Sometimes as travellers we focus so much on what other places have to offer that we forget to appreciate what’s in our own backyard. A couple of years ago on the Soho Food Tour I tried gin for the first time and since then I’ve become quite fond of gin.
I was visiting a friend in Portsmouth and we were trying to decide what to do when she suggested a gin tour. It was then that I discovered that one of the big gin companies, Bombay Sapphire, had a distillery so close to me. We had to go!
After a quick look on their website we saw they had several different tours available and even a gin cocktail masterclass. We wanted to take a hosted tour of the Distillery but unfortunately none of the tours had 3 spots available that day. Thankfully the Distillery also offers self guided tours and a couple of slots for that day had enough space for the 3 of us. Perfect.
Where is The Bombay Sapphire Distillery?
The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is located at the Laverstoke Mill not far from Basingtoke and Winchester. The distillery is actually only 30 miles away from where I grew up so I was surprised I had no idea it was there but as it turns out the distillery has only been open since 2014. This is when Laverstoke Mill became a state-of-the-art sustainable distillery where every drop of Bombay Sapphire gin is produced.
How to Get to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery
Considering the Bombay Sapphire Distillery is tucked away in the small village of Laverstoke, getting there is actually pretty easy.
The most direct way to get there is to drive. Of course, if you’re planning on drinking alcohol this may not be the best way to get there. In England you can usually have a glass and still be within the limits but each person is different and if you’re new to driving in England it may not be worth the risk. The good news is that the free drink you get on the tour can be packaged up and taken away. Perfect for any designated drivers!
I’d recommend traveling to the distillery by train. There is a shuttle bus service running from the 2 closest stations, Overton and Micheldever. While this service is not free it only costs £3 for a return ticket. Click here to see an up to date timetable for the shuttle bus. With direct trains from London Waterloo in just 56 minutes, a visit to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery makes an easy day trip from London.
The Self Guided Tour
To stop the place becoming overcrowded the Distillery limits how many people can turn up for the tour. This is why you must purchase your tickets in advance and show up at your designated time slot. Once you are there you can take the tour at your own speed. In total the tour will take around 1 and a half to 2 hours.
Upon arrival you’ll be given a quick introduction about the distillery and an overview about the self guided tour. Afterwards the staff hand out maps that have a special chip in it. These are used to activate the audio points dotted around the distillery.
The first audio point is right where the tour starts. After that it’s time to head to the main area and this is the part to get excited for. Once you step outside you’ll see the impressive intertwining Glasshouse designed by Heatherwick Studios.
Inside the glasshouses are the ten exotic botanicals used to infuse Bombay Sapphire’s gin to give it that distinct flavour. The glasshouses have been separated so that one can provide a humid environment for the spices that originate from the tropics. While the other is kept at a dry temperature for the Mediterranean plants.
My favourite part of the tour was the Botanical Dry Room. Here guests have a chance to get interactive with gin ingredients. Laid out on the benches are different flavours to smell such as juniper, coriander, liquorice root and lemon peel.
Each guest is given a card to help create an individual scent profile. While you’re smelling each fragrance you simply make a note of your favourite smells. This is then used at the end of the tour to determine the perfect Bombay Sapphire gin cocktail for each individual.
Once you’ve taken the time to explore the Botanical Dry Room it’s time to head into the Dakin Still House. Even those on the self discovery tour will have a guided tour at this point. At this part of the tour I’m afraid all electronic devices will have to be left outside the room. Don’t worry you’ll get them back afterwards!
It’s also worth mentioning that anyone with high heels or open toed shoes (such as sandals and flip flops) are unfortunately not allowed to enter. You can watch through the window though but this is why it’s important to remember to wear sensible shoes for the tour.
Once inside guests will learn about the vapour infusion distillation process. I found this part really interesting so I’m glad I came wearing trainers as I didn’t know about the shoe rules before I came!
The Mill Bar
Once you’ve finished your self discovery tour it’s time to head to The Mill Bar for your complimentary personalised cocktail. When you enter you’ll be asked for your sampling card from the Botanical Dry Room. The bartender will take a look at what your favourite flavours are to determine which cocktail is best for you.
Based on my flavour profile the bartender selected for me The Laverstoke cocktail. All three of us had different cocktails based on our different profiles. We each sampled all the cocktails and agreed we had been given the perfect cocktail for our tastes. Clearly these sample cards work!
The Bombay Sapphire Distillery Gift Shop
On your way out make sure to pop into the gift shop. This is a great chance to get a souvenir bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin to remember your tour. While I didn’t purchase anything, I did enjoy walking around and looking at all the Bombay Sapphire merchandise they had on offer. I must admit I do regret not getting myself a Bombay Sapphire gin glass!
New Experience – A Taste of Bombay
Since my visit Bombay Sapphire have added a new experience available on selected Thursdays which is one I would love to attend. A Taste of Bombay is a fantastic mixture of all their other experiences. It includes refreshments and an introduction to Laverstoke Mill, a chance to make their cocktail of the month (only available on this experience!) with a hosted tour to end the day with. For more information about the experiences available check out their website.
- Opening hours are 10am – 8pm (last admission is 6pm)
- Booking in advance is necessary
- Self Discovery Tours cost £16 and Guided Tours cost £25
- The Self Discovery tour is available 7 days a week. Audio is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin
- The Guided tours are not available on Saturdays and are only available in English
- Make sure to wear sensible shoes. Some areas of the tour are off limits if you’re wearing open toed shoes or high heels
- Part of the tour is outside so make sure to wrap up warm
- Bombay Sapphire Gin is vegan friendly
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