Sipsmith gin

Sipsmith Gin
Sipsmith Gin

In my last post I mentioned that Sipsmith had been in contact asking if I would like to sample their rather special gin. After a short email conversation, there was a bottle in the post, winging its merry way to Devon and a few exciting days later, a Sipsmith branded box graced my desk at work. Grateful as I am about being sent a free bottle of gin, this will not guarantee anything other than me drinking it and writing about it. I am not going to give Sipsmith a favourable review because of this – if I don’t like it, I will tell you.

I have been looking for Sipsmith gin in the shops and supermarkets for quite a while as it seems to come highly recommended. Saying that, Beefeater 24 came highly recommended and it was a distinct let-down, so I am not holding my hopes too high for fear of a thorough dashing.

The Sipsmith gin bottle is a rather spiffingly-presented, heavy-bottomed, round affair, with an elegant copper label depicting a stylized pot-still with a swan’s neck and head – reference to Prudence, the swan-necked copper-pot still that Sipsmith is distilled in.


Prudence is the first still of its kind to be commissioned in London for 190 years and was hand-made by Germany’s oldest still-makers, Christian Carl. She lives in a small building in Hammersmith where she is lovingly tended by founders Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall, as well as Sipsmith’s master distiller, Jared Brown. The building is little bigger than a garage and was formerly the home of whisky and beer writer Michael Jackson and a micro-distillery supplying a local pub. The whole operation was only allowed to commence after a painful two-year quest to obtain the first new distiller’s license issued in 150 years.

Sipsmith gin is a London dry gin but it doesn’t have any strange botanicals or unique selling points. Indeed its botanical list seems fairly run-of-the-mill.

  • Macedonian juniper berries
  • Bulgarian coriander seed
  • French angelica root
  • Spanish liquorice root
  • Italian orris root
  • Spanish ground almond
  • Chinese cassia bark
  • Madagascan cinnamon
  • Sevillian orange peel
  • Spanish lemon peel

The only stand-out botanical is cinnamon, which given its similarity to cassia bark, seems to add little to the mix that isn’t already there – it seems like a very traditional gin recipe. Sipsmith touts the quality of its botanicals, but which gin brand doesn’t? The water however, is drawn from the source of the river Thames, the Lydwell Spring and it is rumoured that Sam sets off at 4am in order to collect water for a distillation run.

The bottle top is sealed with green wax and unsealed with a black ribbon under the wax. The cork comes out with the satisfying faint squeak and a pop that all good whiskey bottles do.

All of this detail is crowned with a batch number which can be used on the Sipsmith website to find out what was happening on the day of its creation:

The whole experience pleased me greatly – it is the little details that make opening a bottle like this a pleasure, rather than a chore which one must dispense with before getting to the goods. However, presentation is worthless if the contents of the bottle do not measure up.

Inhaling deeply from the bottle-top rewarded my nose with an incredibly clean scent of juniper and pine notes. The scent was clearly gin and it held what smelled like a fair payload of juniper. There was little to complicate it, no floral or spice notes, just clear, clean juniper. This first impression was only reinforced when I poured the Sipsmith into a clean glass.

Sampled neat, Sipsmith gin rewards the mouth with more of the same; it is definitely a spirit, but there is only warmth, not harshness, in the mouth. The gin carries a medium-to-heavy juniper load, firmly placing it outside of the realms of the vodka-gin. It is super-smooth and while there are hints of citrus and spice, they are there very subtle and serve only to support the juniper, rather than distract from it.

Adding a little water intensifies the experience again; more flavours are mobilised and some of the alcohol disappears into the background but, critically, the balance remains true with juniper being firmly to the fore.

Well, so far so good; time to add the tonic water to see if the quality carries through to the main event.

Initially, I used Schweppes; this is because I wanted to try it on a level playing field with the other gins I have tried of late. The bubbles from the tonic water liberated the same clean aroma from the gin as smelling it neat.

