The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd

Visitor Attractions

Spirit Maker

Bombay Sapphire has set down roots at Laverstoke Mill, in Hampshire, UK, where all its gin will now be distilled. Visitors are invited to make themselves at home

Bombay Sapphire has founded a brandland in the heart of the English countryside. The site is surrounded by woodland, just an hour from London.

The Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill is indeed a working distillery, but the public is also invited to explore the production facility, the architecture and the picturesque site, which is on the banks of the River Test.

Central to the experience are the two striking glass houses, designed by award-winning designer Thomas Heatherwick. In a clever twist, the glass houses recycle the heat created by the distillation process to create the warmth needed for specimens of the gin’s botanicals to grow. Inside the glass houses, visitors learn about the plants and their origins, through the educational listening posts and interactive touch screen displays.

It’s interesting to see the Georgian and Victorian buildings and learn about their history – British bank notes used to be made here. Visitors can go inside the renovated buildings – only a few are off limits – and they’ll see two huge copper stills from the 1830s and learn about the distillation process in the Dakin House.

The heritage of the site is explained clearly through photographs and other artefacts, signs, and audio information.

A highlight for the visitor is the interactive Tasting Adventure. Samples of the 10 botanicals are on display for visitors to sniff, taste and touch as they experiment with flavour and scent. This is enjoyable for children as well as adults.

The Self-Discovery Experience – £15 ($23, €20) for an adult and £10 ($15, €13) for a child – allows you to explore the whole riverside site and enjoy a complimentary cocktail in the bar. The experience takes a couple of hours. Visitors who do not wish to drink or who are driving are offered a soft drink in the Mill Bar, and receive a free takeaway cocktail kit for when they get home.

Tickets can be upgraded to include a gin workshop for £15 ($38, €34) or a cocktail masterclass for £35 ($54, €48).

When Heatherwick designed this multi-million-pound brandland, he made the visitor experience integral to the masterplan. His addition of tropical “greenhouses” got Bombay Sapphire instant publicity.

Meller, GWP, Arup and Giles Quarme heritage consultants and SKM Enviros were among others involved.

Will Brix, estate manager at Bombay Sapphire Distillery, says brandland attractions appeal to modern consumers. “They want to know and verify everything,” Brix says. “We want people to see the craftsmanship behind our gin because, whatever you make, if you say it’s high quality, people want to see it with their own eyes.”

Brix has been with Bacardi, the parent company, for 10 years and with Bombay Sapphire Spirits Company for the past seven. He talked to Attractions Management and gave us a facility tour.

What does your job entail?
As estate manager I handle visitors and publicity. I work with the master distiller, Nik Fordham, who’s in charge of production – 25 million litres of gin a year.

Can you describe the visitor experience?
It’s going behind the curtains of Bombay Sapphire, seeing the people and the place where it’s made, where all the ingredients come from. Visitors can come and see the distillery, the raw ingredients, the production process.

Beyond that, if you’re interested in history, architecture, sustainability, horticulture or ecology, then there’s something for everyone to come and have a look at. Laverstoke Mill is a fascinating place in its own right, but being the home of Bombay Sapphire is the jewel in the crown, if you’ll excuse the pun.

The site was already amazing, but the glass houses add a bit of modernity, and Bombay Sapphire has always been about the old and new juxtaposition, and I think this lives up to it perfectly.

How did the project come about?
There was a fire in 2006 at the facility where Bombay Sapphire was produced by our contractor. After the fire we decided we were big enough to set up our own distillery. The operations side was trying to deal with rising demand while producing the gin as sustainably as possible. On the experiential and marketing side, we wanted to show the craftsmanship and skill that go into every drop of Bombay Sapphire. We also had huge traditional copper stills, dating back to 1831, to distil the gin, which we’ve made central to the new home.

How did you end up at this Victorian paper mill in the countryside?
We wanted the English countryside to be the setting for our iconic English gin. We also wanted a site which was suitable for redevelopment. We were inspired by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, which says the English countryside is a finite resource that needs to be preserved. We wanted to repurpose or bring a building back to life instead of building fresh.

This Hampshire site dates back to 903. We achieved our commercial aspirations and restored a piece of English heritage.

How many visitors do you hope to attract?
We have a visitor target of around 80,000 a year. We have a maximum daily capacity, but we have a well-considered system to restrict numbers as needs be.

