Distillery 031

031’s 24K gin contains real gold flakes and comes in an Italian crystal decanter. Image: Supplied

031 Distillery going for gold as SA’s most internationally awarded distillery

Andrew Rall, owner of Durban’s Distillery 031, is a singular man whose small yet burgeoning craft distillery is a portal to some unique, top-notch craft spirits.

Distillery 031

031’s 24K gin contains real gold flakes and comes in an Italian crystal decanter. Image: Supplied

“I call this my gateway spirit,” Rall said while swirling the amber liquid in his glass. Well, through the gateway, down the hatch and the rabbit hole and colour me impressed, well impressed!

He was referring to his D’Urban Barrel Aged Gin — something rather special. Serve it on ice to guests without telling them what they are drinking just to gauge reactions.

Plenty of surprised expressions, no doubt, and it may change the perceptions of many non-gin drinkers.

Go for gold with 031’s D’Urban 24K gin

Let it be known I have only sniffed, not tasted, South Africa’s most exclusive gin at around R1,899.

It certainly smelled the part!

Distillery 031
The Durban-based distillery’s products have raked in numerous national and international awards. Image: Supplied

Gin is trending — has been for some years now — and Rall has been at the forefront of the gin revolution in South Africa. His passion trumps trends, however.

Distillery 031 products include a superb tonic cordial, rum (including cachaça), vodka, absinthe and some unique spirit aperitifs — all with a view to putting the country on the map in terms of carefully and beautifully crafted, award-winning spirits.

Rall distilled privately at first, acquired his commercial licences in 2015 and, in a relatively short time, has made inroads into the international market. The fact that he exports his premium 031 vodka to a country like Sweden where vodka is not so much trending as entrenched in social culture, says a lot.

Distillery 031 is South Africa’s most internationally awarded independent distillery, gaining accolades and medals at the New York and San Francisco international spirit competitions, London Spirit Masters and locally.

Distillery 031: Where it all began

Rall is a gentle giant — charming, charismatic, passionate, perceptive, driven and open to ideas and experiences. That’s a great checklist for someone who continually researches and experiments in his quest for excellence.

His introduction and taste for spirits was more about quantity than quality (student daze), but a trip to Scotland ignited an interest in and passion for distilling.

Fast forward and this once brand manager for multinational Unilever found himself with his own brand, Durban’s first craft distillery and in cahoots with like-minded entrepreneurs in establishing Durban’s first urban renewal district.


Distillery 031 D'urban barrel-aged gin
Andrew Rall’s D’Urban Barrel Aged Gin is something rather special. Image: Supplied

Rall is passionate about more than quality liquor. The name Distillery 031 (031 is Durban’s dialling code) hints at his love of his roots. Hence the distillery being in the city and the many indigenous elements that infuse the business — from bottle labels to botanicals and the raw materials from which the spirits are crafted.

These include sugar cane, baobab fruit, indigenous wormwood and rosehip, coffee cherries (cascara) and imphepho, a medicinal herb used by sangomas (witchdoctors) to summon the ancestors. The gin range bears the name D’Urban- from Sir Benjamin D’Urban, after whom the city of Durban was named in 1835.

“Durbanism” is a thing. I’m not sure if the term stems from Rall, but he’s a glowing example.

If he didn’t have export/import/sales/admin/investors and all the not-so-fun bits about owning a business to attend to, he would be at the still and behind the bar every day, sharing his extraordinary knowledge of all things Durban and walking the talk. And the talk is great.

Memorable tasting experience at 031

Distillery 031
The tastings at Distillery 031 are an experience to remember. Image: Supplied

I’ve attended many, many wine tastings, pairings and so on; even conducted wine tastings and tours in my youth. I’ve also toured distilleries, but I’ve never had such an entertainingly educational occasion as in Distillery 031’s industrial-chic tasting room.

A group of German tourists and I exited the tasting room in a haze of newly acquired tastes, knowledge about spirits in general and Distillery 031’s products in particular. Like my companions, deciding which were new favourites was top of mind.

The histories and development of gin, tonic and absinthe were especially interesting to me, the whole experience a treat — the complimentary welcome cocktail, tarrying at the bar while eyeing out the gleaming bits and bobs (which I could now identify) in the distillery.

“Local is very lekker,” I thought. So too the Germans, who were researching how best to acquire 031’s products in Europe.

So, how much did I really like Distillery 031 products? Enough to have been conducting tastings there for a year or so. After the COVID-19 enforced alcohol and tourism shutdown, the distillery is again open for group tastings of eight or more — I’ll drink to that!