Sipsmith spirit success sees distillery approach capacity

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gin

Sipsmith Spirits
Sipsmith Spirits
Premium spirits firm Sipsmith is already running at around 70% capacity just 14 months after launch following the success of its copper-distilled barley vodka and London Dry Gin, and is looking to possibly purchase a further still "at some point" during 2012.

Sipsmith’s Hammersmith-based micro-distillery employs five staff and produces 200-300 bottles during an eight-hour day, and the firm has achieved nationwide listings in over 200 outlets since it began production in June 2009.

The company’s listings now include Waitrose, and co-founder Fairfax Hall told “We’re growing amazingly fast, and an increasing number of people are picking-up on the story, but our products really deliver.

“I’m extremely proud of the fact that we’ve already won three gold medals for our vodka and four for our gin. At some stage we could be looking at more hands and more stills, and will probably need a sister to Prudence at some point during 2012.”

One-shot method

Hall attributes Sipsmith’s success to a small-batch 300l still named ‘Prudence’ made by Bavarian specialist Christian Carl, which he says is the first copper still in London for 189 years.

“The still is extremely versatile, and as you heat copper (as a natural purifier) it extracts sulphurs and fatty acids out of ethanol leaving a rounded, smooth product.

“We cut off the heads and tails but retain the pure ‘heart’ of the spirit. Because our vodka, for instance, is so clean, it doesn’t need filtering through charcoal and keeps its flavour."

Botanicals in spirit production include spices, herbs and fruit such as juniper berries, cassia bark, orris root and cinnamon. And Hall said that Sipsmith is one of the only gin-makers in the world to employ a special botanical infusion method:

“Using the ‘one-shot’ method, we put enough botanicals in for the spirit that comes out at other end, which gives a particularly intense flavour​.

“Other mass-market gins, by virtue of their production scale, add undistilled neutral spirit unmarried to the botanicals to ‘stretch’ the product.

“Concentrate gives a perfectly acceptable, balanced product where bigger producers might be making around 8,000l per batch. But we only produce around 200l, so the scale is massively different, but so is the market.”

Hand-crafted brand

Sipsmith is developing a “hand-crafted brand”​ that appeals to clientele and staff at exclusive establishments, Hall explained.

“We distribute through top-end restaurants such as Mark Hix’s and The Ivy, as well as hotels like The Dorchester, The Langham and the Connaught.

“High-end gastro pubs are working well for us, where premium spirits sit well alongside good wines, and we have nationwide distribution in Majestic Wine, as well as a presence in Booths, Waitrose and Oddbins.”

Premium rival Chase Distillery recently announced plans to sell its vodka in the US, with owner William Chase stating that the market was the 'benchmark' for premium spirit brands​.

But Hall said Sipsmith was keen to consolidate its UK success for the moment: “We will doubtless look more to the export market, but the UK market is a benchmark in itself and we want to build something special here and ensure that London in particular is fully supported.

“We’ve had a lot of interest regarding distribution in Spain, France, Germany and the US, but we don’t want to compromise on quality and at the moment we’re not producing the necessary volumes.”

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