Interview: NIK FORDHAM

Master Distiller at Bombay Sapphire Distillery

Master Distiller at Bombay Sapphire Distillery

What does your role involve?

I'm responsible for all the operational aspects of the site. I look after all the distillation, including supply to bottling and this afternoon, I will be looking at our distillation schedule. The Bombay Sapphire Distillery is very much an operational site. We have a fantastic opportunity to host an active centre for learning, but first and foremost, we make gin. That's our passion.

Are you involved in the group tours?

I am heavily involved in the training of the hosts. It's been wonderful to have a great influence on the educational aspect of the distillery experience. I also do a Master Distiller experience, where I'll take a group of anyone up to 12 people around the distillery with our Senior Ambassador, Sam Carter.


With a new location in Hampshire, are you surprised at the site's success?

We've been delighted with the response, and it is incredibly rewarding for all our staff that the reviews and feedback have been so positive.

It's very much an immersive experience, where our visitors can uncover the fascinating heritage of Laverstoke Mill and Bombay Sapphire Gin, explore our botanicals and tour through the Still. Every guest can enjoy a complimentary cocktail in the Mill Bar at the end of their experience, so I’m sure that helps.


How have the iconic glasshouses improved the overall visitor experience at Bombay Sapphire Distillery?

We wanted to showcase our exotic botanicals in their natural environment, so people can understand where the botanicals have come from. We've foraged around the world for the best botanicals. We've also got another 120 species of plants in there. The Heatherwick Glasshouses marry the old and the new perfectly.

The historic Georgian and Victorian buildings are enhanced by the stunning Glasshouses to provide a real “picture postcard” moment. They are truly unique, but they have a very functional aspect too. They are sustainably managed and also sustainably heated.


Do you have any plans to improve the visitor experience at Bombay Sapphire Distillery?

Even though we have been open less than a year, we are constantly evolving.

We have just introduced catering, so that our guests can enjoy a wider range of food. We have several unique event spaces, so we’re expanding our venue hire options and we are launching more experiences throughout the year.


What would you say is characteristic of Bombay Sapphire?

Many people would instantly think of the distinctive blue bottle, but it is the quality of the liquid inside that sets us apart. The 10 exotic botanicals we use and the vapour infusion process is absolutely critical to delivering a gin of exceptional character.


Talk us through the Star of Bombay

This is a real achievement. We've created a beautiful gin - myself with Ivano Tonutti, our Master of Botanicals, drawing on the experience of our Senior Ambassador, Sam Carter.

It is the first gin from our brand new home in Laverstoke. I'm delighted at how it's been received within the industry, but also by consumers, mixologists and the people who come to visit us.

We looked at how we could make a gin that's almost a sipping gin. A gin that has such smoothness and character that you could drink it neat.

We deconstructed every single aspect of the distillation process. Then, we looked at the contribution of every single botanical, used the core DNA of Bombay Sapphire - so it was still very much part of the House of Bombay portfolio - but then we added ambrette seeds, which is a musk of the plant world, and bergamot, which is beautiful spice element.

You can drink it neat, over ice or it works particularly well in a Gin and Tonic, with Fever-Tree tonic water and a slice of orange.


What can groups expect from a visit to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery?

First and foremost, Laverstoke Mill is a working distillery that has opened its doors to the public; so all guests can go behind the scenes.

Groups can choose from a Self-Discovery Experience or a Fully-Hosted Experience, or we can create Cocktail Masterclasses and other special events for each group.

We’re situated in a Conservation Area along the beautiful River Test, which is England's purest chalk stream. Groups can uncover the fascinating history of Laverstoke Mill, which produced bank note paper for the British Empire for over 250 years.

Marvel at the Heatherwick Glasshouses, and then discover exotic botanicals and the Vapour Infusion process with a tour guide.

Every new discovery should end with a reward, so in the Mill Bar, Gin Experts are on hand to make your preferred cocktail to enjoy alongside the river.

All of our groups walk away with an in-depth understanding of the craftsmanship and passion that goes into every drop of Bombay Sapphire.

We have already seen hundreds of groups and operators through our doors and we look forward to welcoming many more.

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