Why did you commission Heatherwick Studio?
We had a long-standing relationship with Thomas Heatherwick. He won a glass design competition we ran about 10 years ago and he’s judged competitions for us in the past. There was a natural tie-in with their ideas. Heatherwick Studio had that added insight about who we are and that was big for us. We didn’t want to just do it, we wanted to do it how Bombay Sapphire would do it. Thomas was part of the team who first came to this derelict site and he was as excited as we were.

The distillery received a BREEAM outstanding certification. What are its sustainable attributes?
We generate hydroelectricity, we’ve got photovoltaic panels and at the heart of the operation we’ve got a sustainable biomass boiler. The boiler burns locally sourced renewable woodchip as well as the spent botanicals from the distillation process.

The site has such a long history. Did you work with heritage consultants?
We worked with English Heritage and we worked extensively with the conservation office and the local community as well. As they made bank notes here, everything had to be destroyed for security reasons, so there was no archive. There was nothing here but a couple of artefacts.

We wanted to know what had happened. We’d heard stories but we had to verify them ourselves so we hired an archivist and she spoke to everyone in the local area. She probably got enough information to write a book, so we’ve built a dialogue with the local community. People were happy that we wanted to compile an archive and we’re going to introduce heritage tours later this year.

Was it important to have the local community on board?
Before we acquired the site, a developer was planning to build 70 houses, which would have radically altered the character of the village. People favoured this return to industrial usage. It’s uncommon for a big project, but we had unanimous backing. We’re bringing high-quality goods manufacturing back to Laverstoke.

Are there any benefits for locals?
There’s a season pass for locals. The bar, shop and Heritage Room are free of charge to all. We have regulars at the weekends who come in for cocktails. Everyone here has a connection to this place. One of our hosts is a fifth-generation mill worker. In the Heritage Room, people point out their great-great-grandfathers and great-great-aunts – it’s brilliant. They bring their friends and relatives to do the experience. They’re offered a loyalty card which means they pay once but can return as many times as they like.

It seems the visitor experience has been central to the design process from the beginning?
It was designed from scratch with that in mind. We wanted it to be about self-discovery. We didn’t want it to be a didactic museum experience with a “visitor centre” at a working distillery. A visitor centre is often 50 per cent about the amenities and 50 per cent about the attraction. We wanted to be 90 per cent about the attraction. That’s a difficult brief to Heatherwick, who’s not the biggest fan of “visitor centres” as a concept, and I think he responded really well by building different elements into an experience.

Laverstoke Mill Timeline

First mention of a mill on site

Laverstoke Mill recorded in
Domesday Book

Acquired by Henry Portal

Portal built the existing mill to manufacture paper

Mill produces watermarked bank note paper for the Bank of England

More than 800 people worked at the mill

The last bank note left for Western Samoa. Laverstoke Mill ceased milling paper

Laverstoke Mill officially declared derelict

Site purchased by St James Homes

Recession prevented housing development plans from advancing

Bombay Sapphire bought the site

Work begins to transform site into a visitor experience and working distillery

The Bombay Sapphire Distillery opens in October

An aerial view of Laverstoke Mill, with the glass houses central to the attraction / photo: © iwan baan
An aerial view of Laverstoke Mill, with the glass houses central to the attraction photo: © iwan baan

The Glass Houses

Eliot Postma / photo: © elena heatherwick
Eliot Postma photo: © elena heatherwick
Eliot Postma,

Project manager,

Heatherwick Studio

“A lovely thing about Bombay Sapphire is the crazy lengths they go to source their botanicals, from India, China and Spain. We loved that as part of their story. A quirk of the distillation process is that it produces a huge amount of excess heat. These two things came together and we saw an opportunity to create a couple of greenhouses that could use the excess energy to grow specimens of the botanicals that go into the gin. The hot air is circulated from the still building into the glass houses. We created a tropical and a Mediterranean glass house alongside the stills, right in the heart of the site.

There’s an amazing Victorian heritage of glass house engineering in the UK – like the Palm House at Kew Gardens. We brought that Victorian elegance to the 21st century by applying the most innovative glass technology. We created a very contemporary glass structure that isn’t afraid of the steel, using the steel to accentuate the form of the glass houses.”

Waste produced by the distillation process in the still house is recycled to warm the botanical glass houses / photo: © heatherwick studios
Waste produced by the distillation process in the still house is recycled to warm the botanical glass houses photo: © heatherwick studios

The Bombay visitor experience

Visitors to the distillery at Laverstoke Mill are free to roam around much of the site. With a simple map and a number of gramophone-inspired listening points, with multilingual audio, visitors determine their own route and pace around the attraction.

