By Kevin Pilley
“Having lost both my parents when I was young, I have created Sipello as a company to pass onto my daughters.”
East Sheen/Richmond-based Tim Simmons spent twelve years working as a drinks market analyst, commercial director and global head of travel retail for the industry leading IWSR (International Wine and Spirit Research).
His job was all about mapping out markets, advising on innovation and routes to markets, highlighting micro-trends with potential and searching for new products and acquisitions for some of the largest drinks companies. It was inevitable that with so much drink Intel that he would create his own drink and brand.
What is Sipello?
Sipello (“Sip it!”) is a bittersweet aperitif made with a hundred gooseberries in every bottle.
Simmons predicted the gin renaissance: “I sensed the vodka trend was becoming tired, and the proliferation of disingenuous flavours was damaging the category, while at the same time there were niche brands like Hendrick’s starting to gain traction.
“Brown drinks weren’t trending at the time, so gin seemed the natural heir. And there was talk of a little brand called Fever Tree. Interestingly, vodka is making a comeback.”
Simmons wanted to create a ‘go-to’ drink , for celebrating or just to enjoy while putting your feet up. He wanted natural ingredients that, when sipped, were layered and evolved on the palate.
“Sipello wasn’t launched to sit in a category, to replace another product or copy anyone else. It was an adventure in blending ingredients, and the more time I spent doing that, the more the bitter notes grew on me and rose to the fore.”
Sipello’s versatility and complexity has enabled it to become a favourite with mixologists, and a popular cocktail modifier in top-end bars.
“The one thing I didn’t want it to be was red or orange! Somewhere in the middle because that’s where the ingredients took us. Each batch is nuanced by terroir, and even the temperature in the distillery. Hence the tag , Different By Nature”.
“There’s a lot of love for bitter products. Tonic is bitter and we drink gallons of the stuff without necessarily acknowledging the bitterness. Perhaps the G&T craze has opened people up to the idea of drinking something more overtly bitter.”
A Partner for Champagne
Real ingredients, authenticity, sustainability and lower alcohol content are the pillars Sipello is built on.
“It goes beautifully with Champagne or in a spritz. Declan McGurk , the former Director of Bars at the Savoy, said it was the best British product he’d tasted for years. Bartenders had a new ketchup!”
The wholesale market came as a shock to Simmons. “It is highly fragmented. Wholesalers can be quite slow in picking up new products unless they promise volume. Listing fees shut out the small players, as big companies dust their cheque books off and buy up the menu listing.”
Hedonism Wines in Mayfair and Soho’s Gerry’s Wines & Spirits have been very supportive in allowing Tim in store tastings. The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and Amazon are key partners.
“Sipello is a massive underdog , and one-man band. But the future is exciting. After cycling around London with samples for a whole summer, seeing my drink on the Artesian menu was a special moment. The bar staff signed the menu for me. It’s something I’ll always cherish.”
But why gooseberries?
“As kids , we picked them at Garson’s farm in Esher. My granny, who was mayor of Elmbridge, took us picking every summer. So they hold a certain amount of nostalgia. We macerated different fruits and botanicals and they were by far the most delicious. Using local produce and supporting British fruit farmers was integral. Most of our gooseberries come from Kent and Herefordshire. Yorkshire provides the rhubarb.
“We also use 150kgs of chuckle berry in each 700L batch. It’s a gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant cross and lends Sipello its jammy notes and berry sweetness. It also makes people smile when we talk about it. We can track most of our ingredients – like the elderflower, gentian and wormwood – down to the villages they’re collected in, and by which communities.”
Where is it made?
Sipello is made at Guildford’s Silent Pool Distillery.
“We created our own bottle mould with a glass company from Allied Glass in Leeds and a design agency from Cornwall: Kingdom & Sparrow. The flowers not only represent the floral nature of the liquid, but also my daughters, Iris and Lily.
“They’re a bit young to drink, but thoroughly enjoy rolling up their sleeves at tastings and fairs, as well as offering fairly astute feedback on design work. The brand is for them. I’m just the guardian of it until they’re ready.”