As I’ve got older I’m more into the idea of getting up reasonably early at the weekend to fit in a day of exploring/ doing things rather than wasting my time sleeping/ slobbering out for half the day (how ever appealing it does sound). So one weekend in July I was up at the crack of dawn ready to make the 90-minute drive to rural Hampshire to check out the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.
There’s no hiding the fact that I’m a gin fan, I’ve been to a Gin Festival and to a few distilleries before including the Edinburgh Gin and Beefeater one’s which have both been super interesting in their own way but with Bombay Sapphire producing more bottles of gin than either of those brand’s you’re in for a treat at this site.
You can opt for a self-guided tour which is just £15 where you can go at your own pace and read things, or you can pay £25 and have a hosted tour which takes about 2 hours. Both tours include a free cocktail at the end, and the great thing is if you’re the driver and have a non-alcoholic cocktail you get a free gin and tonic to take away with you.
Every single drop of Bombay Sapphire gin is made in their Hampshire distillery whether you buy it down your local pub in London or in a restaurant in Australia, nowhere else makes the iconic blue bottled gin. The site itself is in an old Paper Mill where the Bank of England used to have bank notes printed but for the past five year’s it’s been home to Bombay with various red-bricked buildings nestled on a reasonably large site.
As we opted for the guided tour we were split into two smaller groups and lead to the dry room to discover more about what’s put into the gin. Having been to distilleries before I knew the basics of Juniper, Lemon Peel, Angelica Seed etc but it’s interesting to see how one gin can differ from another and how Bombay make their drink so unique. Once we had been talked through we were given the opportunity to smell all 22 variations of the botanicals to mark our ultimate favourites on a card designed to help with our cocktail choice at the end of the tour. This was a great thing to do as most places just give you a Gin and Tonic with no choice but there were about 10 different variations we could end up with.
Then we moved onto a tour of the distillery itself where two copper stills sit producing a large quantity of the gin, every single day one of the stills is on and each day a huge barrel of gin is made. There are large industrial scale stills on the private section of the site but this area allowed us to see the process better, find out how the botanicals are infused – a concept which is unique to Bombay – and see the process up close. Every part of the distillery has been adapted to maximize energy efficiency and nothing is thrown away to ensure minimal environmental impact.
Next up was the glass houses which have such a unique look about them, having been designed by Thomas Heatherwick in 2014. The two glass houses are split into Meditteranean and Tropical and house the botanicals themselves which are used in the gin to give visitors a better idea of what’s going into their drink. A final stop was made to show us the evolution of the iconic square bottle and a history of the site. Considering I’d done a few gin distilleries before everything was so interesting and it was less about gin itself and more about the unique features of Bombay and the site.
Of course, the trip was rounded out with a cocktail of which I had The Laverstock, a sweet and fruity cocktail topped off with ginger ale which was so yummy.