Tasting the completed gin and tonic was certainly pleasing, it was smooth and very creamy – I hate terms like this as it reminds me of Jilly Goolden and her preposterous descriptions, but it really is creamy. The juniper is absolutely unrestrained by the tonic water but all of the astringency of the quinine and juniper disappear into a sweet creaminess. In fact, it needed the wedge of lime to add a little tartness to the drink, something that I have never experienced before – all too often the taste of lime just sits there wrestling for dominance with the flavours of the gin and tonic, but in this instance, it seemed to fill a lime-shaped hole in the taste, like it was waiting for it.

Sipsmith gin makes a cracking G&T with the Schweppes but next up, I have to try it with Fever-Tree tonic water; this seems to be the god of tonic water and works superbly with a gin of strong character. Sipsmith gin should work very well. However, this will have to wait for another day as I have none at the moment – I need a shopping trip to gather more.

Something else I have to try is a gin-off between the Sipsmith and Juniper Green. These are very similar in character an I have a burning desire to do a side-by-side taste comparison to see if the premium price tag of Sipsmith is justified, or whether the budget value of the Juniper Green will win again.

Update – 31/10/2010

After a trip to Waitrose to stock up on Fever-Tree tonic water and the wave of trick-or-treaters abated, it was time to kick back with a G&T in an attempt to not watch X-Factor – what better way then with an experimental combination that explores new territory (for me at least)?

Sipsmith gin and Fever-Tree tonic makes for an incredibly clean, crisp drink. It is the epitome of gin and tonic in my mind – it is clearly a juniper-based drink, with pine freshness and a biting astringency that doesn’t let you forget it is a G&T you are drinking. For the seeker of the traditional G&T with no frills or gimmicks, this is going to be a total winner. I like this a lot and have found myself a new favourite G&T.



12 thoughts on “Sipsmith gin”

  1. I read your assessment of Sipsmith and ordered a bottle it from my wine supplier (Tanners, Shrewsbury)for my potential customers. I am developing a restaurant in a guest house in Lynton, Devon and specialise in high quality produce from beef (red ruby) to salmon (loch duart) etc. and now gin.
    No I have not tried it yet (tempted as I am) as I am keeping it for sale to guests. Like you, Tanners recommended it. I will not wait long though. I should really test everything sold should’nt I?

    My Regards to you, Paul J. O’Neill

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul.

      You really should know what you are serving your customers, so trying it is a must – just for your own peace of mind.

      Is your Ruby Red beef from the Clannaborough herd near Crediton?


  2. I have just tried a G&T that my mother has brought out to Brazil for me. The only difference I can see is that this describes itself as a Summer 2012 edition, and I have to say I was disappointed.

    We used Schweppes tonic as I would normally use, so nothing new there – a 350ml can shared between two glasses, a small wedge of Tahiti lime, and a good measure of gin (a large double).

    Having tasted the gin neat, the flavour was very good, and the cinnamon was a very clear taste. However, once mixed with the tonic, the flavour was not very evident at all, and lacked any real personality. I will try this again in a dry martini, but on first impression, the flavour was not very robust – perhaps this is a delicate gin not best suited to the G&T, as I accept some are not, but I was expecting more from this.

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the comment and I’m sorry that you weren’t impressed with Sipsmith.

      The “summer 2012 edition” is the same as their normal gin – it is just commemorative packaging for the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics.

      It sounds like you are using a 3:1 tonic-to-gin ratio (assuming a double to be 50ml or more), which should be about right to let the gin shine. You have lime, which seems to complete Sipsmith.

      I normally use Fever-Tree tonic water – I find Schweppes (in the UK – it varies a lot by country) to have too much of a sherbet flavour which dominates the gin too much. It is very sweet as well. Fever-Tree has a much cleaner, simpler, taste and the quinine is more evident.


