Who are you, and what’s your role?
Ian Hart, Founder and Distiller
How long have you had the distillery open?
2008 (14 years)
What inspired you / the company to start distilling?
Naturally curious and fascinated with science and distillation from an early age, Ian Hart would eventually gain a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge.
For many years Ian had collected – and enjoyed drinking – old Bordeaux red wines, but he also appreciated a good gin and tonic. He had often thought about creating his own London Dry Gin and, as a Londoner, he also liked the idea of producing what is traditionally a London product actually in London. In September 2008 he decided to make a serious effort to realise this ambition.
He decided to turn traditional gin production on its head by using vacuum distillation rather than a traditional pot still. Vacuum distillation occurs at a much lower temperature (35-45°C) than pot distillation (85-95°C) which means that it uses less than 10% of the energy used by a traditional pot still. Another advantage is that the distillates are lusher and fresher – think of the marmalade flavour of cooked oranges versus fresh cut oranges.
The Sacred stills are unique as they are designed by Ian to his exact specification. The setup, complete with bespoke handblown glassware from York, gives him complete control over a small volume/high quality production process, enabling him to adapt the delicate apparatus to suit every distillation.
Ian’s first London Dry Gin contained a dozen botanicals, including juniper, cardamom, citrus, nutmeg, and frankincense, and set the tone for every future Sacred Spirits expression. The inclusion of frankincense, Boswellia sacra in Latin, signalled Ian’s intention to create unique spirits, characterised by depth of flavour and otherworldly aromas. It also gave the brand its name.
How would describe the distillery’s ethos? / Are there any particular initiatives?
Each of Ian’s organically-sourced library of botanicals is macerated in English wheat spirit for 4–6 weeks to achieve total extraction (100% of flavour and aroma). The botanicals are then distilled separately, allowing Ian to experiment with multiple combinations of flavours, before blending to make a Sacred Spirit.
However, it is not just its production methods that make Sacred so special: Ian has accumulated a library of over 100 botanicals he has distilled purely out of interest – buddleia, oak bark and even clay for example – and tasting and blending these inevitably led to the creation of new recipes such as Sacred Spiced English Vermouth made from English wine and 24 botanicals including organic wormwood from Somerset, macerated plum and cherry stones from Gloucestershire and cubeb from Indonesia. This quite naturally progressed to Sacred Rosehip Cup, the fruitier English alternative to Campari, so that it is now possible to enjoy an entirely Sacred Negroni!
Encouraged by the success of Sacred Gin, Ian now also distils Sacred Organic Gin plus seven additional gins, each of which is the expression of a key botanical – Juniper, Coriander, Cardamom, Pink Grapefruit, Orris, Old Tom Gin (World’s Best Old Tom) and Christmas Pudding plus Sacred Organic Vodka, Sacred London Dry Vodka, three vermouths: Sacred English Spiced Vermouth, Sacred English Dry Vermouth (World’s Best Extra Dry Vermouth) and Sacred English Amber Vermouth (World’s Best Vermouth), Sacred Bottle-Aged Negroni, Sacred English Whisky Liqueur and Sacred Peated English Whisky.
In October 2019, Sacred Spirits moved out of the house where its story began over 10 years ago and on 13 June 2020 – World Gin Day – moved into a beautiful new site at 50 Highgate High Street, N6 where customers can enjoy events such as gin blending sessions and cocktail masterclasses. There is also a bottle shop where the entire range is available to taste and buy.
What are your plans for 2022?
In September 2021, Sacred Spirits opened an additional shop at 149 Commercial Street, E1 which has a beautiful events space that will open in April 2022. Sacred will also be making a very exciting announcement later in the year but for now – watch this space!