Did you know that every bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin is made in Hampshire?
Laverstoke, between Whitchurch and Overton, is the home to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.
The distillery is open to the public, and well worth a visit. The historical mill has been carefully restored and, where possible, the new processes take place in the original buildings.
The redevelopment included the creation of two large greenhouses – one tropical, one Mediterranean – where examples of the plants used to flavour the gin are grown.
You thought it was just juniper berries? Think again – more than twelve botanicals are used to flavour the spirit (they won’t tell you the exact recipe).
The fun part
Perhaps the most fun part of the tour is here:
A large laboratory-type room where twenty-or-so aromas are locked in glass jars.
Further ingredients are available to taste too.
You wander round the room, try the aromas, and decide which ones you like best.
At the end of the tour you are taken to the bar (it’s such a hard life) where a cocktail is created to match the flavours you chose (drivers can have a soft drink and collect a takeaway gin and tonic package afterwards).
The process to flavour the spirit can perhaps best be likened to making a pot of tea – or perhaps a coffee percolator. The spirit is heated in a still, and as the vapour rises it passes through a basket of the flavouring plants. The distillers can tell by look and smell when the gin has reached the required flavour.
Why the River Test?
Despite promoting the virtues of the River Test (clear chalk stream, one of the best fishing rivers in Europe, etc.) the guide explained that they take nothing from and add nothing to the river.
The spirit isn’t even distilled at Laverstoke – it is brought in from elsewhere. It also isn’t bottled there – it is taken by road to the bottling plant in Warrington, where it is also “mixed with water” (they don’t use the word “dilute”) to bring the alcohol content down to a legal (and safe!) level. So what exactly is the “value-Added” reason for using the Laverstoke Mill? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to do all the processes in one place?
I’ll give you the answer in one word, and that word is “Heritage”. Bombay Sapphire is a relatively new brand (it has been around for fewer years than I have been legally drinking). A historical mill gives it heritage. And as the mill once produced paper for Bank of India banknotes, there is a tenuous link back to Bombay!
The distillery is very energy-efficient. Heat is recycled, waste products are used in a biomass boiler, rain water is used to flush toilets, and water turbine generates electricity. This means that only 10% of the energy used on site is taken from the national grid.
So when you sit back with your G&T, you can reassure yourself that you are doing your bit for the environment.
Note: parental filters enabled might block this site because of its alcohol content.
Address: Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Laverstoke Mill, London Road, Laverstoke, Whitchurch RG28 7NR (for sat nav, enter RG28 7PH but park in the main distillery car park next to the entrance (clearly signposted).
Distance from Chandler’s Ford: approx. 35 miles, 28 minutes
Opening Times: Daily. October to march 11:00 to 18:00, April to September 10:00 to 20:00. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
All visits should be booked in advance – visit the website for booking.
- Self-guided tour (Monday to Thursday from April to September, and Friday to Sunday between October and March) £15
- Guided tour (Friday to Sunday from April to September, and Monday to Thursday between October and March) £22
A little way down the road from the distillery is this magnificent row of thatched cottages.
Opposite is a track with a signpost pointing to St Nicholas Church. Have a wander along the track to find this hidden gem.
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