London Dry Gin may be a style of gin rather than an indication of its geographical location, but it’s fair to say if you ask most people where the ‘home’ of gin is, they’ll say London. Indeed, it was in London that some of the most iconic and recognisable brands started life, including Tanqueray, Gordon’s and Beefeater (the only one that continues to be distilled in the city today).
The good news is that since 2009 a number of new distilleries have decided to base themselves in London, and most of them open their doors to the public for tours and tastings, with some offering the opportunity to distil your own recipe to take home.
In 2009 something quite special happened in London - Sipsmith were granted the first independent, small, copper-pot distillery licence in London for nearly 200 years. After convincing HMRC that a production run of less than 300 litres was in fact the basis for a new gin, and not an attempt to make moonshine, they paved the way for other small gin distilleries to open in the city. Now a household name, you can pick up a bottle of Sipsmith in your weekly shop in most UK supermarkets, but you can also tour their distillery to see exactly how it is made in Chiswick.
Tours can be booked through their website (https://sipsmith.com/tours/).
Inspired by vintage gins from London's lost distilleries, Christian Jensen created small-batch gins that honour forgotten recipes - a London Dry and an Old Tom. Distilled in Bermondsey, Christian describes his products as “Gin as it was. Gin as it should be.” Their still, manufactured by John Dore & Co, an original British gin still manufacturers dating back to 1830, takes pride of place in the centre of the distillery and amusingly looks like a rocket! Rope Walk has a brilliant market on a weekend, where loads of food stalls take over the railway arches, and the distillery is open all day serving up G&T’s and cocktails.
Jensen’s usually have tastings and tours throughout the day too, or you can organise a full guided tour during the week through their website (http://www.bermondseygin.com).
Housed in half a railway arch within Hackney Downs Studios, 58 Gin is a small yet perfectly formed distillery. A number of stills line the wall, including those used in the production of their signature gin, and those used in their make-your-own-gin classes.They offer a three-hour class, badged the ‘Distillery Experience’, which includes cocktails, nibbles, a journey through gin’s history in the East End and the opportunity to distil your own bottle.
Dates and availability can be found on their website (https://www.58gin.com/distillery-experience/).
East London Liquor Company
As well as gin, East London Liquor Company produces vodka, rum and whisky (currently sitting in barrels as we speak and due to launch soon). Their distillery sits within an old glue factory in between Bow and Hackney, oh so hipster darling.Their beautiful Holstein copper stills stand proudly behind the bar, framed behind huge glass panels, producing a signature London Dry, and two unique ‘batch’ gins made from 100% British wheat spirit.
Private and public tours are available throughout the week, drop them an email for the latest availability (http://eastlondonliquorcompany.com/tours.html).
Newly opened, Hayman’s have brought their distillery back to London, just four miles from where the company was founded 150 years ago.
The impressive space lives up to its name of the ‘Home of Gin’, from the kitchen styled laboratory to the huge dining table and comfy sofas. Upstairs on the mezzanine, you’ll find a bar ready to serve up G&T’s as you gaze over their entire operation.
Tours of their Balham home last 90 minutes and can be booked through their website (https://www.haymansgin.com/tours).
City of London Distillery
Producing five gins in the heart London, the City of London Distillery, or COLD for short, is the only distillery within the Square Mile. The distillery itself sits within a bar, behind bomb-proof glass, so you don’t need to book a tasting to see their impressive operation.
Their range of experiences are perfect for gin lovers who want to know a bit more about what they’re drinking. From masterclasses where you’re taken through each of their five gins, the history of gin and the distillation process, to the gin lab, where 10 mini-stills and a whole host of botanicals are available for you to create your own signature recipe.
Details of all of their experiences can be found on their website (http://www.cityoflondondistillery.com).
The one that never left; Beefeater is the oldest gin brand to have continuously distilled in London. The distillery has moved around a little over the years, from Chelsea to Lambeth before settling in Kennington in 1958. A dedicated visitor centre opened in 2013 with a self-guided tour through the history of gin, finishing up in the heart of the distillery where a guide will take you through the distillation process and pour you a G&T at the bar.
Tours can be pre-booked for timed entry throughout the day on their website (https://beefeaterdistillery.com/).
Home of Portobello Road Gin, The Distillery not only houses their three shiny copper stills but an educational Ginstitute, two bars, a private dining room, bottle shop and three boutique hotel rooms. Phew! It’s more of an all-round gin experience than a tour; book into The Ginstitute where you’ll learn about the history of gin, see the distillery, and blend your own recipe from a range of botanical distillates produced in-house, which they’ll even keep on record so you can order more whenever you like.
Tickets can be purchased through The Ginsitute website (https://www.theginstitute.com/).
Sacred have branched out into a second site, making their distillation process much easier to observe (their original distillery is in their house!). A unique vacuum distillation set up looks more chemistry lab than traditional distillery, offering the chance to see a different style of production, and a fascinating one at that.
Tickets can be bought through Design My Night, just search for ‘Sacred Distillery Visit’ (https://www.designmynight.com/).
World Gin Day is coming 7-10 June. Get your tickets now