Lekker liquor from Dur­ban and Christmas mar­kets ga­lore

South Africa – make that the world – has gin fever, but when you’re tast­ing the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed gin of Dis­tillery 031 in Dur­ban and a host of other small-scale hard stuff, then Uber is the only op­tion.

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Like many other cities, Dur­ban is mak­ing an ef­fort to be more live­able, more com­mu­nity-ori­ented and more “down to earth”. Ar­ti­sanal prod­ucts that tell a per­sonal story (the el­e­gantly pack­aged ver­sion of what you’d get in a plat­te­land home in­dus­try) are part of this phe­nom­e­non and some of the rea­sons Plat­te­land high­lights a mar­ket in ev­ery is­sue, like The Morn­ing Trade on page 138. This mar­ket’s founder, Anna Sav­age, told us about Dis­tillery 031 just around the cor­ner in the Sta­tion Road precinct, a small, slightly grungy in­dus­trial area that is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a mini re­nais­sance.

That’s how we met Jor­dan Sem­ple, co-owner of Dis­tillery 031, on a Sun­day morn­ing! Jor­dan is in charge of the bar and restau­rant, where you can also do a tour of the dis­tillery and taste the prod­ucts. He told us An­drew Rall, who has al­ways had a thing for rum, started Dis­tillery 031 (a ref­er­ence to Dur­ban’s di­al­ing code) in 2008 with the idea of mak­ing spir­its that re­flect this city’s “au­then­tic African en­ergy”, cli­mate and eclec­tic cul­tures. An­drew could even cap­i­talise on the buzz­word “ter­roir”, be­cause rum and the Brazil­ian spirit cachaça are made of sugar cane, and KZN is the South African province that cul­ti­vates the most sugar cane.

“After vis­its to Scot­land, Bri­tain, France, Nor­way, Brazil and the US, An­drew had a good idea of how the rest of the world ap­proaches the dis­til­la­tion process. And so he threw him­self into bou­tique dis­til­la­tion, mir­ror­ing the bou­tique beer revo­lu­tion, which was still in its in­fancy,” Jor­dan says.

Al­most a decade later, Dis­tillery 031 of­fers a wide choice of spir­its: D’Ur­ban Dur­ban Dry Gin (an ex­cep­tional clas­sic Lon­don Dry-style gin that was named the best South African gin in 2017 at the New York In­ter­na­tional Spir­its Competition), D’Ur­ban Bar­rel Aged Gin (the same gin, but aged in French oak bar­rels), 031 Vodka (made from sugar mo­lasses and dis­tilled 10 times), Água Zulu Cachaça (made from su­gar­cane juice ac­cord­ing to the tra­di­tional Brazil­ian process and dis­tilled in a cop­per still), An­ces­tors Ab­sinthe (the con­tro­ver­sial “green fairy” in the tra­di­tional French style with anise and in­dige­nous African worm­wood) and a 10-year-old pot­still brandy that is dis­tilled in Wellington.

Now there’s also a vod­k­abased aper­i­tif se­ries in four flavours: Vanilla & Baobab, Naartjie & Rooi­bos, Cin­na­mon & Wild Dagga and Heart of Dark­ness (a cof­fee-flavoured aper­i­tif with sin­gle-source Ara­bica beans from the Meru re­gion in Tan­za­nia that con­tains 30% alcohol).

We also love the two cor­dials: a tra­di­tional Vic­to­rian Tonic Cor­dial, per­fect for that re­fresh­ing G&T that will help chase away mos­qui­toes (at least un­til the bats move into the bat box on page 106), and a Le­mon­ade.

In the pipeline: a Bay of Plenty Spiced Rum, cur­rently age­ing in oak bar­rels – def­i­nitely not the kind of rum you’d want to di­lute with Coke. We can’t wait to taste it.

Dis­tillery 031 spir­its can be bought on­line at yup­piechef. co.za and cy­ber­cel­lar.co.za.

Tours and tast­ings take place on Satur­days at 12:00 and 14:30, but with ad­vance book­ings groups of six or more can be ac­com­mo­dated any other day. The bar and restau­rant are open from Thurs­days to Sun­days.

Co-owner Jor­dan Sem­ple at Dis­tillery 031’s restau­rant and bar.

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