This trip to the iconic Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Hampshire, UK more than surpassed my expectations. It was my first visit to a Distillery and the experience I had has left me wanting more. Bombay Sapphire is one of the most famous UK spirit brands and one of my favourites too! At their home, Laverstoke Mill, they offer ‘Discovery Experiences’ which gives you the chance to take a ‘behind the scenes’ look, learn about history of the brand, explore the beautiful grounds and you even get a free gin cocktail!
Laverstoke Mill is located close to the small town of Whitchurch in Hampshire. The mill has nearly a 1,000 years of history, being owned by Henry VIII, William the Conqueror and Queen Victoria throughout time. It was quite a surprise to arrive at this remote picturesque location which looks more like the home of a small craft drink, not the place where an international spirit is made. Our tour consisted of a few other couples and families, but in all there was less than 15 people in our group.
We were led into the first 2 rooms displaying the history of Gin and the company. Here was where our guide explained the very first stages of producing gin and the botanicals that are selected for Bombay Sapphire to give the unique taste. After explaining, we could wander the room looking, tasting and smelling various botanicals that can be used in the production of gin to give varying flavours. The fantastic part of this, was that we were all given a card to select our favourite botanicals which would then be used by the mixologists at the end of the experience to create a personalised gin cocktail in the bar! I thought this was a great idea, so I picked my flavours with care!
The next part of the tour was seeing the gin production process in action itself. We went into the room where the 2 giant distilling tanks sat, one named Victoria and one Henry! Detailed information about the journey the alcohol and botanicals take is given here along with the daily tasks involved to ensure they get the same distinct flavour every time. At this point, the alcohol volume is around 70%. Our guide did actually give us a chance to taste a tiny amount, but it wasn’t a very pleasant experience as you can imagine!
We next headed outside to the the iconic greenhouses that house the botanical plants ready to be infused into the gin. The quirky design looks stunning from the outside, I love the way both of them seem to interwind with each other even though they are both separate. We were given some time to wander around the inside too with all the plants clearly labelled. The last part of the tour took us into a museum style section of the mill where our guide left us. We had as much time as we liked to look at the many exhibits displaying unique gin glasses, the history of the iconic Blue (or should I say Sapphire) coloured bottle and some rare Bombay Sapphire gins that were made for ultra special occasions. All were really well displayed, the glasses amused me for a good 10 minutes as there were 2 walls of shelves filled with weird and wonderful designs.
So the final part of the experience is probably everybody’s favourite, the free gin cocktail in the bar! This is where you give your stamped card from earlier to the mixologist. They will look at your chosen favourite flavours and create the best cocktail specifically created for your taste! This was a great idea, I love citrus flavours so I received an orange, ginger & star anise cocktail and I can confirm that it definitely catered to my palate. I have never tasted such a good cocktail to be honest. Though this was probably more down to the fact that I saw myself as a gin expert after the amount of information I had just received!
The entire experience was a blast, really got your senses too with the smelling and tasting activities. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of gin, it is a great attraction combining a little bit of history and participation all in a beautiful picturesque location. After visiting this distillery, I am definitely interested in visiting more. The amount of appreciation you gain for such a simple drink is incredible.
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