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Distil your own bottle of gin at new Gin School

Image: Supplied

“Alchemy” is such an alluring word. Referring to a magical process used to transform, combine or create something, when you are presented with the opportunity to become an alchemist yourself – even for just two and a half hours – it’s an opportunity you might consider taking.

I recently found myself meddling in the practice of alchemy – in this case loosely translated as distilling – at the opening of the Inverroche Gin School in Pretoria.

Housed as a pop-up in a beautiful upstairs room at Culture Club in Hazelwood, attendees are taken through the exciting process of gin distilling, from learning about the different types of gin, to getting a sniff of different flavour profiles and, eventually, deciding on a recipe and distilling your very own bottle of gin.

Distilling room at the Inverroche Gin School in Pretoria.
Distilling room at the Inverroche Gin School in Pretoria.
Image: Supplied

Starting with the base botanicals of juniper (an absolute must if you’re planning on creating gin), angelica root, coriander, cassia, nutmeg and salt, I decided to create a gin with floral notes by adding a few drops of lavender, rose malva and  hibiscus to my cane spirit base just before our master distiller, Ashley Smith, lit a small flame at the bottom of my copper still.

As the distilling process begins to unfold, little droplets of alcohol distillate start making their way up the still head and down the coil before they drip into a measuring cup at the ready.

There is an art to distilling and you have to know what you’re doing. The first bit of alcohol, called the heads, is discarded, as it contains dangerous levels of alcohol. As you wait for the good stuff – the heart of the distillate – to slowly drip and accumulate, this presents a perfect opportunity to sample the range of Inverroche gins.

Founded in 2011 by Lorna Scott before the gin craze took South Africa by storm, Inverroche was the first South African gin brand that started using fynbos as its core ingredients.

Paired with a selection of canapés from the Culture Club kitchen, the tasting is not quite enough for a full dinner but certainly provides a few tasty morsels that blend perfectly with the trilogy of Inverroche’s fynbos gins and their latest limited edition, the coco l’orange gin.

Learn how to make your own gin at the Inverroche Gin School.
Learn how to make your own gin at the Inverroche Gin School.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

Once you have collected enough distillate, Smith takes you through the process of bottling your gin, complete with adding a personalised label and naming your gin.

I decided to add a few hibiscus petals to my gin for a bit of colour. As soon as the first petals started floating dreamily down the length of my bottle the name of my gin came instantly to mind: Beauty in the Beast.

At this point, you don’t have to be a gin lover to appreciate that you’ve just crafted a unique spirit using your own recipe. The best part? There will never be another bottle like it.


Where: Culture Club, 12 16th Street, Hazelwood, Pretoria

When: Classes run from Wednesdays to Fridays from 17h00 to 19h30 and from Saturdays to Sundays from 15h00 to 17h30.

How much: R450 per person for the gin distilling session only; R525 per person for the gin distilling session and canapé and gin pairing.

Bookings: A maximum of 12 people can attend each class and a minimum booking of 6 people is required to host a class. Email ginschoolpta@gmail.com or phone 012 030 1343 to make a booking.

Tip: Pay the additional R75 and do the gin and canapé pairing. Culture Club is known for its delicious tapas and they pair beautifully with the four Inverroche gins on the market. It’s not only tasty – it also keeps you occupied while you wait for the distilling process to finish.

  • The writer was a guest of the Inverroche Gin School