As a dedicated gin fan I have visited a few distilleries in my time but arriving at the beautiful Bombay Sapphire Distillery in a leafy conservation area near Whitchurch in rural Hampshire, I knew this would be an extra special experience.
Listen to the River Test bubbling under the bridges as you walk towards the entrance of the home of this world famous gin, 300-year-old Laverstock Mill which was a paper mill now sympathetically renovated into a sustainable distillery. The collection of characterful historic buildings you can see is where the unique vapour process is carried out allowing the natural flavours of exotic botanicals from around the world to create the fresh and vibrant taste of Bombay Sapphire gin.
Based on a 1761 recipe, Bombay Sapphire has recently been awarded the prestigious Double Gold and Gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
If you are are fan of really good gin check out the recently released Bombay Sapphire's new handcrafted small batch Premier Cru gin (pictured above) infused with hand picked, hand peeled Spanish lemons and mandarin celebrating Spain's Murcian region. We sampled it in a gorgeous French 75 cocktail and just the aroma alone was divine. You can buy it online from a limited number of retailers.
Anyway, back to my visit to Laverstock Mill with my 22-year-old son who also loves gin. We were there to see the new cinema room and personalised cocktail experience but more on that later. First we took part in a gin cocktail masterclass led by the informative and entertaining Sam Carter.
Did you know that drinking gin with a straw detracts from the experience as you can't smell the botanicals? And did you know sniffing gin with your mouth open gives you a more intense scent? The cocktail class is available to visitors as an upgrade to the usual tour and I can highly recommend it - I have some new cocktails to add to my repertoire.
With the group very much more relaxed than when we arrived we moved on to try out the new personalised cocktail experience. Result - I now want a wall of gin with dispenser systems and a garden of garnishes to create my perfect G&T every time at home.
Armed with our Bombay Bramble gin cocktails (my son chose the same gin as me from the three available) we were shown into the new impressively luxurious cinema room complete with little drinks tables.
We watched a film documenting the heritage of Bombay Sapphire. We learned about the ten natural botanicals sourced from across the world before a surprise reveal of the spectacular botanical glasshouses which we were able to explore. These really are beautiful and are definitely a must-do part of the tour.
Unlike many events I attend for work this is an experience you can enjoy for yourself - the Bombay Sapphire Distillery is a doable day trip from London and surrounding areas -trains come into Overton or Whitchurch from London Waterloo. Children are allowed on the tour but obviously won't get to sample the gin. Drivers can opt for a non-alcoholic drink while at the distillery and a takeaway pack so they can sample the goods when safely home.
Further afield? There are plenty of places to stay in the area including the award winning Watership Down Inn and the Forest Holidays premium self catering cabins in the nearby Blackwood Forest. Foodies are well catered for to the Michelin starred restaurant The Black Rat and The Woodspeen Cookery School nearby. Sounds like the ideal weekend away to me!
Visits must be pre-booked and at the time of publication temperature checks and the wearing of masks was required by the distillery.
And finally, if you are in the sad position of being a Bombay Sapphire fan but can't get to Hampshire, bear in mind that there is an excellent online shop offering a selection of gifts including bespoke engraved bottles of Bombay Sapphire, Bombay Bramble and Bombay Sunset.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Bombay Sapphire's Distillery for the purpose of gathering information for this honest review.