From the west London home of Gin Distillers Sipsmith to the Cotswolds Distillery in the heart of England, we’ve travelled near and far to bring you some of the best gin experiences to try now
Words Helen Brown and Miriam Carey
The Best Gin Experiences in England
Standing proud in the heart of Notting Hill, on the corner of Portobello and just a stone’s throw from Hugh Grant’s famous bookshop, The Distillery is a four-floor mecca for the discerning drinker in west London’s most vibrant neighbourhood. The first of its kind in the UK, the working distillery features two bars, a private dining room and three guest lodgings, as well as being home to the internationally-renowned Portobello Road gin and the critically acclaimed gin-blending experience, The Ginstitute.
On entering through the Talbot Road door, guests of The Experience are welcomed with a Tom Collins cocktail and greeted by the evening’s Gin Instructor. The first hour is a lesson in the long and disruptive history of the drink, hailed Mother’s Ruin and banned in Britain at one time. From the drink’s medicinal origins to the gin craze which gripped the country for 200 years and into the renaissance the tipple is enjoying today, the engaging instructor leaves no stone unturned in this education, which is delivered as the audience enjoys a G&T.
From there it’s into The Still Room where guests get a tutored tasting and nosing of botanicals, before trying their hand at creating their own bespoke blend. The Gin Instructor assists in blending the various distilled botanicals together to create a completely unique recipe for each guest, a full bottle of which will be taken away with them to enjoy at home. Once each guest has created and received their blend of gin they are invited back downstairs for one last drink, where they’ll also receive a bottle of Portobello Road Gin.
The Ginstitute Experience, £120 per person
186 Portobello Road, W11; the-distillery.london
Half Hitch Distillery
Steeped in a history that harks back to 1869, Camden Lock stood at the heart of London’s gin scene. Once upon a time, you couldn’t move for the distilleries and warehouses that were packed in amongst the Lock’s cobbled streets and a gin train was even employed to shlep produce over to global buyers. Today, gin is back in its north London home by way of Half Hitch, who set up shop in Camden Lock 50 years after the last of the original distilling warehouses could be found. They are breathing life back into the industry, not least with their award-winning gin, but also with fun, bespoke gin-making classes every weekday evening at their micro-distillery in Camden Market.
Over the course of an hour, HALF HITCH distiller Chris will teach you all about the gin-making process using a modern still — make sure to take notes, because it will then be your turn to try your hand. In pairs you’ll create your own bespoke gin, using ingredients you’ve brought in yourself. You can use anything from fruit to botanicals to flavour your gin, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could give something more daring a try. It’s totally up to you – they do beg no chili however – and you’ll leave with 100ml of your bespoke blend, along with 100ml of HALF HITCH.
£60 per person, tickets available via designmynight.com
Half Hitch Microdistillery | Unit 53 Camden Lock Place, NW1; halfhitch.london
The Sipsmith Distillery tour is the perfect mix of informative and fun. Four hours in total, the tour comprises a brief history and tour, generous tasting time and a three-course meal at Charlotte’s Bistro.
The Chiswick distillery is so small and compact (and situated on a residential road) it would be easy to miss. Looking around, the distillery is not much more than a glorified, albeit stylish, shed containing a bar, laboratory and four copper stills named Prudence, Patience, Constance and Cygnet. The former is named after Gordon Brown’s favourite word during the recession.
During an incredibly informed and well-presented whirlwind tour, we cover the country and brand’s rich gin history. When Sipsmith first launched in 2007, fewer than 300 litres of gin production was classed as moonshine, but two years of lobbying resulted in a change in the law.
The resounding highlight was the opportunity to sample limited edition varieties of Sipsmith, including lemon drizzle, maple syrup and sloe gin, usually reserved for members of the Sipsmith Sipping Society. The cherry on top of the gin and tonic was the take-home gift, a bottle of Sipsmith Gin, a lime and a tonic – “for the road”.
Sipsmith Distillery Tour, £85 per person
83 Cranbrook Road, W4; sipsmith.com
The Cotswolds Distillery
The Cotswolds Distillery has been proudly making Outstanding Natural Spirits since 2014 and is rated one of the top visitor attractions in the Cotswolds. Visitors can see their award-winning spirits and liqueurs being made at the small but perfectly formed distillery. Each tour finishes up in the cosy tasting room where you can sample their whole range: from the Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky to the Cotswolds Dry Gin, a richly aromatic twist on a classic London Dry gin made with lavender from the beautiful farm at nearby Snowshill.
Visit their website to book a tour cotswoldsdistillery.com