Review: Sipsmith Tasting, Mecanica, Manchester
It’s been a while since I posted as Hamiltonic. I kind of went into retirement over lockdown and confined myself to drinking only Aldi gin. As a gin correspondent I’m not proud, but it is award-winning and, at only £14 a litre, who could resist? Therefore, I was pleased, surprised and intrigued to receive an invitation from the good people at Sipsmith Gin to a special tasting event at Mecanica on Manchester’s Swan Street.
When the definitive history of gin comes to be written, Sipsmith will have a hefty chapter all to itself. Since the Gin Act of 1750, the distilling of the spirit had been restricted to bring an end to the disastrous drinking that swamped Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’. Since 1820, there had been no new licences to distil in the traditional copper pots in London until a new company, Sipsmith, founded by friends Sam Galsworthy, Fairfax Hall and Jared Brown in 2009, took HMRC to court. After a legal battle which lasted two years, Sipsmith won and opened floodgates for small new batch distilling companies to satiate Britain’s rediscovered taste for gin. It became known as the ‘ginaissance’. In 2016, Sipsmith was sold to Beam Suntory, the world’s third largest spirits company, for a reputed £50 million. The three friends still run Sipsmith, but it shows how much the business has grown.
The ‘Heart Cut Wall’ event was the first to be held outside of their London distillery, and a real feather in Manchester’s cap to be selected as host. To judge the quality of each run, three hourly samples were taken from the still or cuts from the heart of the run. After a G&T and a refreshing cocktail, we were presented with three samples of neat gin, highlighting the citrus, juniper and spice parts of the process to develop the full-bodied, smooth taste of Sipsmith which we were given as a fourth sample.
As you can imagine, my memory of the evening quickly became rather hazy and, before I knew it, my scant notes became illegible. As a student of gin and film, my favourite ‘drunks’ film is Lost Weekend starring Ray Milland as a blocked writer in the grip of the bottle. Well dear reader, the rest of the evening turned into a kind of Lost Weekday. It started sober enough with a late lunch and a few cocktails at 10 Tib Lane (review to follow), before I stepped into Haunt to wish the Brunette a happy birthday. Those of you who have read my dispatches from the culinary sphere will know of the Brunette. From there, I headed to Mecanica. The couple from Sipsmith who ran the event were utterly delightful, and although my notes mention no names, I want to say a heartfelt thank you (you know who you are). Thenceforth, I’m led to believe that I went back to the birthday party.
Needless to say, the next day was not pretty. I was haunted by all kinds of post-alcohol paranoid fears. How did I get home, did I upset anyone, how did I get undressed, how do I get dressed? On the plus side, the Sipsmith event was marvellous, the gin smooth and, like Mack the Knife, Hamiltonic was back in town.
By Robert Hamilton, Gin Correspondent
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