Bombay Sapphire Gin Tour 29th May 2016

Bombay Sapphire Tour

When you hear the word gin, or perhaps the drink gin and tonic or even ‘G’ and ‘T’ a number of possible images may come to mind. Perhaps you see a man in British Colonial India sitting on the porch of a grand hotel sipping a gin and tonic at sunset (to help prevent Malaria with the Quinine). Or maybe you see the picture Gin Lane by the artist William Hogarth which shows a place in moral and physical crisis as a result of all the cheap, unlicensed, gin in circulation. But the picture you see may be a simpler one. One that shows a tall glass with ice, lime, tonic and gin as a refreshing drink. No matter what you see it is obvious that gin has a long and interesting history and has been part of our culture for a long time and recently Charlie and I spent a day at the Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire to find out more about gin, how it is made and best of all the chance to make and taste some gin cocktails with a cocktails masterclass.


Laverstoke Mill

The day took place in the Bombay Sapphire distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire. The distillery is housed in a former money printing factory and was purchased, restored and turned into a distillery a few years ago and as you drive up it looks great with the red brick buildings, green grass and river Test running through the grounds.

Cocktail masterclass

Bombay Cocktail Kit

We checked in for our masterclass and were taken into a large open room containing a large metal u-shaped table with bar stools running along the outside and a cocktail workstation setup at each stool position with everything we needed for cocktail making. This included a cocktail shaker, glasses, Bombay Sapphire gin and a few other devices we learnt about through the class.

Our teacher for the session was Gareth who was a young man who clearly loved his job and talked passionately about gin and Bombay Sapphire and gave us many interesting facts about gin and its history. One that stood out for me was that a cocktail needs at least three ingredients and therefore since it contains gin, tonic and a citrus slice such as lemon or lime a gin and tonic counts as a cocktail. The first part of the masterclass was a gin tasting lesson and much like wine it all starts with the nose and taking a good sniff to see if you can determine the ingredients used in the distilling process to give Bombay Sapphire its unique flavour. In total there were eleven to pick out and I managed about six which wasn’t bad with the most noticeable being lemon and coriander. Following the nose test we then went into the taste test and I was surprised at how balanced and warm the drink was and Gareth explained that a lot of the bitterness in gin drinks comes from the mixers rather than the gin itself.

Laverstoke Cocktail

Next came our first cocktail and this was named after the location and called a Laverstoke and contained gin, martini, elderflower cordial, ginger ale, mint, lime wedges cut and squeezed, ginger root and ice. The recipe is available via the Bombay Sapphire website and is very easy to make however we were given the extra challenge of having to pour in the ginger ale down the cocktail stirrer to ensure it didn’t lose any fizz in the journey. This was a fun and sticky manoeuvre but made sense when explained although I am not sure I will attempt the same pouring technique when recreating this cocktail at home. The LAverstoke cocktail was delicious, refreshing and dangerously drinkable.

The next cocktail was unnamed as yet and was a combination of gin, cranberry juice, lemon and a few other ingredients. This was then shaken and poured into a martini glass. It was a lovely cocktail but I preferred the Laverstoke.

Gareth also demonstrated how to make a martini and a classic gin and tonic. Explaining to us all the component parts and the importance of getting the glass chilled to avoid spoiling the tonic or gin. He did this simply by swilling large ice around the glass and pouring the drink over large cubes of ice. Interestingly the trick to avoid the ice turning to water and ruining the flavour of your drink is to use lots of it to create a very cold environment within the glass and help the ice last.

The masterclass was a lot of fun, well designed and informative.

Audio Tour

Bombay Sapphire Audio Tour

The Bombay Sapphire distillery grounds includes an audio tour with speakers thoughout the grounds that gave out information about what takes place at the mill or some more of the long history of gin. Each audio segment lasted a few minutes and was an enjoyable and informative part of the tour.

Botanicals and greenhouse

Bombay Sapphire Glasshouse

Included within the grounds is a wonderful pair of bespoke curved Glasshouses where you can see the various botanicals that go into the gin in their natural state. It is a wonderful piece of architecture working in partnership with the brick buildings and the river Test. Inside the Glasshouses you can learn more about the botanicals and their background.

Gin Botanicals

From the Glasshouse you then make your way into the botanical room where you get to touch and sniff all the botanicals that go into Bombay Sapphire gin and mark down on a score card the ones you like the best for an inspired cocktail at the end of the tour. This was great fun and really interesting not only to sample the botanicals but to see the commonality and differences between what Charlie and I liked and would go into our cocktails.

Distillery tour

Botanical Tour

Straight from the botanical room we headed off on a guided tour of a smaller, but still very impressive, version of the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery and learnt all about the component parts and how the raw alcohol is heated and processed through tanks and tubes into a vapour form to be filtered through the special combination of the botanicals and then cooled back to liquid and blended with water to form the crisp and slightly lemony Bombay Sapphire gin.


Bombay Sapphire Overall

We had a great time at the Bombay Sapphire distillery and really enjoyed walking the grounds, learning about gin and obviously tasting the cocktails. It was really nice to spend some time together as well and have some moments to just sit and enjoy each other’s company over a drink without little voices demanding attention and we would really recommend this for some parent time out.

Useful information

How to get to the distillery

The distillery is easily reached by car from the A34 via the Whitchurch exit. The A34 is easily reached from both the M4 and M3. Unfortunately, the Bombay distillery is limited on public transport options so one of your party will need to drive, or you could treat yourself to a taxi.


Sadly, they don’t yet have a restaurant at the Bombay distillery so your only option for food is a sandwich and packet of crisps. This is a real shame as a nice meal together really would have capped of a fun day out. However, there is a pub down the road or a few eating options in the nearby village of Whitchurch.

Staying near by

Two good options if you are looking for somewhere to stay nearby are the Norton park QHotel (rated 8.2 on and the Bourne Valley Inn (rated 8.6 on these ratings were taken on the 16th of May 2016 from the website.


The distillery tour and cocktail masterclass costs £30 per person through the Bombay Sapphire Website (as of 5th June 2016) and we advise that you do book ahead. We purchased our tickets through a special offer on Travel Zoo just before Christmas.

Ideas and inspiration

The distillery also catered for large groups and to save on the driving it might be worth investigating a group booking with a number of friends and then hiring a minibus taxi to take you to and from the distillery.

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