  3. I am surprised you did to try this gin in a martini, as adding tonic to any spirit merely overpowers it. You are clearly a sensitive person so perhaps you will expand your mixology. I am a martini fan, and I like a three to one mix rather than the harsh ‘dry martini’. I have found Sipsmith totally lacking in the martini world and will never buy it again. It fails to live up to the old standards like Plymouth or No. 3

    1. I am not a particularly big martini drinker – I tend to prefer the longer drink. The gin-to-tonic ratio needs to carefully monitored so that the tonic doesn’t overpower the spirit but, being my preferred tipple, I think the tonic compliments gin very well (some better than others).

      It’s odd to hear the Sipsmith doesn’t make a good martini – I would have expected it to do quite well (but as I say, I’m not big martini drinker). Given that lime really completes the G&T it might be worth garnishing the martini with lime-peel.

      Still, everyone has different tastes and the world of gin demonstrates that wonderfully. A wise man once said to me “if you enjoy it, drink it”. Never a truer word was spoken (incidentally this was Sean Harrison, the Master Distiller of Plymouth Gin).

      Thanks for the comment.

  4. I really enjoyed your review of Sipsmith’s Gin (although I am surprised a gin reviewer would run out of fever tree!).

    I have stumbled on your site after setting out on my own quest to find ‘new’ great gins.

    I agree that Sipsmith’s Gin, is of creamy, perhaps more oily texture. It is definitely a classically flavoured quality Gin, but with a suitable shadow of interest.

    It came very highly recommended from many a Gin drinker, and I have not been disappointed, up their IMO with Plymouth Navy strength and Blackwoods Vintage.

    Speaking of Fever Tree, I personally have started using their Naturally Light version, not necessarily out of calorific choice, but as it seems a lot cleaner with out the regular cane sugar, which blends well with a lot of the more subtle Gins like Hendricks allowing their flavour to be centre stage. I also have found, with the more oily gins like Sipsmith’s this more citrus tonic balances out the whole mix.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Fever-Tree was harder to get hold of back then and it sometimes cropped-up in Sainsbury’s but usually ran out of stock quickly. It is a lot rarer for me to run out these days.

      I can see that the naturally light would work well with the lighter gins but I find that the taste of carbonated water creeps in as a noticeable element if I’m are not careful. I guess that I just need to give more thought to my drink. It would be interesting to see if you can get away with weaker dilution ratios for the milder gins like Bloom.

      I am gathering tonic waters at the moment in preparation for a big old comparison, so I will be sure to include Fever-Tree Light.

  5. I have to agree with Alex that Sipsmith is so rapidly over-powered by Fever Tree tonic that is almost disappears. I normally drink No 10, Citadelle, or Blade (San Carlos, CA).

    My questions is, what would you recommend for making a black gin (which is my favorite martini and I’m constantly trying new recipes to find the perfect black gin)?

    1. As with most gins the gin-to-tonic ratio is critical and some gins need less tonic than others. As ever, experimentation is the key. I’d not heard of black gin before; sambuca and gin is a new one to me – sounds curious.

  6. I have to say, I disagree with the Fever tree overpowering the gin. It took a couple to get the ratios right (hard work that :), but once you do it does make an excellent G&T. It comes over pretty well, and you still get that little hint of the Cinnamon at the end. It’s not my very favourite, but it’s definitely up there among the more traditional flavoured G&Ts.

  7. I am on a quest for the perfect G&T. so far, it’s been a great journey and I don’t really care if I don’t reach a destination.

    i’ve seen this gin on the shelf, so I wanted an idea of what it’s like before I bought it. i’m partial to ‘dry and juniper’ (new amsterdam is really good) as opposed to floral (nolet’s).

    looking forward to getting a bottle and trying with fever tree. I try to only use tonics made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Q is also good but pricey, and my favorite is white rock. it’s lighter than the other two and lets the gin be the star. as it should be.
    michael upton
    tuscaloosa, alabama, usa

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