If you visit the Bombay sapphire distillery near Basingstoke you’ll discover that gin is a very simple drink to assemble. All you need is some pure alcohol and a fire, plus a few sprigs of thyme to make it taste as if somebody at least tried. Once you have accumulated all these items then you can make gin, a process that will take up literally minutes of your reliably diminishing life. Just heat the pure alcohol up in a saucepan until it’s steam, pass the steam through the sprig of thyme, collect in another saucepan and voila, you are a ginsmith.
That’s how Bombay Sapphire do it anyway. They’ll tell you that other gin makers don’t bother with the sprig of thyme because the only thing they hate more than gin itself is you, the consumer. They will also tell you that the first third of a batch of gin is so dreadful they sell it to hand soap manufacturers, which finally explains why washing my hands makes me sad.
Bombay Sapphire make a remarkable amount of gin, millions and millions of bottles every year, and only employ about four people to do it because it’s so unbelievably easy. All the additional staff, twenty five or so, are in an office counting huge piles of money. And just when you start wondering whether paying £20 for a bottle of flavoured hand wash is a bit of a con you’ll find out that the brand was only invented in 1985, and has literally no connection whatsoever with Bombay.
Which brings uson nicely to Proeflokaal Whynand Fockink which, aside from having a seriously funny name, is famous for being a place you can drink gin if you happen to be in Amsterdam. Which, on a typical day, 800000 people do.
You wouldn’t, however, want to try and fit all 800000 people into Proeflokaal Whynand Fockink as it is very small. So small, in fact, that a mere handful of enthusiastic gin tourists gives it the feeling of an overcrowded gin dispensary. The gin barman makes drinks slowly, despite the backlog, and participates enthusiastically in gin selfies, in the manner of somebody fully aware that someday this perpetual hell will end.
Unlike the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Proeflokaal Whynand Fockink has genuinely been distilling gin since the dawn of civilisation. Sadly though, in all that time they haven’t discovered the best way to enjoy gin: with tonic. Instead, the friendly, enthusiastic, serial-killing barman will present you with a small glass of totally undrinkable brown gin and expect you to sip it neat, like an alcoholic raiding the hand sanitiser in your local A&E.
However, despite the overcrowding, long waits and abundance of surgical alcohol Proeflokaal Whynand Fockink is more enjoyable than your local A&E – a virtue of it’s jovial spirit and sense of history. Proof, as if it were needed, that Bombay Sapphire’s marketing team hit the nail square on in the head.