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VISIT TO BOMBAY SAPPHIRE DISTILLERY, LAVERSTOKE, WHITCHURCH
Wednesday 9 March 2016

The event, despite the early date in the year, was very well received by the membership and again, despite the prevailing weather condition on the day, all those who booked turned up. Parking the cars, mainly club cars, in the reserved car park was very unpleasant and I got soaked and cold but hey ho, a man has to do etc.

Some confusion emanating from, it transpires, that our party of forty-six was to date the largest single tour that the distillery had undertaken. So they had no prior experience in dealing with two groups of twenty-two plus visitors. Whilst they did pretty well, trying to cope, it was apparent that our guide was not used to broadcasting her voice to so many people and decided, following a word in her ear, to speak very quickly rather than slow and loud. Also we did not see all the rooms available to view as I assume we were creating a bottleneck.

This all sounds very negative but to the contrary. Whilst it was a little haphazard I was the only one who realised we were not seeing all there was to see and the experience was enjoyed, I believe, by all. In fact whilst there are members who always show their appreciation, getting phone calls and emails or thank you letters is pretty rare, and I got four on this occasion, in addition to all the thank yous on the day.


Bombay Sapphire glass houses   Bombay Sapphire glass houses

The site is spread out, taking up various functions of the distillery in several historic outbuildings so, going from one section to another involves going outside. Our first visit was the extraordinary complicated designed two glass houses. These housed samples of the spices and herbs used in the manufacture of the Sapphire gin. As most are of tropical origin they have to be grown in glass houses. The buildings are made up from curved and twisted metal frames holding curved panes of glass. Impossible, I would think, without the aid of computerised design and fabrication. The distillery has won an award for the most eco-friendly distillery in the world. Heat from the manufacturing process is collected and redistributed throughout the complex keeping waste to a minimum.

The aroma room   The aroma room

After viewing the glass houses our next visit was into the aroma room. Here members sniffed the contents of various jars holding things like ginger, six different types of lemon, cardamom, cumin coriander etc. Each member had been given a card and on that was the entire list of all those ingredients. A ticket punch was then used by each person to punch holes in the relative location depicting the ones they preferred. Later the cards were presented to the bar staff who, dependent on your personal preferences, made a personalised Bombay Sapphire cocktail. Mindful some of us were driving there was a special presentation sample for those to take home.

Display of glasses   Distillery still

We visited the distillery stills, unfortunately only the modern ones as the other much older originals were in yet another building which required another soaking to view them. We were given an interesting talk and allowed to test the alcohol in its raw state, an experience which lingered for about an hour, and heard about the well-paid specialists whose job is to smell and taste the product as it progresses through the system. Apparently a very skilled job requiring unique taste and smell abilities, akin to those required in the wine and perfumery production businesses.

The River Test was flowing well on the day and numerous trout could be seen swimming against the flow.

Chris Tween - Section Chairman

Photos: Chris Tween