IT WAS a splendid and spectacular launch event befitting a splendid and spectacular achievement.

More than 300 people flocked to the revived and revamped Laverstoke Mill last Wednesday night for the exclusive unveiling of the new UK home of Bombay Sapphire.

Clients from some of the gin company’s biggest markets, including China, Spain, France and Germany, attended the black-tie VIP opening of the landmark multi-million-pound distillery which has been created from the decaying former mill buildings.

Estate manager Will Brix, who has overseen the project from the acquisition of the derelict mill in 2011, talked to guests about the history of the site – which was bought by Henry Portal in 1719 – and the importance of keeping the mill’s history at the forefront of the transformation, before unveiling two spectacular centrepiece glasshouse buildings designed by acclaimed English artist Thomas Heatherwick – the man who designed the spectacular unfolding Olympic flame centrepiece at the 2012 London Olympics.

Will told The Gazette: “It is good to put Laverstoke Mill back on the map. It has been a fantastic process.

"The team are glad about taking it from where it was to where we want it to be because it takes a lot of planning, and we can’t wait to open the doors to the public. I think it is going to be an incredible base and I cannot wait.”

After the big reveal, visitors had the chance to look around the glasshouses, which are made from over 700 unique pieces of glass, and a botanical dry room where Bombay Sapphire – which is owned by the Bacardi family – display some of the key ingredients used to make their iconic gin.

Guests were given a personal interactive guide equipped with a microchip to allow them to learn more about the work that goes into making the famous gin.

When exploring the site, visitors will be able to use the maps to log into different locations to read and listen to audio clips providing more information about the work that goes into making the spirit.

Nik Fordham, master distiller at Bombay Sapphire, talked guests through the vapour infusion distillation process on a guided tour in the Dakin Still House.

He told The Gazette: “It is just perfect to be able to welcome people in and I hope everyone will be as proud as I am.

“We are really appreciative of everyone, and we have got so many friends in the community so we want to work with them and make sure we become an asset to Laverstoke.”

Visitors also went behind-the-scenes in India House – a building that houses two large vapour infusion stills used to make the iconic spirit – and the Mill Bar and Gin Shop.

Among those at the big launch was Laverstoke Park Farm owner Jody Scheckter and his wife Clare.

Mr Scheckter is currently working with the gin company on a partnership that would see a Laverstoke Park Farm restaurant and farm shop sited near the entrance of the distillery.

Food including pork belly and boar burgers from the farm were served to guests at the launch night.

Giving his verdict on the dramatic transformation of Laverstoke Mill, Mr Scheckter told The Gazette: “I think Bombay Sapphire have done an absolutely fantastic job.”

The Bombay Sapphire Distillery will be open to the public from October 1. For more information, visit

Bombay Sapphire factfile:

  • The Bombay Sapphire story started in 1761 when Thomas Dakin developed a unique recipe for gin from a blend of eight exotic botanicals from around the world. The “secret” recipe was handed down from distiller to distiller and became the base for the iconic Bombay Sapphire gin and all other Bombay gin varieties.
  • Thomas Dakin’s daughter-in-law, Mary bought two new steam-jacket stills in 1831 and 1836. According to an historical receipt of the purchase, there was an adaptation to the original design – a separate perforated copper basket to hold the botanicals away from the neutral grain spirit to create a unique distillation process called vapour infusion distillation.
  • In the 1950s – 200 hundred years after Thomas Dakin first created his gin – American entrepreneur Allan Subin came to England in search of the perfect gin to import for the gin martini cocktail which was fast becoming a favourite in the US. Subin then came across Dakin’s distillation process and after choosing to import his gin, he opted for the name “Bombay” and displayed Queen Victoria on the front of the bottle, in homage to the days of the British Raj when Queen Victoria ruled as Empress of India.
  • The Bombay Sapphire gin variety known today was created in 1985 when Michael Roux, of Carillon Importers and the Bombay Spirits Company, had an idea for a new gin. They worked with Bombay London Dry Gin’s master distiller to develop a new premium gin that would be an evolution of Thomas Dakin’s original recipe. As a result, cubeb berries from Java and grains of paradise from West Africa were added to Dakin’s recipe to form the new product, Bombay Sapphire.
  • After creating the spirit, the search was then underway on the best way to brand the new variety of gin and they came across a famous “Star of Bombay” 182 carat sapphire. Following the find, Bombay Sapphire was born, being displayed in a blue bottle with Queen Victoria and a large cut sapphire on the front. The spirit is now sold in over 120 countries worldwide.