I had some errands to run in Basingstoke this afternoon; on the way back I stopped by the new Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke, next to Whitchurch, Hampshire (or Overton depending on your allegiances).
Today was its first day open to the public. It is wonderful to behold.
Thankfully you don’t have to pay to see the front area (exteriors and lovely River Test) and to enjoy the shop and bar (open til 6 for cocktails) – I didn’t have much time (or the inclination to pay £15 without bringing the family along too – kids to age 11 can get in for free) so the cocktails will have to wait until next time…when we cycle over!
The staff were all very welcoming and quite receptive to ideas put to them (!) about incorporating silk from the Whitchurch Silk Mill into say silk ties for their uniforms; and a nice ribbon for the £100,000 crystal bottle of gin (and lesser items).
The staff are all encouraged to cycle, walk, take the bus, or car share to get to and from the site. They’re considering putting on a bus to shuttle people from the Whitchurch and Overton train stations too. The managers and staff that I spoke with also like the idea put to them (!) about reducing the road danger along the B3400 with the creation of space for cycling ie a segregated path (several cycle into work already).
They said the bicycle storage building will open up in the spring after the last of the building works are complete. Whilst I was in the bar, the place was unofficially launched: a just-filled glass of gin cocktail was accidentally smashed (not by me!).
The company has rejuvenated the Mill and made it a place to behold. They won the BREEAM award for their “best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation” and rightly so from what I saw and what I heard from the staff on site.
Aside: Earlier today we toured Testbourne – rated an ‘outstanding’ school by OFSTED! – as our son Tolii will be starting there next year. The caretaker told me that the big gear that used to be on the pedestal in front of the ICT building had come from the Portal family who refurbished the Mill a few decades ago now. Unfortunately, a lorry driver banged into it in the mid-2000s and toppled it over, breaking the massive cast iron gear. Presumably it got carted away and melted down.
My short video on YouTube: Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery opens in Laverstoke, Hampshire