A few lucky members were fortunate to visit Bombay Sapphire’s illustrious distillery, situated in the picturesque locale of Laverstoke, West Hampshire. As a self professed ‘vir-gin’, I believed it would be a very interesting and potentially eye-opening experience for me. We began our trip meeting with Ogilvy representatives, Lauren and Andy, and other press delegates in Waterloo East. We hopped on the train and just over an hour later, we arrived in Overton, where we were greeted by Bombay Sapphire’s very own bus to take us to the distillery.
The site itself is very impressive; historically, its function included a royal residence, a paper mill creating banknotes and watermarks for the British Empire and finally a distillery for one of the most iconic spirits companies in the world.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by brand ambassador Renaud de Boresdon, who would be our guide throughout the day. Renaud was extremely knowledgeable and engaging, taking us through all of the various stages of production for Bombay Sapphire’s gin and telling us the history of gin, the company and the site.
Remarkably, the distillery is almost entirely self-sustaining, making use of solar panels and hydro-electric turbines, and recycling heat produced from the stills into the distinctive glasshouses to ensure that no energy is wasted. The River Test, on which the distillery sits, is the cleanest river in Britain, and a place of scientific interest. All of this has enabled the distillery to be the first facility awarded an ‘Outstanding’ at design-stage BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) accreditation. The purity of the river was another reason why Laverstoke Mill was chosen for watermarking in the past.
Throughout the day we were offered insights into the creation of Bombay Sapphire; the carefully selected ingredients and the method for sourcing them, the reason why each ingredient is present in the spirit and finally the distillation facility itself. Towering copper stills named ‘Thomas’ and ‘Mary’, still in use to this day, greeted us in the main hall. Magnificent and imposing, Renaud took us through a summary of the scientific methodology of the vaporization process and how the older stills are integrated with modern technology to increase the efficiency of production.
After the main tour of the site, we were treated to an insight in Bombay Sapphire’s latest creations. Bombay Sapphire has reached out to some of the finest mixologists and bartenders across the United Kingdom to recreate the classic gin & tonic beverage into an inspired new cocktail. We experienced the “Artistry” event in a darkened hall, filled with smoke and six stunningly presented beverages illuminated from above. The bartenders and their cocktails included: Bartosz Jakowiec of Mash in London with his ‘Gardens of Eden’ composition, Matt Verona of Carousel in London with ‘My Nan’s Patio’, Andrea Melis of Blue Bar Berkeley in London with ‘The Milestone’, John Lee (who was unable to attend the event) of the Hedonist Project in Leeds with his ‘Salvere’, Thomas Matthews from the Edgebaston in Birmingham, with ‘Parklife’ and Jody Buchan from Kin in Edinburgh with his ‘Kith & Kin’.
Each cocktail was a marvel to behold, and had a story to go with it from their respective creators. For example, Jody Buchan’s ‘Kith & Kin’ was created to be served in a way which included everyone as a group and to encourage people to interact with one another, and Matt Verona’s ‘My Nan’s Patio’ is a homage to nostalgia. Using figs as a key flavour in his cocktail was inspired by the fig tree in his grandmother’s front garden.
We were then invited to taste them. The bartenders created their cocktails for us to sample, explaining in further depth the inspiration behind the drink. My personal favourites included Thomas Matthews’ ‘Parklife’, which was described as a reflection of simplicity and responsibility, relying purely on ingredients that weren’t wasteful, and Bartosz Jakowiec’s ‘Garden of Eden’, which to me was the most impressively displayed, and was an extremely delicious cocktail which tasted as earthy and fruitful as its presentation encapsulated. These unique cocktails will be available in their respective creators’ bars during the autumn this year.
It was a fascinating experience in general, and over the course of the trip, I feel that I have graduated from ‘vir-gin’ to ‘be-gin-ner’!