the London dry gin is made with 10 botanicals, resulting in a zesty citrus and juniper taste.

Cheers Try it at the Princess Victoria, just a short stroll from the distillery.
 
 
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Sacred 

What Located in Highgate, North London, where distiller Ian Hart produces a gin and vodka right in his own home.

What makes it special Sacred uses a vacuum technique to distill each of the gin’s 12 botanicals separately, allowing for a complex flavour. This businessman turned alcohol alchemist also sells distillates and gin blending kits for home brewing.

Tippling notes Alongside cardamom and nutmeg, one of the leading botanicals in this gin (and the inspiration for the name of the distillery) is Boswellia sacra (a.k.a. frankincense).

Cheers A local favourite; try it at The Zetter, The Drapers Arms or The Jolly Butchers.

 
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Juniper Green 

What A London dry gin and a sloe gin distilled at the historic Thames Distillery in London.

What makes it special Juniper Green is one of just a few producers of organic gins, and their products are certified by the Soil Association, the UK’s largest organic certification body. Organic blackthorn bushes for their sloe gin come all the way from Romania.

Tippling notes Made with organic grain, these aromatic gins possess a traditionally strong juniper component.

Cheers A favourite among environmentally conscious imbibers, Juniper Green is available from eco-friendly online merchants like Green Life, Vinceremos and Vintage Roots.
 
 
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Brokers 

What Started by two brothers in 1998, Broker’s makes a London dry gin in Birmingham.

What makes it special Their copper pot still was made by the oldest distillery manufacturer in the world, John Dore & Co. After many taste tests, the brothers decided on a 200-year-old recipe for their botanicals.

Tippling notes Made with English wheat and 10 botanicals. Juniper, lemon and coriander are the leading flavours.

Cheers In London, drink it at the Hayward Gallery’s Concrete café in the Southbank Centre, or experience a gin-drinking heritage from another part of the world and enjoy it alongside South Indian food at one of Dosa’s two locations in San Francisco.
 
 
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Whitley Neill 

What In 2005, Johnny Neill of the Greenall Whitley distilling family ventured a new take on the family trade. Just outside of Birmingham, Neill launched his own small-batch London dry gin.

What makes it special The distillery imports two of their main botanicals, baobab fruit and Cape gooseberries, from Africa and distills their gin in a 100-year-old copper pot still. They donate five percent of their profits to Tree Aid, a UK-based charity that promotes reforestation in Africa.

Tippling notes This gin boasts a complex flavour derived from nine botanicals. Citrus is prominent due to the inclusion of the mighty baobab fruit, which is also full of antioxidants and vitamin C.

Cheers In London, Whitely Neill is available at internationally reputed hubs Albannach and Maze.

 
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