If I am famous for anything in my friendship group it is for never leaving Zone 1. I know I know, there is a big wide world out there and London isn’t the center of the universe. In my defence I could live a thousand lifetimes within the confines of Zone 1 and still not see everything; and Zone 1 means I get to walk everywhere (aka not having to join a gym and saving money on transport) and there is a lot of gin. But every so often my friends coax me out of my literal comfort zone.
I always know I am going to end up on a train to somewhere when my friends just start listing benefits of an adventure without mentioning location…because five minutes later (after I have agreed) they will inevitably announce that this adventure is outside central London. And so based on the promise of getting my gumboots muddy, a pub lunch and seeing where gin was made I found myself on a train to Hampshire.
After my friend Alana picked me up from the train station we headed straight for a WALK in a FIELD. As Alana was joking about Londoners and their pristine gumboots I shamefacedly got my £5 leopard print gumboots out of my bag. So far these gumboots had only been used to avoid getting electrocuted in my old flat when I was playing with the fuse box at midnight after a power outage – this walking in the field malarkey was going to be a shock to them.
We set off walking along some stranger’s field, apparently you can do that in the UK – Google will tell you where there is a public right of way in a field and you can just march on in. Within about five minutes I had seen a duck, a squirrel and a rabbit – and I didn’t even have to pay £5 like you do in the city farms in London. I then found a horse…A HORSE. Well actually two horses, one was up and talking to us (he gracefully ignored my questionable taste in gumboot) and the other was having a sleep in the field. Top tip: if you come across a sleeping horse don’t whatever you do post a picture on Instagram and pretend its actually a dead horse – people take dead horses very seriously and you will feel like a horrible person.
Then it was time for the GIN. At this point I should say that we were given the tour for free for the purpose of a review, but lets be honest its kind of like asking a three year old for a review of a birthday party where there was a bouncy castle – it was only ever going to be positive.
Just how much I loved the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery really shocked me. I mean, I expected to like it because, duh, gin cocktails were a part of the tour. But this place really works as a tourist destination. Based in a converted paper mill the distillery makes all the Bombay Sapphire, ALL of it. Whenever you buy a bottle duty free or pick one up at an off licence in Auckland because you forgot a housewarming present (I would totally never do that), it all originated in this little old re-purposed paper factory in Hampshire.
The architecture is the draw-card for the non-gin obsessed. It looks like glass has exploded from the side of the smaller distillery building and cooled as it entered the river, the excess heat from the distilling process is used to heat the greenhouses contained within. After a seeming lifetime of London gin drowning, it was so weird to find such a calm haven at the heart of it all. Chilling by the river with the smell of gin in the air is my happy place.
On the tour itself (no photos because of the risk of explosions…making gin is a serious business) we had the chance to taste the 86% proof gin straight from the still. Like, baby-fresh gin that was minutes old. Strong enough to be used as hand sanitiser, this gin is the real deal and I would loved to have taken a little with me to use as ‘rescue remedy’ though out the work day.
At the end of the experience is a bar, and I sat there like a numpty trying to choose between all of the cocktails on the menu (one is included as part of the tour). After five agonising minutes Alana just looked at me and as if she were Athena herself said “if you can’t decide just have both”. God I love her. So that is what I did, I sat in the afternoon sunshine and drank my way through the Bombay Sapphire cocktail menu trying both the Grape Gatsby (muddled grapes, lemon and thyme) and the Watermark Martini (earl grey tea, apple juice and vermouth). I mean I always love learning more about gin, and of course drinking gin, but to have this zen vibe while doing it? Magic.
Gin and dead horses was totally worth leaving Zone 1 for. I came back on the training feeling like I had had a week long holiday in the country; relaxed, rejuvenated and happy. Although, that might have been the gin talking.