Patience Gould witnesses an historic moment in Bombay Sapphire’s history – and raises her glass to the company behind the brand
Until recently the one enduring highlight of what seems like a lifetime in the drinks industry (such hyperbole) was being on the spot when The Macallan was launched as a single malt scotch whisky in its own right.
This was back in the early ’80s, when the single malt brand-wagon had yet to really get going. It was a bold move as The Macallan was then and still is today a much prized ‘singleton’, with master blenders across the scotch industry, so the producer – independent at the time – had to tread a fine line between brand development and top-notch supplier.
The rest, of course, is history and, while no longer an independent force, The Macallan has a substantial role in the redoubtable Edrington Group.
Happily I can now add another highlight which happened in September – the official opening of Bombay Sapphire’s Laverstoke Distillery in darkest Hampshire. One of the nicest things about the evening was that it was a gloriously understated affair. The company let the magic of the distillery/visitors’ centre do all the talking and it did that and more. “We’ll never see this again in our lifetime,” I heard one guest say under her breath, while a string orchestra hired for the evening played its heart out.
Given this extraordinary restoration project of what was a Grade 11-listed paper mill and the money poured into the renaissance of some 40 buildings on the site, one could forgive the Bacardi team presiding over proceedings with an almost evangelical zeal in their eyes. For Bombay now has its own home, after years of being produced by the Warrington-based G&J Greenall – and it is quite a home.
The distillery and visitors’ centre flow seamlessly side by side, much like the River Test does through and around the distillery site. Along the way there is much to glean about gin and Bombay. In time it will be interesting to see not only how many visitors trundle to Hampshire, but the split between the nationalities. My bet is that Americans will be in poll position – for as consumers they really take a brand to heart, and that means finding out where it is produced.
It is said that when the Italian liqueur Amaretto Disoranno was launched Stateside it was billed as the drink from “the village of love”. US folk would arrive in numbers at Milan airport clamouring to be taken to said village – in reality a production unit on an industrial encampment. This story could be entirely apocryphal – but I like to think it’s possible.
When anything happens to Bombay I still ask myself: “Would IDV have done this?” Bombay was the brainchild of the then IDV – the company launched the brand which broke the gin mould and effectively paved the way for the launch of many gins.