The best gin distilleries in London (that you can actually visit!)
Gin expert Leon Dalloway (founder of Shake, Rattle and Stir) shares his favourite gin distilleries to visit in London, including East London Liquor Company, Sipsmith, Jensen’s and City of London Distillery. Plus: even more fantastic distilleries to visit around the world.
Gin is the talk of the town, and it’s rather enjoying it. However, it wasn’t always like this. In the lean years during the latter part of 20th century many distilleries left London for more economical pastures; but over the past six years there’s been a resurgence of great gins returning to the big smoke. Gin knew where its roots were and the capital is once again the beating heart of the aromatic elixir. Luckily enough for gin-swilling punters, the majority of these flavour factories have opened their doors to the public. Here’s a list of London’s Magnificent Seven…
The Godfather of London gin has been housed in its Montford Place site since 1958. The company, however, has been running since 1820. They were the only distillery that made their own gin not to leave London during the 1900s. The eponymous brand opened their first visitor centre in the summer of 2014. It's new, it's fresh and it's legendary. Their museum of gin will make the gin lover purr.
East London Liquor Company, Mile End
Currently the newest distillery in London and dusted with a touch of East London style, East London Liquor Co has brought the London gin distillery scene into 2015 with a swagger. The venue boasts outdoor seating, the most beautiful still room I’ve ever seen and bang on drinks; plus they produce three gins, import a bespoke rum and are working on a London Rye Whisky. They’re also part of my Gin Journey so I love them even more!
Leon’s top tip: order the Batch 2 Dry Gin Martini with a sage leaf garnish and a bowl of smoked almonds. Heaven!
Sipsmith were the wonderful people to bring gin BACK to London. In 2009 they were granted the first new licence in London for nearly 200 years. Crazy, right? These guys do it with aplomb, and are trailblazers in their own rite. Sipsmith has recently moved out of their original garage-cum-distillery in Shepherd's Bush to a new space in Chiswick. There are three beautiful stills and a sipping bar to sample the fruits of the distillers labour. The venue is rough around the edges (barbed wire on the front gate) and that’s just how we like it!
Quality knowledge: Sipsmith's three stills are known as Prudence, Patience and Constance. Rumour has it that Prudence was named after Gordon Brown’s tendency to instruct the British public that ‘in these times we must be prudent’. But they are only rumours...
Devour your way through Maltby Street Market on a Saturday and at the end of the road there’s a pot of gold – Jensen’s. It’s habitat is a railway arch; dive in and you’ll gaze across gorgeous still towering from behind the glass. There’s also a lovely little bar, ready to sort you out with a blinding G&T.
City of London Distillery
Situated in the heart of the city, COLD (as it’s also known) is a hidden gem. A stone's throw away from the hustle and bustle of St Paul’s you find yourself wandering down the Dickensian-style Bride Lane – take a left down a mysterious set of stairs, and you’ll be greeted by a stunning distillery and a beautiful bar serving sumptuous liquids for you to get your tipple on at.
London Distillery Company, Battersea
This one is in a warehouse complex that also houses a gallery, a bar, a boxing gym, a food truck and table tennis tables… this is London! The star of the show, though, is undoubtedly the London Distillery Company. They produce Dodd’s Gin, an absolute stunner. Battersea has it’s own distillery and it is soaring.
Serving advice: have a large measure of Dodd’s and a large measure of Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic water over loads of ice in a wine glass with a sprig of rosemary. It will blow your mind.
Ian Hart distils out of his kitchen in Highgate. Think Walter White meets Willy Wonka, meets Albert Einstein. He creates a gin, a spiced vodka and a vermouth. But it’s difficult to get in here (it is his kitchen, after all) – you're going to have to become family friends and get an invite to (a gin-soaked) dinner.
MORE distilleries to visit around the world
A former paper mill has been resurrected into a modern day masterpiece. It hosts greenhouses built by Thomas Heatherwick that cascade out the sides of one of the mill’s walls. The greenhouses grow the botanicals that are used in Bombay Sapphire so you can see the plants in their living form. The site boosts a multi sensory exploration room and a stunning island bar to finish. Bombay Sapphire is a must visit for any gin head.
Over the water from San Francisco, this distillery is in a former airport hanger and has serious wow factor. They make one of the world’s best gins, too – their Terroir tastes like a summer’s day walking through the forest after the rain has just fallen. Utter bliss.
Benedictine is distilled in a palace in Normandy. It was built by Alexandre le Grand, a 19th wine merchant, entrepreneur and resurrector of Benedictine liqueur, to house his extensive antique collection and the distillery. When you step foot in the town of Fécamp you immediately get a whiff of the distinctive aroma of the herbal liqueur. Swamped with history and grandeur, if you’re in Northern France it’d be rude not to pop by.
An island off the west coast of Swith only 3000 inhabitants, but with a wealth of great whisky distilleries. Hire a motorbike and dot between the likes of Bowmore, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. Whisky paradise.
Leon Dalloway, pictured below, is the founder of Shake, Rattle and Stir - 'the leading light in gin tours in the Big Smoke'. Pick from three options: the 'gin journey' (a chaffeur-driven tour of London’s finest cocktail bars to taste the city's very best gin, £60 pp); the 'gin voyage' (a canal cruiser tour that showcases gin's connection with the sea, £70 pp); and the 'London gin experience', an all-encompassing tour of the stalwarts of London’s gin industry, including visits to the Beefeater distillery and the East London Liquor Company.
listen to our tips on the perfect gin and tonic serve
olive magazine podcast ep29 - the perfect G&T, one pots & our fave foodie Instagrammers