Anyone who knows me will know that my main passions in life are travelling, food and fine wine. I do have another guilty pleasure though, and that is Gin, so when I was asked by friends if I would like to go to a Gin cocktail masterclass at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke I jumped at the chance.
Gin Cocktail Masterclass at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery
A mill was first recorded at Laverstoke in 1086 in the Domesday Book. In 1712 paper making began at the mill and by 1724 the mill was contracted as the official supplier of banknote paper to the Bank of England. Paper making finally ceased at the mill in 1963, and it wasn’t until 2010 when Bombay Sapphire acquired the Laverstoke Mill for their distillery. Bombay Sapphire have been creating Gin since 1761 and after moving into Laverstoke, they opened their doors to the public in 2014 so that everyone could enjoy their Gin experience.
Bombay Sapphire offer a range of tours and experiences at their Laverstoke distillery, from the self discovery experience to their ultimate experience. With seven experiences in total to choose from, prices range from £16pp to £150pp so there is definitely something here for everyone. I took part in the Gin cocktail masterclass at a cost of £45pp which included a cocktail masterclass, a self-discovery tour, a fifteen minute guided tour of their still house as well as a complimentary drink at the bar.
The Gin Cocktail Masterclass
The Gin cocktail masterclass lasted for an hour. Upon arrival our gin expert introduced herself and gave us a brief overview of the distillery and what we could expect from our masterclass. There were about 40 people in the master class and we were arranged into a horseshoe shape with all the equipment and ingredients that we needed for the cocktails laid out in front of each person.
The first thing on the agenda was to sample Bombay Sapphire’s Gin. The Gin was watered down to 20% so you could actually taste the botanicals in the gin without the volume of alcohol being overpowering. We then proceeded to make our first cocktail which consisted of gin and a choice of three cordials. This cocktail was called a Gimlet. We were then encouraged to try the drink, but only a small amount of it because we would then be using this cocktail as the base for the next. We added an additional ingredient, a choice of three possible citrus slices to the drink which created a completely new cocktail, which is known as a Gin Sour.
Next our Gin expert demonstrated how to make a Martini Leggero, which is a Gin Martini made with tonic water. For this Martini they used Rosato Vermouth and also a small amount of Fever Tree cucumber tonic. She made a large enough batch of the cocktail so that we could all have a small sample of it. I had never thought of making a Martini with Rosato Vermouth but it turned out to be a very nice Martini, and with the addition of tonic water it made a very refreshing summer drink.
The last drink that we made in the masterclass was the Laverstoke, which is the Bombay Sapphire Distillery’s flagship cocktail. Once we had finished making this cocktail we made our way outside to the lovely riverside patio and enjoyed our fantastic creations in the beautiful sunshine.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery Self Discovery Tour
After we finished our drinks we started the self-discovery tour of the distillery. Our first stop was at their iconic glass houses. There are two glass houses, each housing the plants that are used to obtain all the botanicals that can be found in Bombay Sapphire Gin. The larger of the glass houses has a Mediterranean climate and the smaller has a more tropical climate. These glass houses are a fantastic visual aid which really help you to visualise how and where these plants grow and also give you a feel for the conditions where they thrive. There is also a heritage room and gallery where you can learn about the history of Laverstoke Mill as well as Bombay Sapphire Gin.
One of the most exciting stops on the self discovery tour is a trip to the botanical dry room. When you enter the room you are given an aroma map which has 22 markers on, each relate to one of the 22 aromas you can smell in this room. The idea is to punch a hole by the numbers on your map for the aromas that you like, and when you are finished the map will suggest a cocktail from the bar menu for you based on the where most of your favourite aromas are on the map. My map indicated that I liked the spicy aromas most, so I opted for a ‘Queen of Hearts’ cocktail at the bar after my tour.
At the far end of the botanical dry room is the door that you need to head for if you would like the 15 minute guided tour throughout the Dakin Still House. Before entering the still house you have a quick health and safety talk, and are asked to use hand sanitiser as you are effectively entering a food preparation area.
During the tour of the still house you will be given a brief overview of the history of Bombay Sapphire and explain the Gin-making process, and the role that each part of the equipment plays within that process. They will also introduce you to their two oldest stills, Thomas and Mary and tell you the story behind how got their names.
After we had taken the tour of the stills we made our way to the Mill bar and ordered our cocktails as selected for us by our aroma map. The bar has adequate seating indoors on the main level, and more on a mezzanine which overlooks the bar below. As the weather was good we enjoyed our cocktails outside. There is also a Gin shop on site which we visited before leaving. What Gin lover could visit a Gin distillery without purchasing any Gin to take home? I purchased a bottle of their special edition English Estate Gin. There is also a double decker bus on site which has been transformed into a café and snack bar. I arrived half an hour early for my Gin Cocktail Masterclass so I grabbed a coffee and a toastie here before the class started.
I spent almost five hours at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in total and had a fantastic time. I would highly recommend a day out here to anyone, Gin lover or not because Laverstoke Mill is just bursting with heritage and is set in stunning countryside. Would I return…? Yes, in a heartbeat!