Thomas Heatherwick’s marvellous gin factory

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Thomas Heatherwick's marvellous gin factory
© Iwan Baan

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Thomas Heatherwick's marvellous gin factory
© Iwan Baan

Are distilleries destined to become the new adult theme park? With several drinks brands and conglomerates – Macallan, Diageo – developing state-of-the-art distilleries and visitor centres you might think so.

Perhaps they’re the perfect pilgrimage for epicurious lovers of provenance. In an age where heritage and craftsmanship rule, what better way for drink brands to spend their money than on creating experiential destinations imbued with a touch of Breaking Bad science nerdery, designed to connect with the customer on a whole new immersive, emotive level.

The Bombay Sapphire Spirits company have pulled off quite a coup by commissioning Thomas Heatherwick – the much-loved British design maverick who deals in projects that fascinate and delight – to build theirs. His studio first forged a relationship with the premium gin brand 10 years ago when it crowned Heatherwick the winner of the inaugural Bombay Sapphire Prize – an international award for innovation in glass.

And yet the mind boggled at this alliance, why the creator of the ingenious Rolling Bridge, Routemaster bus and forthcoming Garden Bridge fame, might be tempted to create a distillery for the Bacardi-owned Bombay Sapphire. Renowned for its imaginative projects, his practice has so far been relatively unconnected to big brands. However, a preview visit with Heatherwick and project architect Eliot Postma to the Laverstoke Mill site in Hampshire soon dispelled any notions of selling out. []

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