Sipsmith is quickly emerging as one of the most popular gins in the UK, being shipped to various stores, bars and restaurants. They’ve recently been bought up by American spirits manufacturer, Beam Suntory, which will lead to some more global exposure.
We recently spoke with Francesca Torlot, the Patron of Partnerships, keeper of stories and a key team member of one of London’s hottest gins, Sipsmith.
Crowdit: As you are known as the ‘keeper of stories’, could you tell us a little about the history behind Sipsmith?
Francesca Torlot: Haha sure! The history behind Sipsmith is quite simple. Back in 2007, two great friends, Fairfax Hall and Sam Galsworthy, wanted to bring gin back to London! The duo wanted to make it how it used to be made which in turn, is how it should be made.
C: And how should it be made?
FT: If you do something on a smaller scale, it will taste better! So they opted to use traditional methods of creating gin, so they set up London’s first traditional copper distillery since 1820.
C: But that surely came with its own set of challenges?
FT: So back in 2007, the pair initially got rejected when they applied for a license. But they were determined to succeed and wouldn’t take no as an answer. Two years later they got the thumbs up and Sipsmith was up and running! The biggest problem they faced was they knew how the gin should taste, but didn’t know how to create it!
C: So how did they overcome this?
FT: This is where the third founder, Jared Brown, stepped up to the plate. Jared had been approached by many booze brands, but he never connected with anyone’s story. But the thought of bringing gin back to London was something he was passionate about! He joined the Sipsmith team, showed them the correct way of making gin and then the three amigos were formed!
C: Looks like they’ve come a long way! So tell us a bit about the name. Why Sipsmith?
FT: I’m glad you asked, most people think it’s because we are close to Hammersmith but that’s not the case. The reason is actually because one of our founder’s father is a silversmith. He said “Boys, you’re going to do something similar to me; I take a lump of silver which I craft with my hands and make it into something beautiful. You will be taking a neutral green spirit which you craft with your hands in a copper still and you will turn it into something more sippable.” So ‘sipping’ plus ‘crafting’ equals Sipsmith.
C: So in terms of production, how many different bottles do you produce?
FT: A fun fact that a lot of people don’t know about is that we created our Sipping Vodka because of Jared. He mentioned that if you can make a good vodka, you can make anything. This is why Sipsmith exists! There are five different gins: London Cup, Lemon Drizzle Gin, Sloe Gin, VJOP and London Dry Gin.
We also have a Sipping Vodka, but our London Dry Gin bottle (the green one) is our real passion.
C: Haha, excellent! How long did it take for Sipsmith to create the London Dry Gin?
FT: It took about 7 months to come up with our London Dry Gin because there has to be a beautiful balance between ingredients and flavour, so it took some time before we got it just right!
C: Ah I see. So now that you guys have got it right and have established yourselves in the UK, what are the plans for launching in other countries?
FT: Our plans for international distribution is very exciting as it’s easier to get a license and we’ve recently been bought by Beam Suntory! So hopefully we will be able to take the world by storm!
C: I’m sure you will! I heard that you guys are doing something known as the Sipping Society. Mind filling us in about that?
FT: Of course! We launched the Sipping Society a year and a half ago and the inspiration behind it was the huge group of fans of our gin. What they get for being a part of the group is access to all the fun we have here at the distillery, and taste wild and exotic flavours that we might never distribute! We then send four small gin bottles, straight to your door.
C: But do some of the bottles that get a warm reception have a chance of being a part of the next portfolio?
FT: The feedback we take from the members are certainly taken into consideration. The warmer the reception, the higher chance that we might create it!
C: I noticed that you have a small bar section here at the distillery, have you guys considered opening a Sipsmith bar?
FT: Currently that bar is just for training and an educational space for both customers and people who are visiting. We don’t have a license to sell alcohol – we’re not allowed to sell our product because we make it here.
C: Ah, fair enough. But considering the delicious gin and tonic you just made for us, I have to ask. What is the perfect mix?
FT: Haha, the best thing about Sipsmith gin is that you can taste it through a gin and tonic because of the way we distil it. You could also drink it in a martini or even sip it neat because it has no burn in it, which makes this gin so unique. But you can’t mess with a classic G&T!
C: Agreed! I noticed that you have an interesting feature where people can find out what happened on the day your bottle was made?
FT: Every bottle has a number on the back, so if you type that into the website, you can see what was going on in the distillery on that day. For example, we’d mention that you guys came to visit! We think it’s a fun way of sharing.
C: So how many bottles do Sipsmith produce?
FT: Our three girls [their three copper stills] produce 2500 bottles every year. Prudence does 500 bottles, Constance does 1500 and Patience does 500.
C: Knowing you guys, there’s some fun stories behind the names?
FT: Prudence was named somewhat ironically; while our then Prime Minister Gordon Brown was warning a recession-hit UK to become financially ‘prudent’ – ironically, we did quite the opposite. The founders sold their flats, they quit their jobs and they spent a lot of money on Prudence. It’s the irony that she is not at all prudent. Constance is a symbol of our continuity – we will never change the way we make our gin. Patience was named that because she had to patiently wait to be in full production! We also have another copper still known as Signet. It’s the forefront of our sipping society, it can make up to 50 bottles, and we use it to make a lot of experimental gin!
C: Ah, nice. I think that’s about all we have time for, is there anything you’d like to add before we go?
FT: I guess I just want to reiterate our key message. We are being very proud of being here in London and that we’re still celebrating the history of gin. We’re very happy that we brought gin back to how it used to be and the way it should be made, which will never change from our side. We are most proud over the fact that we are real people, it’s quite a faceless market but we are very proud of our team.
C: Thank you very much for your time!
FT: You’re very welcome! Thanks for dropping by!