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Cheers to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour for Lovers of History and Gin

In England by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch11 Comments

If you love history and gin, then you must take a Bombay Sapphire Distillery tour. This tour starts with an informative peek behind the scenes at Bombay Sapphire and ends with cocktails.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

The complex at Bombay Sapphire offers a true juxtaposition between old and new with historic buildings right beside two futuristic glass greenhouses.

Kids in a candy store. That’s what we felt like as we sniffed the different herbs in the Botanical Dry Room during our tour at Bombay Sapphire’s new distillery, opened in 2014, at a former eighteenth-century paper mill that has a documented history dating back to 1086.

With cutting-edge glass greenhouses designed by Thomas Heatherwick situated right next to traditional brick buildings in a natural country setting, the distillery is notable for its design alone. The undulating shape of the buildings makes them look organic and modern at the same time. But that’s just the start of the Bombay Sapphire distillery tour.

Mindi and Daryl at Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

Although it’s only been open since 2014, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery has retained several historic buildings. Here we stand next to the Mill Cottages building at the beginning of our Bombay Sapphire self guided distillery tour.

During our recent visit to Southern England, we were excited to add a Bombay Sapphire Distillery tour to our busy itinerary. We toured the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery during our US road trip earlier this year, but we had never been to a gin distillery.

With G&T’s being all the rage in cities like NYC and Barcelona, we were intrigued to learn more about the most important ingredient in the ubiquitous cocktail invented by British colonists in India over 150 years ago.

Disclosure – Wine is normally our drink of choice, though we’ve been known to partake in a G&T or two on a hot summer’s day.

Pro Tip: Bombay Sapphire offers three types of experiences at the distillery – self-guided tours, hosted tours and gin cocktail masterclasses. To avoid disappointment, you should book tickets in advance here.

The Whispering Wall on the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

Daryl was a good listener at each and every ‘whispering wall’ during our self-guided Bombay Sapphire Distillery tour. He didn’t want to miss a bit of the Bombay Sapphire story.

As part of our self-guided tour, we used the special microchip pamphlets at the various ‘whispering walls’ like the one pictured above to hear about the history of the distillery located at Laverstoke Mill. We enjoyed learning about the site’s transformation from a paper mill to a gin mill as well as the sustainable techniques used to incorporate the adjacent River Test and the other natural surroundings.

Bombay Sapphire Bottles on the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

Bombay Sapphire Gin Bottles through the Years

For gin novices such as ourselves, a visit to the Heritage Room is a must. Here, the walls are filled with a detailed history of both gin in general and Bombay Sapphire in particular.

Gin has a fascinating history going back to the 1400’s when genever was invented in the Netherlands to when it became popular in England during the 1600’s to the present. The spirit has a history of waxing and waning popularity due to forces like British taxation and US prohibition, which makes a good read.

NYC lawyer turned entrepreneur Allen Subin launched Bombay Gin in 1960 during the golden era of “Madmen” on Madison Ave. Bombay Sapphire’s history is even shorter than that – the brand was created in 1987 and purchased by Bacardi ten years later.

Glass Greenhouse on the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

View from within one of the Thomas Heatherwick Glass Greenhouses

Just a few steps outside the Heritage Room, the two glass greenhouses offer an introduction to the ten botanicals that are part of the Bombay Sapphire gin formula. We enjoyed our stroll through the striking glasshouses where we observed the exotic botanicals in their natural state before we got to the main part of the tour.

Botanical Dry Room on the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

The Botanical Dry Room is the most special part of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery tour. Here, tour participants sniff different herbs to create individualized flavor profiles based on their favorite scents.

The Botanical Dry Room is the part of the Bombay Sapphire distillery tour that differentiates it from other distillery tours we have taken. Participating in an interactive exercise of smelling botanicals to determine our personal flavor profiles, we totally got into sniffing familiar scents like coriander, lemon peel and juniper as well more exotic scents like licorice root and grains of paradise.

