Spirited Away: Bombay Sapphire

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25th July 2016 by Sunny Rutherford

I have always had a passion for gin and rather fortuitously work with the spirit on an almost daily basis in my role as Bar Operations Manager at Bel & The Dragon. I have learnt to be discerning over the years – after all, quality is everything. We work with a number of artisan gin makers and Bombay Sapphire has long been a favoured brand.

Believe me, the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery at Laverstoke Mill is not your average gin producer. It is tremendous both in size & stature. Two hectares to be precise, each bursting with spirit. Needless to say, I was delighted to have the opportunity to take my team to visit the iconic site in rural Hampshire, just a few miles from our Kingsclere Country Inn.

First impressions were good as we were guided through an array of attractive red-brick outbuildings from one experience to another, by Senior Ambassador Sam Carter. The folk at Bombay have done a great job restoring the grounds & buildings, and modern adaptations perfectly complement their natural surroundings. Much like Bel & The Dragon, its history and heritage are very interesting and quality & provenance continue to be of utmost importance.


Outside we sat and reflected, taking in the idyllic setting and the River Test which runs through it, as well as admiring the Botanical Glasshouses. The two amazing structures, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, are impressive and worth a visit alone. They also happen to cultivate the 10 unique botanicals found in Bombay Sapphire gin – coriander, angelica, almond, orris, lemons, juniper, liquorice, cassia bark, cubeb berries & rather originally, grains of paradise.


Next door in the Botanical Dry Room, we were allowed to smell, touch & taste each ingredient and identify the unique aromas. It reminded me a little of a science lab and an incredibly inviting one at that. Inspired by Ivano Tonutti, Master of Botanicals, whose role is to travel the world in search of the best ingredients, is a man after my own heart. I mean, who could fail to be intrigued & inspired by such an undertaking? Unsurprisingly, we spent a great deal of time here. With good reason.


From here we caught the first glimpse of the Dakin Still House and the two Carterhead stills, ‘Thomas’ and ‘Mary’, which produce the vapour-infused Bombay Sapphire Gin. Unlike most distillers, they use the vapour infusion method rather than the steep and boil production. In doing so, they believe that “the fresher juniper note does not suppress or cloak the other botanicals, but allows them a more coherent expression in the finished gin”.


Last but by no means least, we made our way to The Empire Room, a training centre for some of the world’s top bartenders. Referred to by the Bombay crew as “the jewel in the crown” I can see why. The room has been designed to Sam’s plan and it really is a bartender’s dream. It is also home to some impressive gadgets such as rotary evaporators and centrifuges which demonstrate the distillation process in close-up detail. I think I speak for all when I say that it was an incredible learning experience and opportunity to understand and share the core values of Bombay Sapphire. Naturally, we were also delighted to taste the gin.

If you have not been then I would highly recommend a visit. You may just find yourself another member of the Bombay Sapphire alliance…

Stay at Bel & The Dragon Kingsclere and receive a 20% discount off the Distillery Experience at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. For further information please contact [email protected] or call 01635 299 342

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