We’ve recently posted a few thoughts on what London Dry Gin means to us and why we feel it’s important to uphold what the term was intended for (have a look here if you missed it). Following on from this, we’re now proud to present a more tangible continuation on the same theme: Chiswick Gin – a small, collaborative batch of gin made with our neighbours Sipsmith, which is a modern take on London made, London Dry Gin. Let us explain…
We’re big fans of making gin to the London Dry rules; it’s hard to create a perfect recipe and it’s difficult to balance all the botanicals meaning there’s a certain artistry involved, especially to keep making the same gin consistently.
Equally, there is something special about London itself and the city’s place in the long and winding history of Gin. Distillers here are rightly revered and while “London made” and “London Dry” have less correlation when it comes to flavour today, gins which are specifically made in London are sought after all across the world – just look on the labels of many Spanish Gins if you don’t believe us! This is a tradition that goes back centuries.
And so, as many great ideas start, after a few G&T’s we began to think about what it meant to be a London made Gin in the modern era and wondered if we could introduce regionality into classic Dry Gin flavours, without distorting it away from a punchy juniper forward stance.
We wondered if, on a day of global celebrations and international gin-based festivities (World Gin Day and Junipalooza), it could be interesting to work on a collaborative project that also embodied the idea of shared passions and that looked towards being hyper-local instead of international. Collectively, we wanted to challenge people into wondering what it now means to be a London gin maker and to bring back that sense of localised patriotism to a city that doesn’t seem to endorse itself in the same way that American or even Spanish cities do.
If this wasn’t enough, we also wanted to ask how London based gin distillers can instil a sense of place into a gin botanically, while also being expected to produce a classic flavour style that is (rightly or wrongly) understood to be the hallmark of the city?
With so many questions, revolving concepts and floating ideas we got to work… Firstly, finding a partner. One distillery that has really helped place London gin-making back on the map is Sipsmith, who opened the first new copper distillery in London in over 150 years when they launched in 2009. Their gin is true to the ideal of London Dry production (one-shot, small batch, no tinkering) in every way. From a flavour perspective, it’s also classically styled dry gin to say the least.
On one of our regular trips down the road to see the team, we came up with the idea for a local business partnership to produce a London Dry Gin that also incorporated regionality.
Regardless of the fact that they are our neighbours, Sipsmith were always going to be the perfect fit for this project. To us, what made the distillery so captivating back in ‘09 was that they were taking ginsmithery back to its roots. They managed to put a face on what had been up to then a relatively faceless category, positioning the distillery to not only be about craft, but also about those who crafted. People, provenance and passion were what inspired so much of their business and were huge reasons for their early success. In the context of this collaboration, trying to reflect regionality and instil a sense of place into a gin successfully would also come down to the ability to showcase geography, both in terms of the landscape and the humans who inhabit it. In this light, there could be no better partner.
With this in mind, the collaborative nature of this venture quickly extended beyond Gin Foundry and Sipsmith too; we enlisted the help of numerous others. The botanicals were foraged with the help of the Chiswick branch of Abundance London and Foxlow Chiswick have created a signature serve for the gin to run through the months of June / July. Deliveroo have also jumped aboard to make it available to all local residents in a 2 mile radius of the distillery.
So what about the actual gin then? Not ones to hide our opinions, we’ve already made our feelings on ‘hyper-local’ gins known: Adding a sense of place is great, sure, but the meaning of the term “local” is being cheapened by its overuse. It only works when the resulting liquid benefits from the local botanicals.
In the case of Chiswick Gin, rosemary and rhubarb, both quintessential English summer garden botanicals, were foraged nearby and added to Sipsmith London Dry Gin‘s regular botanical mix. Rosemary in particular can be seen growing in garden pots down most streets in Chiswick and Richmond. The rhubarb is grown on allotments near the distillery. These additions complement Sipsmith London Dry Gin nicely, with rosemary adding a subtle herbal underscore to the juniper and the soft, tarty note of rhubarb perfectly accompanying the Seville orange.
Distilled on Cygnet, Sipsmith’s baby 50lt still, there were three trials in total before settling for a final recipe. The speed with which this was achieved is testament to the knowledge and skill of Sipsmith’s Head Distiller Ollie Kitson, whose understanding of how his ingredients scale and transform once distilled is nothing short of masterful.
Chiswick Gin to taste…
To taste, the rosemary adds a subtle heft to the juniper, bringing an aromatic richness to proceedings. The rhubarb brings a deep, red-fruit flavour and adds both depth and a slight sweetness to the mouthfeel. It also dominates at the end – a fresh fruit flavour coats the mouth. Adding a splash of water to the spirit restores it instantly to classic gin territory, though the rhubarb still comes through as the lasting flavour. Overall, it delivers what it set out to, a clear twist on classic gin territory that is easy to sip at an ABV of 41.2%.
In a G&T, a rosemary sprig uplifts the sense of verdant garden while an orange peel adds to the impact of rhubarb. The combination brings the gin into a new dimension and although a dual garnish is a little more faff than you might be used to, it’s well worth the hassle. Testing it out against numerous tonic waters, the team’s favourite was Bottle Green – it allowed the gin to shine, as it has less sweetness than some of its counterparts.
So what’s the point of all of this then? Did it deliver on what we set out? Chiswick Gin demonstrates that it is possible to get local communities involved in the gin making process. It’s also shown the continued importance that local communities play in supporting distilleries and – given the volume of enquiries and requests coming through even before this article was being typed – the inherent interest in locally lead projects.
Chiswick gin will only be made available to those who visit the distillery, go to Foxlow or are at Junipalooza. This is not just because of the limited edition nature and small volume of the batch, but because Chiswick Gin was always intended to be a way to encourage face to face dialogue and a personal relationship, as well as a push towards creating direct relationships and more conscious consumption based around shared values, shared passions and, of course, a mightily tasty G&T. In this light, the release has been a huge success already.
Chiswick Gin proves that it’s possible to find incredible botanicals even in the most urban of areas, those which complement gin’s juniper heart and pay respect to the category’s heritage. Our gin is a London made, London Dry that serves to represent where the London Dry category stands in 2016; It is progressive, different and raises questions around what a London gin could be, if one were to accept that the term shouldn’t be used to describe flavour.
Finally, Chiswick Gin shows that in the modern gin boom where everyone seems to be making a gin, there is a huge wealth of potential to get multiple gin makers collaborating, learning from each other and sharing their love of the spirit to create something with character. If this gin revolution was started by placing people back in the centre of the frame, then the next logical step is to get more of those people cross-collaborating in future. Hopefully, this can inspire others to follow suit.
Chiswick Gin will be premiered at Junipalooza 2016 and then made available locally via Deliveroo as part of a Chiswick Gin & Tonic pack. The pack will be available exclusively to local residents from early June through Foxlow Chiswick, via Deliveroo and to those attending Junipalooza.
The Deliveroo pack will include 1 x 90ml vial of Chiswick Gin, 2x 50ml bottle of Sipsmith London Dry Gin and 3 X 200ml Bottle Green Tonic Water and will be retailed at £15. Amazing value given that makes a whopping 4 G&T’s…
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