The Heritage Room
The room introduces the history of the site with artefacts and photographs

The Glass Houses
Visitors learn about the different plants that form the ingredients of Bombay Sapphire in Heatherwick Studio’s glass houses

Botanical Dry Room
In the dry room, visitors embark on a “tasting adventure” where they can sample and smell specimens of the botanics. If they record their preferences, a gin cocktail can be tailored to their tastes at the Mill Bar

Dakin Still House
Visitors see the historic copper stills and learn about the vapour infusion process

The Mill Bar
Visitors can enjoy a cocktail or two in the bar, which has no admission charge

The Gin Academy
For an extra fee, take a gin workshop or a cocktail masterclass in this event space

The retail offering includes Bombay Sapphire limited-edition products ... and gin

In the dry room, visitors can try ingredients ranging from cubeb berry to cassia bark
In the dry room, visitors can try ingredients ranging from cubeb berry to cassia bark
The masterclass is an opportunity to practice making cocktails and learn about cocktail culture
The masterclass is an opportunity to practice making cocktails and learn about cocktail culture
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: DJW
DJW offer a way to interpret your story through the use of technology. We can provide Audio Visual consultancy to assist in the planning stage, follow up with AV system design, supply and installation, and provide a bespoke control system to suit your operational needs.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
Euphoria Retreat
"Come to Euphoria Retreat if you’re looking for a full health-boost, you’ll leave feeling completely rejuvenated"

Wellbeing Escapes and Well Home have partnered to bring you this special offer for the Euphoria Retreat in Greece

Jackie Koo of Koo Architecture
"Millennials are investing more in experiences versus physical things"

How millennial travellers are transforming hotel design

The 2013 Pritzker jury described Ito as a “creator of timeless buildings”
Toyo Ito was born in Seoul in 1941. He studied architecture at the University of Tokyo
"I have one dream with my work. Architecture should equal nature"

The Pritzker Prize-winner talks about inspiration, battling bureaucracy and the Tokyo National Olympic Stadium saga with Kim Megson

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
The V&A Dundee will be Kengo Kuma’s first UK building. It is currently under construction and is due for completion in 2017
kengo Kuma
"It’s not easy for foreign architects to work in Japan. Zaha was very frustrated with the miscommunication"

The Tokyo Olympic Stadium designer shares his philosophies

The Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant features 12m-high floor-to-ceiling windows
Dana Kalczak
"If we had focused entirely on high tech in the hotel, the artistry we normally strive for would have been compromised"

Four Seasons’ vice president of design speaks to CLAD about working with Norman Foster and creating magical moments

Ocean Flower is part of the Five Lagoons development in the Maldives
Architect Koen Olthuis
"I mean flexibility on a larger scale, where cities and urban planners are able to move a complete neighbourhood half a mile"

Architect Koen Olthuis says floating buildings will change the world

Project architect Humberto Plaza
"You can feel God here. When I first saw the site, it felt like heaven on earth. I fell instantly in love with it "

Designing an eco hotel for the Galapagos Islands that allowed the stunning natural surroundings to take centre stage while minimising its impact on the land presented its own unique set of challenges, Ecuadorian architect Humberto Plaza tells Kathryn Hudson

The Bird’s Nest Pool Villas feature a pool and terrace, and ocean view baths. They are inspired by the fictional Rung-Nok community
"Looking back, local people knew how to live among the forest, using knowledge and resources to benefit their wellbeing"

Phuket’s entrepreneurial Somnam family decided they wanted to create a resort with a difference for the island Keemala was the result

cladkit product news
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
cladkit product news
Eco Resort Network conference to convene in Mauritius this May
The event will be hosted in the Mauritius in 2024
Megan Whitby
Hospitality industry event Eco Resort Network is set to take place at the Ravenala Attitude Hotel, Turtle Bay, Mauritius, from ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
cladkit product news
Ojmar introduces battery-free electronic locker to cut carbon footprints in health clubs and spas
Ojmar says the batteryless lock is easy to install and features a user-friendly interface
Megan Whitby
Smart lock manufacturer Ojmar has released the OTS20 Batteryless – the first battery-free electronic locker lock on the market. The ...
CSI Design Expo Americas 2024 announces new Attractions & Entertainment Technology Zone
The event will allow buyers and suppliers to meet
Magali Robathan
Cruise Ship Interiors (CSI) invites cruise lines, shipyards, design studios, outfitters, and suppliers to take part in CSI Design Expo ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd