Gin fans: London is the city to try the full botanical spectrum of flavours in this quintessentially British spirit. As her book on the subject is released, Olivia Williams picks the best places in town to gen up on your gin
Head to Chiswick, west London for a lively tour of Sipsmith’s trio of faithful stills — Patience, Prudence and Constance — that produce all of the company’s gin and vodka. The staff, who are brimming with knowledge and enthusiasm, will answer any gin questions you can think of. For a reasonable £15 you get a distillery tour complete with a gin and tonic and a tasting of all the Sipsmith spirits, including their delectable Summer Cup and Sloe Gin.
2. City of London Distillery
The distillery that makes the COLD’s gin and vodka is positioned right behind Fleet Street, and attached to a well stocked bar. It’s the only brand made in the City, London’s original gin heartland. The Distillery runs daily tours and weekly masterclasses, but the Gin Lab, where you can make your own, is where the real magic happens. For £125 you can concoct your own gin from start to finish — everything from choosing the ingredients to sealing the finished product up with wax.
3. The London Distillery Company
South of the river, in Battersea, the LDC is responsible for the organic, hand-labelled Dodd’s gin (whose pretty packaging makes it an offbeat gift for gin lovers). At 49.9% ABV, it’s a very punchy spirit that really holds its own in a G&T or martini; featuring honey from London bees, it’s a strong gin yet not at all abrasive. Tours of the distillery (and its traditional copper still, Christina) are by appointment only and cost £15.
The only Victorian distiller to have hung on in London through wars, recessions, and the arrival of vodka in the 1960s, Beefeater is still a gin-making powerhouse. London’s grande dame of gin can be found in Kennington, under the shadow of the Oval cricket ground. As of this year, you can now tour the impressive distillery and see where all their ingredients come from via their Home of Gin museum, before enjoying a well-earned G&T at the end. Tours (£12) run every half hour but book up well in advance, so call ahead. You can also buy the brand’s exclusive visitor’s gin, London Garden, at the shop along with all their other creations.
Despite being double gold winners at the Oscars of the drinks scene, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Sacred is still made in the distiller’s home in Highgate. Ian Hart, once a City headhunter, gave up the rat race to pursue his love of spirits. Arguable the most inventive of London’s distillers, he produces a mind-boggling array of drinks, including the Rosehip Cup and Pink Grapefruit Gin. The fact that it’s seriously ‘homemade’ means that tours are not on the cards, but the gin is out of this world and has to be tried. You can buy it from the Sacred website, from most London department stores and speciality food shops.