The Tastour concept is a simple one. They organise food & drink related events throughout London and you come along, taste things, learn things and meet new people. Founder Kelly Bayliffe recently offered us a taste of how it works.
There’s an array of events to choose from, including a culinary walking tour of Southall and a dessert wine and food pairing coming up in the next couple of weeks, not to mention plenty of social drinks events. We plumped for a visit to the Sipsmith Distillery in Hammersmith instead — keen to get an insight into London’s only new gin distillery for almost 200 years.
Whisked in through the discreet residential garage door which belies the artisanal gin and vodka distillery that’s getting London’s bartenders all excited, we get our first taste of the Tastour experience. Kelly gives everyone a warm welcome — the kind you’d give to old friends rather than a bunch of strangers. Then she slaps on us some stickers bearing the names of gin botanicals — a gentle rouse to help people mingle as they discuss flavourings and gin styles. It’s a little bit of a classroom game, but once Sipsmith’s gracious host Sam Galsworthy has poured us a generously weighted Sipsmith & tonic, there’s no pretending that it’s not good fun.
We then get talked through the processes involved in making Sipsmith’s gin, vodka and flavoured counterparts; how the gin is (sort of) made from water from the Thames; and how it’s the only London gin to be distilled in one go, rather than being blended — a process that’s more expensive but comparable to producing freshly squeezed orange juice rather than orange juice from concentrate. There’s also the rare opportunity to see (and touch) Prudence, Sipsmith’s beloved copper still as well as to ask any burning questions.
There’s generous tastings of both gin and vodka to be had, plus another G&T on departure. And having presumably thought it might be wise to line our stomachs somewhat, Kelly’s arranged for some nibbles of cheese and charcuterie. For the £40 cover price, the event also includes a free bottle of Sipsmith’s gin or vodka to take home — a drink that retails at around £25 in its own right.
Based on our experience, we really couldn’t recommend Tastour highly enough. It’s clear the ground-work that’s been put in to organise exclusive events and negotiate bargain prices, as well as ensuring everything runs smoothly on the day. And we were certainly impressed with the fun bunch of young Londoners who were genuinely interested in food & drink who turned up, leaving with more than a few new people to keep in touch with.
At Londonist, we’re lucky enough to get invited to press events at bars and distilleries every so often, and get the chance for an inside peek or tutored tasting. It’s always seemed a shame that the public as a whole don’t get the chance for such great experiences, so it’s good to see that Tastour are intent on changing this.
Vist www.tastour.co.uk to sign up free to Tastour and see what events are coming up. There’s informal wine tasting mingling evenings from £5 right up to structured events such as this one. Visit www.sipsmith.com for more on Sipsmith’s Hammersmith distilled gin and vodka.