Bombay Sapphire is delighted to be making its home in beautiful Hampshire and will take passion, pride and care in the transformation of the historic Laverstoke Mill into a state of the art gin distillery and visitors centre. Now, as the restoration gets underway, great attention will be paid to the site’s elegant heritage, whilst care, skill and imagination will be applied to secure its bright future.
2013 has already been a hugely exciting year for the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill. Most recently we’ve seen the installation of the stills used in the production of Bombay Sapphire gin, and the site is already starting to look like the state-of-the-art distillery it will soon become.
However, there’s no time for the Bombay Sapphire team to rest on their laurels as they work hard on the creation of the distillery. To get an update on what’s happening at the site, we caught up with Bombay Sapphire Master Distiller Nik Fordham who spoke to us about his part in the project and what we can expect to see from the finished distillery. A recent addition to the team, Nik joined Bombay Sapphire in January of this year, and possesses extensive experience in the gin industry in a role that allows him to combine his twin passions of business and chemistry.
So Nik, what does being a Master Distiller involve?
I currently spend most of my time advising on the construction of the distillery. However, when we’re up and running I will be responsible for the team that will be producing the full range of Bombay gins. I will also have overall responsibility for the site, so I will be making sure that the distillery is a safe place to work and visit.
What is the best part of your day?
At the moment no two days are the same, which is absolutely fantastic. We’re undergoing a very compressed design and build process, with lots going on at any one time. I’m looking forward to being able to bring consistency and quality to our distilling at Laverstoke Mill once production begins.
How are you finding working in Hampshire?
Laverstoke is a great place to live and work. Having previously lived 2 miles from the site of the distillery, I’ve spent a huge amount of time riding through the countryside on both bike and horse, so in some ways I am returning rather than moving to the area. We are building a distillery with unparalleled facilities in the centre of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). We’re particularly excited about building a distillery that exists in harmony with England's purest chalk stream, the River Test. The river is stunningly beautiful, and supports an amazing spectrum of wildlife (ranging from otters and trout to kingfishers and wagtails).
Why is it so important to have such a focus on sustainability at Laverstoke Mill?
Sustainability is vitally important to Bombay Sapphire and runs through all that we do, and has underpinned all of our plans for the distillery. As such, we were delighted to achieve an outstanding BREEAM design stage accreditation for the distillery process buildings. However we always actively seek ways to minimise our carbon footprint, working with The Carbon Trust and using environmentally sensitive technology such as our photovoltaic cells and water turbine. Fundamentally, we also believe building such a sustainable distillery makes financial sense, which is why we are heating our glass houses using recovered heat from the distillery and using our spent botanicals to partially fuel our Biomass boiler.
What’s special about the Bombay Sapphire distillery process?
Bombay Sapphire isn’t like any other gin. It goes through a very unique distillation process - rather than boiling the botanicals directly in the spirit to achieve the flavour, the taste of Bombay Sapphire is created through a vapour infusion process. This means that the 10 botanicals that are used in Bombay Sapphire are held separately from the spirit in perforated copper baskets. When the alcohol vapours rise through the infuser baskets, the essential oils of the botanicals are released and captured within the spirit, which leads to Bombay Sapphire’s broader more balanced flavour. As such, my job is to make sure that Bombay Sapphire gin continues to be produced with the care, skill and imagination that has made it a global success.
Why does Bombay Sapphire want to open the doors of its distillery at Laverstoke Mill?
We wanted to open the doors of the distillery in order to showcase the care, passion and skill that goes into crafting every bottle of Bombay Sapphire. We’re also very excited to be sharing the vapour infusion process, and how it creates a gin of unrivalled balance and flavour that can be enjoyed in a number of drinks, from the Ultimate G & T to being part of an incredible Martini.
If you could host one visitor at the distillery who would it be?
My father passed away last year and if I could host him on site it would be fantastic. He was the most influential person in my life, with a huge amount of experience and insight. He was also a Chemical Engineer, and I would love to take him through the processes behind our distillation.
What can visitors expect when they go to Laverstoke Mill when it opens?
Visitors can expect to see the whole of our process. They will be able to explore the origins of our botanicals and their role in Bombay Sapphire gin's distinctive profile , before having the chance to touch and smell all that goes on with a tour through one of our still houses. After this, they’ll be able to discover the history of Bombay Sapphire before learning the history of Laverstoke Mill. Finally, they’ll be able to enjoy an incredible cocktail in our on-site bar whilst watching the sparkling and crystal clear River Test as it flows past.
And finally, what’s been the most exciting part of working on the refurbishment of the Laverstoke Mill site so far?
There has been so many great experiences working on this project, and the first time I witnessed our resident family of otters was a very special moment. However, for me the most exciting part of this refurbishment is the opportunity to help shape and create the distillery that will be the home of Bombay Sapphire. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience.