London has seen a resurgence in alcoholic drinks production over the last decade or so. From new craft beer brewers to vodka and gin distilleries, the spirit of London’s drinking past is being regenerated by adventurous drink-masters, cutting-edge technology and evolving contemporary tastes.
London, of course, is no stranger to the drinks industry; many of the world’s staple alcoholic drinks were invented in its vicinity. Whether that’s the India Pale Ale (IPA) — supposedly invented in Bow for Britain’s colonies — or the namesake London Dry Gin, the history of London is written by its pubs, distilleries and brewing traditions. Here we take a look at London’s best distilleries working today, exploring how the spirits industry draws on London and continues to be relevant to drinkers worldwide.
This is one of the more archetypical gin distillers of the national craft gin boom which started at the turn of the 21st Century and keeps growing to this day. Micro-distilled near the banks of the Thames in traditional copper-pot stills, when it opened in 2009 it was the first new distillery to open within the city’s limits for nearly two centuries. Now there are over 24. A continued presence in annual gin awards, its core product — London Dry Gin — classically blends ten botanicals to make one of the most satisfying gin and tonics out there. The distillery in Chiswick is open for tours. Here you can taste many of their gins, including their Sloe Gin, Very Junipery Over Proof (VJOP) Gin and Sipping Vodka, made from the same gain base.
The London Distiller Company
Launched in 2011, the London Distillery Company aim to produce a range of delicious spirits, including gin, vodka and even whisky (for pre-order). Inspired by traditions of the Georgian era (and earlier), they produce a range of fantastic gins, including the classic eighteenth-century staple Old Tom, as well as more classic London Dry-styled gins, each drawing on traditional recipes but with a modern twist. You can book a fantastic tour in their impressive grounds off London Bridge, making a stellar day out by the Thames.
East London Liquor Company
A gin and whisky distillery in the heart of East London, the bar attracts a hip and young clientele with their ingenious gin mixers and food service. Their gin and vodka is produced in small batches in copper stills from wheat. Founded in 2013, the East London Liquor Company have managed to blend into their former-glue factory setting which sits on a canal, and infused this former industrial environment into contemporary and experimental spirits. With whisky soon to be bottled, we recommend their batched gins which are designed for mixing as cocktails like martinis and negronis.
A gem of East London, 58 Gin is located in an unimposing railway arch within Hackney Downs Studios. The copper still-lined wall produces a range of fantastic spirits, including an original London Dry-style gin, a navy strength gin and a Sloe gin. They offer a distillery experience tour with cocktails and mixing, and a make-your-own gin session. Despite East London’s history with gin consumption stretching back to the gin craze of 1750, Hackney has never produced gin until now.
Our / London
As an interconnected global family of vodka micro-distillers, Our / Vodka started in Stockholm, Sweden and has spread throughout the world’s hipster haunts, from New York to Berlin. Their London-based distillery in Hackney produces vodka and vodka infusions which are served in capped bottles with ultra-cool minimalistic text. British wheat is used here to produce a creamy staple vodka which is achingly fashionable.
After exploring the vibrant craft distilling scene, it’s time for one of the big hitters. The oldest distiller in London which still produces spirit, the grounds of Beefeater’s stands as testament to London’s long gin past. Produced since 1863, Beefeater blends nine different classic botanicals, including juniper, Seville orange, angelica root and coriander seeds, which produce the stereotypical London Dry taste. The distillery moved to Kennington in 1958 where it remains to this day. Their modestly priced gin range is a staple of London souvenir shops and stands the test of time as a stunning gin and tonic.