On Thursday 6 July, fifteen members visited the Bombay Sapphire Distillery based at Laverstoke Mill, near Whitchurch, Hampshire to view the production of gin using the unique and patented, vapour-infusion distillation process. Bombay Spirits is part of the Bacardi Global Brands Limited group and acquired Laverstoke Mill in 2010. Since then the company has embarked on a massive programme of redevelopment and renovation to preserve the natural ecology and heritage of the site and establish a modern distillery. For over 200 years, the mill established by the River Test produced bank note paper for the Bank of England and the Bank of India. Transforming a 300 year old paper Mill with over 1000 years of history within a Conservation Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest took patience and dedication. Working with Heatherwick Studio, Bombay Sapphire have sympathetically renovated Laverstoke Mill into a sustainable distillery that showcases the natural beauty and industrial heritage of the site. In building a modern distillery at Laverstoke Mill every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the processes and buildings are as sustainable and efficient as possible. In recognition of this the distillery has been awarded the highly prestigious BREEAM Award for Industrial Design in 2014.
Our group were accompanied by our excellent host, Louise who described the history of the site illustrated with an historical timeline and gave a detailed technical explanation of the unique vapour-infusion process whereby the distilled spirit percolates through a blend of ten botanicals to produce the unique blended spirit. The recipe is a closely guarded secret known only to the chief distillers. Samples of the plants used in the process are grown in the award-winning glasshouses designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Our group visited on a beautiful summer day and with the temperature in the glasshouses edging 40oC, we only stayed inside for a short time before heading to the Dakin still house and then the Dry Room. In the Dry Room we experienced over 20 raw botanical sources of flavour including juniper, angelica, cassia bark, orris root, floral notes and citrus. With the assistance of our host Louise, we identified a personal taste profile of 4-6 flavours which were made into a Bombay Sapphire cocktail which we enjoyed at the end of the visit in the Mill Bar beside the river. A thoroughly enjoyable visit combining architectural and social history, food science and technology, industrial design, conservation, ecology and sustainability.