After nearly two years since it launched, Jo Leigh finally visits one of Hampshire’s newest attraction, Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Laverstoke. Joined by two other dishevelled mums they find out more about mummy’s little helper… Gin!
Being a hampshire hog born and breed, my first memories of the Laverstoke Mill dates back some 30 years. So when the opportunity arose for myself and two friends to visit the newly re-designed mill, now home to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, I was thrilled to discover what was lying behind the facade of this architechural wonder that had very much been a part of my childhood.
From the moment you cross over the River Test you can start to see the vast history the building eminates. The buildings are Grade II English Heritage listed and date as far back as the 1500’s. In the 1700’s the site was acquired by Henry Portal for the purposes of a papermaking factory, where the rivers power and cleanliness played a huge part in the process of devising paper worthy of bank notes, making the site ideal.
Today these historic buildings have been opened up, transformed and breathed new life into by a team of designers and the giant drinks brand Barcardi who own, make and distribute Bombay Sapphire gin throughout the world.
The distillery showcases the art and secrets of gin production and walks you through the history of the Dakin families ‘vapour infused’ method from a sensory room whereby you can touch, feel and smell the botanicals that are used for making gin, to the still houses where the highly flammable liquid is boiled and then the infusion technique is explained.
A main feature of the grounds has to be the glasshouses with their flowing design leading straight into the river test, replicating the current on which it stands. Not only do these glass conicals display the varied botanicals that can be used to make varying gins but they are hydrated via the excess heat that the distillation process generates connecting the buildings as one.
The tour around the site can be accompanied by a host or you can opt to self discover, to take your time and fully appreciate the magnitude of these still houses and the setting. Why not add in a Cocktail Masterclass for a more in-depth look at Bombay Sapphire gin and the cocktails you can create guided by their gin experts.
We opted to self discover where we were led by the interactive guide map to numbered spots to hear various information by technology driven touch sensors. Once we found the dry room our senses were overloaded with 22 botanical spices, seeds and plants to favour creating our own personal preference for the complimentary cocktail that awaits you on leaving the mill. I favoured the Citrus and Floral tastes which essentially created the classic gin and tonic, made from juniper, lemon peel, grains of paradise, coriander, cubeb berries, orris root, almonds, cassia bark, liquorice and angelica. This cocktail did not disappoint to quench my thirst.
The most interesting part of the journey has to be the Dakin Still house that tells the story of these antique stills, today currently generating 80% proof plus gin and of how the family came by their distinctive infusion method. One party member commented “it’s a process you are not aware of whilst you enjoy your usual G’n’T and will now have a greater respect for what I’m drinking.”
For a relaxed tour of local history and to learn a new skill or appreciation for distilling with good friends or family then a trip to Laverstoke Mill should be on your top three choices. Why not book a tour for a loved one as a unique Christmas gift here: www.distillery.bombaysapphire.com
For The Laverstoke signature cocktail from the distillery click here!