Bombay Sapphire Stills - Thomas and Nancy

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the Dakin Still House, but we got this photo of the Thomas and Mary stills through the glass window.

After sniffing our way through the botanicals, we took a tour of the Dakin Still House. During the brief tour, we met ‘Thomas’ and ‘Mary,’ the two stills that produce the bulk of the gin at the distillery. We enjoyed hearing about Bombay Sapphire’s Vapour Infusion distillation process and used our pinky fingers to taste a freshly distilled batch of 85% proof gin.

We didn’t learn the secret recipe for Bombay Sapphire because … it’s a secret.

Pro Tip: Wear proper shoes for the tour, as people with open-toed shoes and/or high heels are not allowed into the Dakin Still House. Also, be prepared to temporarily abandon cameras, smartphones and fitbits during the distillery tour. Don’t worry – you will get the electronics back upon leaving the two-story room.

Bombaby Sapphire Distillery Tour Mixologist

After the tour, Bombay Sapphire mixologists prepare cocktails for participants based on their personal flavor profiles.

The Bombay Sapphire distillery tour ends in an appropriate place – the Mill Bar. Remember those personal flavors profiles? Staff mixologists use the results to craft specialty cocktails for the guests. One cocktail is complimentary with each tour, with additional drinks available for just £5 each.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour Cocktails

Queen Bee Cocktail (left) and Juniper Mule Cocktail (right)

Based on our personal flavor profiles, the bartenders served us two totally different drinks.

Daryl savored a fruity Queen Bee made with freshly squeezed orange juice, Bombay Sapphire gin, orange blossom honey syrup, tonic water, an orange wedge, ground coffee, sugar powder and cubed ice. Meanwhile, Mindi slurped down a spicy Juniper Mule made with Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger beer, bitters, lime wedges, fresh ginger root, caster sugar pink pepperroot, smoked sea salt and cubed ice.

Cheers to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

Cheers to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour!

Pro Tip: The tour ends with a gin themed gift shop where you can purchase souvenir bottles of Bombay Sapphire. The shop also sells standard gin bottles as well a selection of accessories and recipe books.

The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is located at Laverstoke Mill, London Road, Whitchurch RG28 7NR, United Kingdom.

Thirsty for more? Check out what it’s like to take a Buffalo Trace Distillery tour in Kentucky.

Where to Stay and Eat after a Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour

We recommend staying in the New Forest in conjunction with a visit to Bombay Sapphire. Less than an hour away, the New Forest is a great area to stay and dine in conjunction with a visit to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.

We recommend staying at the Balmer Lawn Hotel for its laid-back luxury and eating dinner at THE PIG for a ‘pigalicious’ meal made with seasonal ingredients, many grown on the restaurant’s farm and others foraged locally. Plus, if you didn’t get enough to drink during the Bombay Sapphire Distillery tour, THE PIG has an excellent bar.

Click here to find a great rate for Balmer Lawn Hotel.

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We thank Tourism Southeast for their assistance with our visit to South England. We also thank the team at Bombay Sapphire Distillery for their generous hospitality.

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About the Author

Saveur Magazine's BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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  1. I’m not a gin fan, but this looks like such a fun tour that might just convince me to give it another go!

  2. Im not a huge gin fan, but this sounds fun! Would be interesting to try them!

  3. I would also feel like a kid in a candy store 🙂 Must be super interesting to look around and get rewarded with a nice cocktail afterwards!

  4. Though I am not a gin and tonic person, I would love to do this one – purely for the experience of it. Your post and pictures make it sound so interesting.

  5. Two things: I need to make my own gin from the bushes in my yard; I need a personal mixologist.

  6. The tour is a very interesting and invigorating one, I can see. I am also really fascinated by the complex and how vintage architecture blends in with the futuristic design.

  7. Sounds like you’re having a great time on your travels. You guys look so happy. Great for you! Enjoy….

  8. This looks like it was a great time. I have been meaning to buy some gin.

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