Everything you need to know about gin

Eve O'Sullivan
22 October, 2015

We caught up with Sipsmith founder and alcohol historian Jared Brown about his long standing love of traditional distilling methods, and why the Spanish make the best gin and tonics.

Do you remember the first gin you tasted?

The first gin I ever tasted? I’m not sure. However, I remember the first good gins I tasted: Tanqueray and Bombay Dry (years before Bombay Sapphire was launched).

As an alcohol historian, what drew you to making London dry gin over any other spirit?

What drew me to making gin? London Dry Gin is the most challenging and complex of spirits to make. It is like conducting a symphony of botanicals. Oh, and I also really really like gin. It does have a fascinating history as well.

Do you think the enduring popularity of gin in the UK highlights any cultural leanings or preferences?

I think the enduring popularity of gin speaks more of Brits’ good taste.

What's the best garnish for Sipsmith gin?

The best garnish? I like seeing my lips poised on the rim a a fresh Martini. Does that count? I generally prefer lemon over lime, but I will always opt for whichever fruit is fresher. The quality is more important to me than the type of fruit. I never want to see a lesser ingredient take away from the quality.

Aside from the UK, where have you been that makes a great G&T?

I love the Spanish style of making gin and tonics. It is ritualised to the point of fetishism. You start with a “copa”, a large stemmed balloon glass. Add large ice cubes. Stir them around in the glass with a long bar spoon. Use a cocktail strainer to strain out the resulting melt water as it will reduce the tonic’s carbonation. Add the gin. Pour the tonic very gently over the back of a bar spoon to preserve as much of the fizz as possible. Garnish with a long ribbon of lemon peel cut with a channel knife. It doesn’t get much different or much better than that.

What’s the best way to taste gin?

A small white wine glass is best for analytical gin tasting. If the spirit is too intense in the aroma, you can blow into the glass lightly, then smell. This clears any spirit. Some people recommend not swirling spirits for the same reason, that it releases too much alcohol into the nose. When the rim of the glass is under your nose, part your lips. Don’t breathe through your mouth. Don’t lower the rim of the glass to your mouth. The parted lips open up your retronasal palate. Now, breathing only through your nose, take in a little of the aroma from the lower edge of the glass. Next, try some from the upper edge. There are aromas with different molecular densities here so top and bottom will be markedly different. Spirits can be tasted straight. It is worth nosing again after the first taste. Then you can add up to an equal part of water. This will open up other flavours that are normally revealed in a drink by dilution from the ice.

When it comes to a good tonic water, what should you look for?

Good tonic water? This is subjective. It is always best to drink the one you like best and let no one tell you otherwise (except for the slimline stuff—it’s ghastly, don’t drink it).

What's the most unusual but winning addition to a gin and tonic?

What’s the best unusual addition to a G&T? Nothing. Literally. No garnish. The most daring, the most unusual and the best is a naked gin and tonic. Embrace minimalism. Dare to go bare.

Can you explain how you eventually settled on the flavour profiles of Sipsmith?

The Sipsmith flavour profiles are an amalgam of extensive historic research, tradition, and subjectivity. We wanted to make the finest classic products. With degree and training in the kitchen my goal was also to give it the finest possible flavour balance. The ultimate goal was to make a gin I would happily drink every day. So far so good. After nearly seven years, I still dearly love Sipsmith gin and haven’t tasted another I like better.

What one thing do you think people don't realise about Sipsmith? 

Many people don’t realise Sipsmith is a one-shot gin. This is a huge point of difference. In a world of gins made from gin concentrate, where each bottle only contains 20-25 ml off the still, diluted with spirit and water, Sipsmith is 100% gin cut to bottling strength. This is real gin as gin used to be made. We will never compromise quality.

Find out more about Jared and Sipsmith here

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