As a self-confessed lover of gin, I’m excited to share with you the perfect day out for gin lovers, which is hidden away in rural Hampshire, just 1 hour from London.
I couldn’t contain my excitement when I received an invitation to visit Bombay Sapphire’s Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire. I’ve sipped on Bombay Sapphire plenty of times in my life, but until recently I had no idea that this popular gin was made in The UK. Perhaps neither had you? It’s actually the only place in the whole world where they make the iconic blue-bottled gin, and the distillery has created a sensory visitor experience that offers the perfect day out for gin lovers. Here’s the story of my trip to The Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill.
The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is located in a small village called Laverstoke in Hampshire. With quaint thatched cottages and a handful of pubs, it feels a world away from busy London. I caught the train from London Waterloo to Whitchurch Station, which took exactly one hour. From here, it was a five-minute drive to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, passing by chocolate box houses and plenty of greenery.
The red brick exterior of Laverstoke Mill has been perfectly preserved and lovingly restored. What was once an old paper mill that printed notes for the Bank of England is now the home of Bombay Sapphire. The River Test trickles right through the middle of the mill and it feels like an idyllic slice of British countryside.
Design and Sustainability
Juxtaposing against the historic red brick are the two futuristic glasshouses which stand tall on the banks of the River Test. These innovative structures were designed by Thomas Heatherwick Studio, which also designed the new fleet of curved London buses and Google’s London headquarters. As well as being visually striking, the glasshouses have been sustainably designed and Laverstoke Mill is one of the most sustainable distilleries in the UK.
The Sensory Experience
The experience itself is all about playing on the senses. You touch, smell, taste and feel different heats throughout the process. I left feeling like I’d learnt a little bit more about my nose and my taste buds by the end of it, which is why it felt like a mini-voyage of self discovery. Here are the main steps of the sensory experience;
1) The Glass House
These glasshouses are home to all of the botanicals that go into Bombay Sapphire gin, both tropical and Mediterranean. Stepping into the tropical glasshouse, I immediately felt the incubated heat and this was the first time I actually considered the individual botanicals that make up the taste of gin.
2) The Botanical Dry Room
The white-walled botanical dry room looked a bit like a testing laboratory. It was here that all of the Bombay Sapphire botanical aromas had been concentrated into 22 individual smelling jars. Every guest is given a scent map of the room and is asked to mark down 3-6 scents they like. This is an essential step of the sensory experience. I loved going around the botanical dry room smelling all of the different exotic botanical elements. Some that smelt potent to me smelt lovely to others. It was fascinating to see the different reactions.
3) The Distillery Tour
Next it was time to enter the working distillery, which produces Bombay Sapphire gin for the whole world. The huge copper stills dominate the room, and there are a further two stills in a separate building called India House. We were guided around the distillery in a small group, and even got to taste the gin in its freshest, purest form. It was here we actually learned how the gin was made and the process to infuse the raw botanicals into the gin.
4) The Mill Bar
We were told to hold on to our scent maps from the Botanical Dry Room as our scent preferences determined the choice of cocktail that was recommended to us at The Mill Bar. All guests receive a complimentary gin cocktail as part of their visit, which I think is an amazing way to round off the experience for gin lovers. The bartender recommended that I try The Laverstoke, which is a unique gin, elderflower and ginger ale cocktail designed by Bombay Sapphire Ambassador Sam Carter. The recommended cocktails based on your scent preferences really added a personal touch to the experience, which I loved.
A Special Tasting with Sam Carter
During my trip to the Laverstoke Mill I got to meet Sam Carter, Bombay Sapphire’s Brand Ambassador and resident gin expert. Sam is one of those people whose passion is infectious and the way he spoke so expertly about gin and mixology had me captivated. We sat in his ‘office’ otherwise known as a private bar in the first floor of the mill. Sam talked us through the different types of Bombay gin and helped us to pick out the different botanicals in each one. Finally it was time for the cocktail making demonstrations, which included The Laverstoke and the perfect gin and tonic.
After my trip to the Bombay Sapphire distillery, I came away with a new found appreciation for gin and a deeper understanding of the natural botanicals that go into my favourite spirit. I really enjoyed the whole experience and think it’s the perfect day trip for gin lovers and London dwellers. Go quickly, before the secret is out.
3 Interesting Facts I Learned about Gin
- The dominant botanical in all gins must be the juniper berry
- The quinine in tonic water has an element in it that helps to deter mosquitos, but one bottle of tonic water only has about about one twelfth of the amount you’d need for it to take effect
- London dry gin doesn’t need to be made in London, it just needs to follow a certain type of distilling process
Want to experience Laverstoke Mill Bombay Sapphire Distillery? Book tickets for your own distillery experience.
As of 19th June 2017, there will be a shuttle running from Overton Station to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, which is a quick 5-minute journey. The shuttle will be a free service for all visitors. The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is open 7 days a week but tickets must be booked in advance. Experiences start from only £15 per adult and go up to £150 per adult for The Ultimate Experience.
Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Bombay Sapphire. All views, words and photos are my own.