This article is part of a new 52 Martinis series, “Eco-bar”, where we highlight brands and bars that are employing sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
As going greener becomes a bigger (and more critical!) trend, more spirits brands are getting on board with sustainable practices. Bombay has made some impressive efforts to minimize negative environmental impacts with their stunning new distilling site, Laverstoke Mill.
I had the occasion to visit their latest gin production facility with the Victoria Gin Club and learn more about how they employ eco-practices while still turning out the global production of their gins. The project began in 2009, when the group purchased a derelict paper mill with an interesting history – at one time they printed notes for the Bank of England! With the help of Heatherwick Studio, they revamped and refurbished the location into avisitors center and distillery that officially opened in 2014. The entire complex is impressive, but the showstopper is certainly the two, gracefully curving greenhouses. Not only are they breathtaking, but the excess heat from the distillery is pumped into them to grow a garden of botanicals used in their gin making process. Pretty and practical.
However, Bombay is going beyond just building beautiful glass structures. Laverstoke is located alongside the River Test, the purest chalk stream in the UK and within a Conservation Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the countryside of Hampshire. As the area is home to a host of native species of fish, birds, bats and otters, Bombay takes special care not to disrupt the fauna. During construction they temporarily and humanely (some by hand) caught and relocated fish and bats to ensure they were not jeopardized. Following the refurbishment they installed bat boxes to encourage their repopulation and fish guards to protect the local trout and other river life from their hydroelectric turbine.
In order to maintain the nature and biodiversity of the river, they have propagated various aquatic plants and do not use its water in their distillation processes. Rather, they collect rainwater to be used within the mill. Finally, they work closely with their neighbors including using ash produced in their biomass boiler to fertilize local farmland. In short they strive to not only avoid doing harm to their immediate environment but to enhance it where possible.
Their efforts stretch to a more global scale as well, as they employ alternative energy sources, like the aforementioned hydroelectric turbine (which results in a carbon savings of 38%). Additionally, they’ve reused and recycled bricks and tiles where possible from previously demolished buildings on the site. And, their biomass boiler provides both heat and hot water and runs on a fuel source of botanical byproducts.
Though one might say saving the planet is its own reward, it’s always nice to see eco-efforts acknowledged. And theirs have not gone unnoticed, with Laverstoke winning a 2014 BREEAM Industrial Award. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a globally recognized method of assessing the sustainability of buildings. Making top marks, Laverstoke scored 100% on the section for Energy and Management and over 90% in the Water, Materials and Waste section.
Bombay is also making more concentrated efforts in terms of sustainable sourcing and have partnered with a Ghana based NGO and an agronomist who is working with the local community in cultivating the Grains of Paradise that are used in the production of Bombay’s gin.
And this might just be my opinion, but…Laverstoke is just a sexy name for a distillery, right? So British! So Bond! So, in a sense, they’re helping the cause by making sustainability’s image sexier, too!
In the course of our Eco-bar series as we highlight bars and brands doing better by the environment, we encourage you to support them in the efforts. So maybe you should order up a Bombay martini sometime soon.
Otherwise, if you head that way and would like your own first hand look at the operation, Laverstoke Mill offers both self or guided tours to the general public that offer a glimpse into the day to day operations, an opportunity to explore the botanicals in the beautiful greenhouses and, of course, a Bombay cocktail the Mill Bar. Book ahead.