Distillation at Sipsmith

We take the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the distillery to find out exactly how Sipsmith make their wonderful spirits: Due to restrictions on their license Sipsmith has to commission a base spirit that they then distil. The spirit is distilled once to produce their vodka, and then some of the product is then re-distilled too make their gin, before cleaning the still and starting again. The spirit is poured into the belly of Prudence (their beautiful copper still), which acts much like a kettle. She holds 300 litres of liquid, which produces no more than 250 bottles of each spirit in each distillation run (when these guys say small batch they aren’t joking!). As the liquid is heated vapours begin to rise up through a pipe known as a swan’s neck (as Prudence is a tight fit the neck grazes the ceiling!). It is a beautifully shaped piece of kit, so much so that Sipsmith use the shape in their motif. Away from the heat of the belly of the still the vapours begin to condense and fall down another pipe into a cooling chamber where they become liquid again. The copper wall of this chamber absorbs the liquid’s soft fatty acids, a process which Sam attributes to giving the spirit it’s character. After being held for a short time to ensure as many of the fatty acids are absorbed as possible, the liquid is heated to evaporate once more, before passing through a condenser and becoming liquid again. It then sits in the spirit safe (a fairly traditional feature in distilling) where it is ‘cut’. This involves removing the initial product (the head) and the end of the product (the tail) which are of poor quality. The distillate from the middle of the process is retained (the heart) and is pure enough that it doesn’t need filtered. 40% of the heart is kept, diluted and bottled – their vodka – and the remaining 60% goes on to make the gin. Usually the heads and the tails are recycled and fed back into the belly of the still for re-distillation, however Sipsmith believe that this would compromise the quality of their spirit and discard them (Sam told us there are plans afoot to use this waste as fuel for a company car: a vod-car – genius!). The 10 botanicals used in Sipsmith gin are:...
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November: Sipsmith Distillery

The address was correct and my map was telling me that I was going in the right direction, however could this quiet residential street really be the place I was looking for? A couple of minutes later I dubiously knocked on the door of what looked like a garage. As the door opened I knew I was in the right place: I had found the Sipsmith distillery. Prudence (their still) was gleaming at the back of the room and the remaining space was full of stock, raw sprits, ingredients and bottles – the remnants of previous experiments! Further exploration confirmed that this one large room was pretty much it: when they say small batch they really aren’t joking!! Our lucky members began to arrive, most of them equally baffled with the location, and then a rather flustered Sam Galsworthy (co-founder of Sipsmith) turned up. To apologise for his (very slight) lateness he made us all G&T’s: he was more than forgiven! He then started to talk us through his background in the industry and how the brand came to be in a tiny shed in Hammersmith! It was an absolute pleasure to listen to his stories, he is such a great story teller and full of passion for what he does. Setting up a distillery (surprisingly) isn’t quite as straightforward as you’d think and there were a few trials and tribulations along the way, however these made the story all the more interesting… Firstly Prudence is a purely copper still, which is very unusual, and cost more than a few bob, especially as the cost of copper soared during her build. Secondly *someone* didn’t measure the height of the ceiling correctly (it slopes) so she nearly didn’t fit when she arrived. The problems didn’t stop there though…as the government hadn’t written a distillers licence for so long they virtually had to invent the process, and then when it finally arrived it was dated incorrectly for a year in the future. However despite all of the problems they encountered along the way they have two stunning spirits to show for it…trust me, they truly are something special. As we moved onto tasting their vodka Sam talked us through the history of the building itself. It turns out that the ‘shed’ has quite the history in terms of spirits and distilling, with Sam commenting that in a way it has ‘always...
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