Five Great Reasons to Visit Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England

Five Great Reasons to Visit Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England

Five Great Reasons to Visit Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England
Photo Courtesy of Bombay Sapphire

In 2014, Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England, reopened to the public after a major face-lift that repurposed it from tumbledown, derelict paper mill into a gleaming, state-of-the-art distillery for BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin. Never heard of Laverstoke Mill? Here are five great reasons to pay a visit the next time you’re traveling in England.

1—Geek out with other English history buffs.

Laverstoke Mill was originally built around 903 AD, which means that nearly 1,000 years of history has transpired on the small, five-acre site. By 1086, a corn mill was recorded as existing on the site. In the early 1700s, the mill was purchased and used for paper production. The paper mill secured the exclusive right to manufacture high quality paper for bank notes for the Bank of England in 1724.

For more than 200 years, Laverstoke Mill produced paper for currency and received visits from prominent dignitaries. Owned at one point by William the Conqueror, a parade of royals has graced Laverstoke Mill’s grounds over the years. The most recent royal visit was Queen Elizabeth II in 1962.

In the new Heritage Room at the mill, history buffs can step into the past and soak up centuries of stories, including tales of the mill’s appropriation by King Henry VIII during his infamous dissolution of the monasteries.

2—See beautiful botanical glasshouses.

Two masterfully designed glasshouses look more like graceful water features than shelters for growing plants. Seeming to stream from an adjacent building, the glass and steel structures appear to flow outward and fall like a gentle shower around the plants within.

The glasshouses were built to house the 10 exotic botanicals that are the key ingredients for creating BOMBAY SAPPHIRE’s unique flavor profile. Each glasshouse recreates humid tropical or dry Mediterranean climates. The two ecosystems contain around 120 species of plants, all necessary to nurture the 10 botanicals used in BOMBAY SAPPHIRE production: juniper, lemon peel, grains of paradise, coriander, cubeb berries, orris root, almonds, cassia bark, licorice, and angelica.

Never known for ignoring design during new construction, Bacardi contracted well-known British architect Thomas Heatherwick to design the new facility. Heatherwick’s team painstakingly restored the many heritage buildings on the site, preserving the Georgian and Victorian architecture. The more modern-style glasshouses add grace and style, seeming to “float” on the nearby River Test.

3—Bats!

We’re talking about Bacardi, here; of course there are bats! And not only bats, but a host of other wildlife makes its home along the banks of the river. Otters, kingfishers, heron, ducks, swans, geese, red kites, brown trout, and egrets join the bats in an ecosystem that the government has designed a Conservation Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Before construction could begin, Bacardi and its contractors ensured that the wildlife would be minimally affected. Four hundred fish were temporarily re-homed, as were various bat species. A careful selection of aquatic plants was added to the wetland area to encourage more biodiversity. Contractors installed a fish guard in front of the hydro-electric turbine so that no fish would be sacrificed for power at the mill. Finally, more than 20 bat boxes were built to aid in the repopulation of Bacardi’s prized symbol of health and good fortune.

4—Learn what a truly green distillery looks like.

The redesign at Laverstoke Mill has created a sustainable manufacturing facility, and it represents the first refurbishment as well as the first distillery to win the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) Award.

The mill employs a biomass boiler that runs concurrently with the gas boiler; the biomass boiler can generate 90% of the steam required for operation of the two primary stills. Sustainably sourced woodchips from a supplier just five miles away are the primary feedstock, supplemented with spent botanical byproducts of the distillation process. To complete the circle, ash from the biomass boiler is collected and used as fertilizer by the woodchip supplier.

The distillery also recovers and redistributes the heat produced during distillation. This warmth keeps the glasshouses at their perfect temperature, eliminating the need for a “heat sink,” which would require energy to run.

Other sustainability measures include the careful ecosystem preservation outlined above. In addition, no water is taken from the River Test for any distillery operations. Solar panels and a 1963 reconditioned open-flume water turbine provide renewable power for some of the distillery’s electricity needs.

5—Craft the perfect cocktail in a masterclass.

During your visit to Laverstoke Mill, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a Gin Cocktail Masterclass. Taught by a specially trained Gin Expert, the class will discuss the history of various cocktails, explain the special bar tools used to make them, and show you how to recreate these refreshing drinks at home. Even if you skip the masterclass, you can still relax in The Mill Bar and sip a complimentary cocktail while enjoying views of the River Test.

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