Durban’s got a few micro breweries and roasteries around, but in November 2015 in the Station Drive precinct, Durban’s first craft distillery, Distillery 031, opened its doors. It’s helmed by three local guys, Andrew Rall, Jason Andrews and Jordan Semple.
Like any good entrepreneur story, Andrew Rall’s efforts began in his garage. In the pursuit of decent rum, he started distilling and experimenting a bit at home, until he hit two hurdles: his interest had outgrown the confines of the garage, and his wife prefers gin. Two years, and a lot of careful refining later, this pioneering distillery opened its doors, offering both gin and rum, as well as a variety of other spirits, using traditional recipes, modified with indigenous ingredients.
Distillery 031’s range consists of absinthe (written about here), cachaça (made with actual sugarcane juice, harder than expected to find in an area that is full of sugarcane, due to the sugar giants owning nearly every leaf and plot throughout the province), two types of gin, a vodka, and two local-themed aperitifs, naartjie & rooibos, and vanilla & baobab. To complement the gin, there are two types of craft tonic available as well.
Experienced mixologist, Jason Andrews, has devised a modern and innovative cocktail menu, that shows off the versatility of their spirits. Both Jason and Andrew conduct tasting tours of the distillery, which is an experience best enjoyed with a group of friends. They currently host them on an ad hoc basis but more regular tours will be available soon.
I am a gin junkie so I went straight for their Durban 031, splashed with their tonic. A decent craft tonic usually has an amber colour from the chinchona bark that it should be made from, and this was no different. To filter out the colour, to clarify it, would also result in filtering out the flavour. Another thing about craft tonics is that the lack of filtering means there’s a bit of sediment, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s indicative of the authentic ingredients used in its crafting.
Most gins are perfumed with the various herbal ingredients its distilled with, but in this case, the Durban gin has quite a citrussy finish. Unusual, but suits the climate and their tonic rather perfectly.
A few short years ago, a G&T was associated with bingo and bowls, something gran sipped on while watching the cricket. It’s seen a revival, with the mixology movement gaining ground, and trends have evolved beyond just wine and whisky tastings. In sub-tropical locales like Durban, you could not find a better drink, in my opinion. A good G&T is made for Durban weather. Therefore I’m pom-pomming the emergence of the local gins popping up and say cheers to that!
And then, there’s the food. I rocked up to try the gin, got distracted by the absinthe and then had to come back two days later to try the food.
Jordan Semple, of Funny Bunny fame, is a local guy who went to London to cook for two years, and, “came back 11 years later.”
He, along with his partner, Nat, established themselves at the local markets, dishing up gourmet street-food style fare that included his famous truffle mac ‘n’ cheese balls. And he’s brought that style of cooking to the tables at the Distillery.
The food menu is simple, uncomplicated and conducive to sharing and chatting in the industrial open space that the distilling, drinking and cooking is done. Little nibbles of truffle biltong mac ‘n’ chini, onion bhaji and zucchini fritti are inexpensive grazing material that lets you comfortably chat and chow. But the real gobstobbers are the legendary burgers from the Funny Bunny arsenal of awesome.
The beef and oxtail patty burrowed and smothered in the towering pineapple bacon jam burger is the kind of burger you can enjoy on repeat if that is the only thing you ever eat off the menu. May it never be removed. It’s R75, and excludes chips, so it will set you back a few pennies, but they will be honoured with every bite.
Other meals include the lamb jalfrezi burger, R90, served with jalfrezi sauce and kachumba (sort of like sambals), as well as a decadent and reinvented wors roll. It’s got a crown of deep fried ginger chips, and blanketed in crumbed nori, Korean ketchup and wasabi mayo. It’s a R70 ambassador from Asia to Africa.
On Sundays they have a real treat. Open from 10am, there’s a live DJ mixing this up and a brunch menu is served. Poached eggs, served with a biltong hollandaise, or other various options are made available. If you are a fan of the Morning Trade around the corner, you can go there early and then spend the rest of the day sipping on cocktails and noshing.
If you want to know more about their tasting tours, products and menus, give them a shout here: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find the Distillery upstairs on 43 Station Drive.
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