West of Cambridge in the UK, the redbrick Laverstoke Paper Mill has sat astride the sparkling River Test since 903 AD, where it first came to prominence making banknotes for the Bank of England and then the whole British Empire, bringing industry to this little patch of the rolling English countryside for a thousand years.
As of 2014, under the visionary guidance of the Bacardi company’s Bombay Sapphire team and local engineers and craftsmen, the ancient mill has been transformed into an award-winning wonder, where sustainability begins with a hydro turbine, brought back to modern life, that harvests the power of the river to provide green energy to the state-ofthe-art visitor centre and all of its displays and lights on the site. Two tubular greenhouses emerge from the old redbrick buildings like giant Avatar blood vessels, opening up at ground level to house one tropical and one Mediterranean environment to cultivate the botanicals from Indonesia and Java, Italy and Spain, that infuse this world famous gin with its unique bright, fresh flavours.
The Bacardi company is steered by a commitment to improve sustainability in three main areas: operational efficiencies that don’t waste energy, global packaging that does not produce excessive waste, and responsible sourcing that respects all the links in the food chain. Finding the very botanicals used in the infusing process inside the utterly charming courtyard greenhouses motivates the visitor to recognize all the ways this gin is, well, good for you.
Bombay has developed the site in a way that shows off the best practices in green technology, ecological architecture, and historic preservation. The water from the river, important habitat for fish, plants, and birds, is not used in the gin. It only powers the turbine, with fish guards in place to protect the wildlife. During construction, hundreds of fish and birds were moved off-site and then brought back to the river, which was actually improved for wildlife through the removal of crumbling buildings that had partially covered the waterway.
As it exists now, Laverstoke Mill is a museum, a botanical garden, an industrial facility that amply demonstrates the possibilities of green technology, and an attractive venue for parties, weddings and conferences. It is open daily to the public from 10am – 8pm, and tickets must be purchased in advance online (distillery.bombaysapphire.com/the-distillery/laverstoke-mill).
On a summer evening, with birdsong and perhaps the burble of the river, music and good company, an aromatic, icy gin-and-something will settle the mind and infuse the soul with good will towards humankind. And maybe even hope for the greening of many other industries.