If you’ve ever longed for a quiet trip to the English countryside, with babbling brooks, farmland, small town pubs, and country estates, then you’ve dreamed of Laverstoke. Laverstoke is known for it all, and more than that, it’s known as the home of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.
Just an hour outside of London is the Laverstoke Mill, in one of the most charming (and sunny) parts of England. To give you an idea of the area, it’s less than an hour to Stonehenge and much less than that to Highclere Castle (where they shot Downton Abbey).
There are some amazing places to stay out here, like the Oakley Hall Hotel, which dates back to the 1700s. With over 50 bedrooms, a two AA Rosette restaurant, and acres of beautiful grounds, this manor can be a romantic getaway or a group adventure to skeet shoot.
There are also some authentic and charming places to grab a bite, like the White Hart Overton, a pub and inn with traditional vibes, English beers, and bites like fish and chips or the meat pie of the day.
But the main tourist attraction out here that you need to make the trip for, no matter where you are coming from, is the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Canada has bucket list items for those who love food, drink, and travel, like taking a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer or dining at the mountaintop Sky Bistro in Banff. But when you’re an hour west of London? This is it.
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Bombay Sapphire is an incredibly popular gin with an immediate presence behind most bars across the world. The blue bottle is so bright it appears to glow and, remarkably, every single drop of the high-quality gin is distilled right here at the Laverstoke Mill.
It’s a massive area and, upon arrival, appears to be like most of the areas out here — quiet and charming. There’s no noise disruption or construction eye sores. It’s a massive operation and this would all be expected. But really, at first glance, it’s a collection of brick-built buildings restored, with a clear river flowing right between it all, without as much as a sign to advertise where you are.
Dished took the trip across the pond and explored, tasted, and toured the breathtaking Bombay Sapphire Distillery, which also happens to be the first distillery and the first refurbishment to have achieved an “Outstanding” design-stage BREEAM accreditation for its distillery process buildings. It’s actually the first global gin to have all botanical ingredients certified as sustainable sourced as well.
Dished took a full tour of the facility, guided by Sam Carter (senior brand ambassador) and Dr. Anne Brock (master distiller), to learn more about the gin and the remarkable place that makes it.
We started in the Blue Room, where we took a deep dive into the taste of Bombay Gin — including where the brand started and where it’s going (fully sustainable by 2030) — and even tried a few gin cocktails, like the Clover Club made with Bombay Bramble.
Next, we entered the Turbine Bar for a complimentary gin and tonic. This wasn’t just any G & T, either. On the wall, you choose whether you want the Bombay Sunset, Citron Presse, or the classic Sapphire. Then, you fill the iconic blue glass with large ice cubes, choose whatever garnishes you’d like, and enter the stunning blue-themed theatre to watch a short video.
At the end of the video, which covers all of the unique botanicals, plants, spices, and more that Bombay sources from families and farmers from across the world, the screen actually retracts along with the wall, opening up to the outside world, and revealing the most picturesque view on the premises.
In the middle of all of the historic brick buildings stands the gin palace, the architectural marvel called the Mediterranean Glasshouse.
This iconic highlight of the tour is two intertwining glasshouses pouring out of the buildings, half on the ground and half in the river. These look incredible, but they are also practical, using excess heat from the mill to grow 10 exotic botanicals that are used to infuse into Bombay Sapphire gin. We went into each separate structure, in the humid environment, and viewed and tasted spices and plants that originate from the tropics.
After that, we were able to get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look inside the India House, which is one of the main production spaces. We were able to see the real-time process of the vapour infusion method that Bombay is so famous for across the spirits industry. Most gins steep the botanicals in the alcohol. We were actually able to see the lyne arm from each still directing vapour through an infusion chamber. We also saw the perforated copper baskets containing the botanicals that would be placed inside to give the gin its flavour.
Once the tour was completed, there was plenty of spare time to roam around and explore the distillery. There is the Mill Bar, a two-floor mezzanine and terrace where guests can enjoy a cocktail along the River Test. There’s also the Mill Cafe (where we had lunch), to grab coffee, tea, paninis, salads, snacks, tapas, and more.
Of course, there’s also the Gin Shop, where you can grab a bottle (or a few!) to take home. You can even get it engraved for free. The shop also sells socks, shirts, shakers, and more merchandise for you to remember your time at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.
There are only a few places in the world that have a genuine blend of old-world tradition and modern influences. This historic mill is hundreds of years old and has been restored, but also has a glasshouse made with hundreds of panels that don’t affect the nature around it. When you think of the Bombay brand, you’d imagine a massive corporate enterprise, but really it’s just a hard-working and small team working around the clock to get the job done.
All of these reasons make coming to this Laverstoke Mill a necessary item on any travel bucket list. You’ll never order a Bombay Sapphire Gin and Tonic again without thinking about where it came from.
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