To design its first-ever distillery and headquarters, Bombay Sapphire turned to Thomas Heatherwick, the mad scientist of British architecture who has previously created art museums out of grain silos, huts made out of tin foil, and a bridge that curls up like a slap bracelet. The result? A combination distillery and greenhouse that looks like a multi-faceted sapphire full of exotic botanicals. It’s almost like a crystallized drop of the gin itself.
Although Bombay Sapphire hit the market in 1987, in all that time, the gin brand has never had its own distillery. Located in the village of Laverstoke in the United Kingdom, the site of the new Bombay Sapphire headquarters is a sprawling industrial estate with a storied past going all the way back to the Victorian era, when it housed a mill used to print out English bank notes. Over the next two centuries, the Laverstoke estate accumulated over 40 different structures, many of which had become overgrown and dilapidated.
To harmonize the many disparate elements of the 200-year-old estate, Heatherwick realized that the new Bombay Sapphire headquarters would have to make use of a central courtyard. Although Heatherwick originally considered building simulated gin stills in the courtyard, he ultimately decided that no simulation could be more engaging than watching Bombay Sapphire actually being distilled in a two-century-old copper still.
What gives gin its distinctive flavor are its botanicals: almond, lemon peel, licorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb, and grains of paradise, most of which only grow in an arid climate. Once Bombay agreed to make real gin in the courtyard, Heatherwick had his lightbulb moment: why not pipe the excess heat and steam from the distillery into greenhouses dedicated to growing the botanicals used in the Bombay Sapphire recipe?
Heatherwick’s finished design owes much of its heritage to the elaborate crystal greenhouses of the Victorian era, such as the palm house at Kew Gardens or Hyde Park’s long-lost Crystal Palace. Floating above a river that snakes through the new Bombay Sapphire courtyard, two bulbous greenhouses intertwine, each of which contains botanicals grouped according to whether they are of tropical or Mediterranean origin.
“The resulting complex geometries of the new asymmetrical glasshouses took many months to calculate, engineer and refine,” Heatherwick says of the design. The finished structures are made up of 893 separate pieces of curved glass, held in place by a mesh of bronze-finished stainless steel.
After a three-year period of construction, the new Bombay Sapphire headquarters is now open to the public. If you plan on visiting, just remember to bring your own tonic.