Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Days Out - Bombay Sapphire Distillery



January and February tend to be quite months in our household, so as a treat for my Dad’s birthday (thanks to a perfectly timed email from TravelZoo Local) I arranged a little birthday outing for my Dad, Mum and husband to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke, Hampshire (a small rural village just outside of Basingstoke). My Dad is a big gin fan and he particularly loves a tipple of Bombay Sapphire.

The distillery opened in 2014 on the site of Laverstoke Mill, an old Victorian paper mill known for the production of bank notes.

Bombay Spirits Company acquired the premises in 2010 and set about renovating the 300 year old mill, taking care to preserve the natural ecology of the site which is within a conservation area. Whilst being a state-of-the-art distillery, there is a lovely sense of history to the site, from the old Victorian brick buildings down to the large traditional copper stills. Designed by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, it is the perfect mix of old and new.


Bombay Spirits Company have looked closely at sustainability measures including, amongst other initiatives, a biomass boiler and a hydro-electric turbine. Due to their efforts, the distillery was awarded the BREEAM Award for Industrial Design in 2014, an award received for sustainable design and environmental impact. It was the first distillery and first refurbishment project to achieve an ‘Outstanding’ rating from BREEAM.

On entering the premises, you are greeted with a small display in the Heritage Room explaining the history of the mill, before moving into the reception area to pick up your tickets. The check-in system for pre-booked tickets is easy to use. You enter your booking reference into one of the designated computer terminals and scan a guide. Following this, you are ready to start the tour.

Once through the turnstile, there are a number of buildings to visit, some listening points on the walls and the stunning glasshouse structures which house the botanicals used in the production of Bombay Sapphire.

 
Starting with a look through the windows at India House, where the two largest vapor infusion stills are kept, we then moved on to the Gallery to see the history of Bombay Sapphire. A turn through the glass houses was then followed by a visit to the Botanical Dry Room, where we found tables full of dried botanicals to smell.

The Botanical Dry Room is where your Guide comes in handy. As you walk around the tables smelling the various botanicals, you use a hole punch to punch the numbers corresponding to the botanicals that you like the best. At the end of your tour, you can show your Guide at the Mill Bar and the bartenders can pick the best cocktail for you based on your preferred scents/botanticals.

Our self-guided tour ended with a short guided tour of the Dakin Still room where two copper stills are housed. Whilst the recipe remains a secret, the guide was able to provide some insight as to how the spirit is produced and what happens to the botanical waste left over from the process. The production process is via a unique Vapour Infusion distillation process, using ten different botanicals to obtain the delicious flavour unique to Bombay Sapphire.  A little taste of super-strength fire water half way through the tour is enough to set the taste buds tingling!
 

I have to give a special mention to our guide, who I think was called Louise (although my memory for names is very poor!). She was very informative and managed to find the perfect mix of information and humour. Louise had our entire group in stitches of laughter and proved to be a hugely memorable part of our day out.



All that remained was for us to visit the Mill Bar on the way out. The Mill Bar is beautifully renovated and provides a great setting for a relaxing drink upon conclusion of your visit. There is a wide variety of gin-based cocktails available and the menu helpfully lists the number of units of alcohol per drink. For drivers, you can have a complimentary mocktail and pick up a G&T pack from the gift shop to take home with you.
Takeaway G&T pack for drivers!
 
 
There are several options for your visit, namely:-
 
·         Self-discovery experience - £15 for adults, £13.50 for concessions, £10 for children aged 6 to 17 and children aged 5 and under get in for free.
 
·         Hosted experience - £22 for adults, £19.80 for concessions, £10 for children aged 6 to 17 and children aged 5 and under get in for free.
 
·         Gin Cocktail Masterclass - £30 for adults and £27 for concessions – N/A for children
 
 
The TravelZoo deal gave us access to the self-guided tour for a discounted sum of £10 each, including a complimentary drink in the Mill Bar at the end of our visit.
 
The distillery is open 7 days a week from 11am until 6pm from October to March and from 10am until 8pm from April to September.
 
More details can be obtained here.
 
Overall, we all agreed that the Bombay Sapphire distillery was well-worth a visit. We thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in the history of Bombay Sapphire gin and I would say it is a site not to be missed if you are ever in the area. What’s not to like – a beautiful setting, fabulous gin cocktails and an amazing distillery guide. I also loved the fact that the staff seemed to have a great belief and pride in their product. I felt that they were there to inform and teach visitors, rather than to merely push their product. I came away having a much greater knowledge of Bombay Sapphire. A great day out and a perfect birthday present for my Dad!


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