Review: The Bombay Sapphire distillery tour in Hampshire
What I loved about it:
The quirky G&T station, the incredible greenhouses and the knowledgeable tour guide!
Value for money (out of 10):
The Bombay Sapphire Distillery Discovery
There are few British gins more iconic than the sky blue bottles of Bombay Sapphire, whose history began in 1760. Their Hampshire history is much more recent; in 2014 the Laverstoke distillery was officially opened on the site of an old paper mill. Since then I’ve visited a few times, observing the new additions and experiences as they’ve come along. The Bombay Sapphire distillery tour is one of the most premium in the country, and here’s what to expect from your visit.
The Bombay Sapphire distillery is located in a hamlet in Hampshire, in between Winchester and Basingstoke. It’s easiest to get here by car, though not if you plan to sample all the gin! The distillery is on the 76 bus route between Basingstoke and Andover. The nearest train stations are Overton and Whitchurch and you would need to pre-book a taxi from these due to their rural nature. If you’d like to stay nearby then I’ve popped a review of a fantastic Air BnB in the handy links sections. Importantly the tour is accessible via wheelchair.
You can visit the shop, café and all-important bar without purchasing a ticket, but to tour the distillery itself you’ll need to pre-book at a specific time. One of the best ways to fully experience the home of Bombay is by way of the Cocktail Masterclass. It’s great fun, particularly as a group as you make a couple of cocktails including the signature Laverstoke.
The distillery tour itself begins with a ‘make your own’ gin and tonic. You’ll be able to choose from three varieties of Bombay Sapphire and add the garnish and tonic. My personal favourite is Bombay Bramble which is flavoured with blackberry and raspberry. I must admit I was disappointed that it was 25ml servings only, but this does mean drivers can also partake and the way you receive the gin is rather novel!
You’ll take your drink through to a cinema room to watch a short video on the Bombay brand and then the guided element of the tour begins. Your guide will spend 15-20 mins outside talking through a short history of Bombay gin, and also the distillery setting. Dress accordingly – it was pretty cold when I visited. This is the most photogenic part of the tour so be sure to take some snaps here.
You’ll then head into the iconic greenhouses which showcase the 11 key botanicals used in the gin. They aren’t grown for production here, they would need a lot more for the 65 million bottles made each year! Depending on the time of year, you’ll see different plants and flowers in here such as the obvious juniper.
From here you’ll enter the smelling rooms. The experience has lessened since the pandemic but those of you visiting for the first time won’t know any different! You will get up close to the botanicals used and be able to see and sniff them. This is the part of the tour where you’ll also see the copper stills and learn about the distillation process.
This signals the end of your tour where you’ll have the choice of visiting the Mill café, the bar or the shop. Sadly the entry price no longer includes a cocktail, however if you do go to the bar I’d recommend the Laverstoke. It’s a mix of Bombay Sapphire (obviously), elderflower, Martini and ginger ale and it’s delicious! You can then pick up the ingredients in the gift shop to make a few more at home.
Another experience here is the Creative Cocktail experience which is £65. You’ll taste a few different Bombay gins and Martini vermouths before creating your very own cocktail. Some will be available for you to drink and the rest is bottled to take home. It sounds great fun so that’s next on my list to try!
One of the experiences at the Bombay Sapphire distillery should definitely be on your list of things to do in Hampshire. Let me know how you get on, I’ve left my Instagram link in the ‘handy links’ list