Distil a one-of-a-kind bottle of gin with Inverroche’s new Gin Academy
The pop-up gin experience will be running for six months at the Four Seasons Westcliff and is the perfect way to add a special bottle to your collection
“Alchemy” is such an alluring word, conjuring images of tinctures, potions and magical transformations.
It’s also a perfectly apt way to describe a novel activity now available to gin aficionados at the Four Seasons Hotel the Westcliff in Johannesburg.
The first Inverroche Gin Academy was started in 2017 in Still Bay — home of the Inverroche distillery — by the founder of Inverroche, Lorna Scott, to give gin enthusiasts a glimpse into the process of distilling gin. It has since popped up in various locations across the country, the latest being homed at the Westcliff.
The experience happens over the course of roughly three hours and takes you on a journey of gin-making, starting with the basics of distilling to selecting your style of gin, botanicals and the process of distilling a one-of-a-kind bottle of gin to take home.
THE ALCHEMY OF GIN DISTILLATION
Stepping into a beautifully set-up room, you will find stations complete with a mini copper pot still, measuring jugs, a pestle and mortar and a glorious selection of fresh botanicals and vials of tinctures that contain the concentrates of a large variety of botanical extracts.
Your base gin botanicals include juniper, angelica root, orange zest, coriander and cassia. From here, you can explore flavour profiles that will create a number of gin styles: floral, citrus, herbal, cool or spicy.
As balmy December days are upon us, I was inspired by a cool style of gin for which I added cardamom, blackcurrant, buchu and fennel, with additional notes of pink peppercorn and toasted coconut — an ingredient that’s added not so much for its flavour but the feel the oils create in the mouth when blended with the spirit.
When your tinctures have been measured and your dry botanicals pounded and bundled before adding everything to your still, the flames are lit and the distillation can begin.
This presents an opportune moment to step out to refresh your drinks and enjoy canapés from a specially designed menu with touches like Inverroche gin and rose frozen mousse coated in ruby chocolate — a nod to the newest limited edition gin in the Inverroche range, Coco Capensis.
Apart from standard G&Ts, you can indulge in cocktails which put a delicious spin on each of the three Inverroche gins that form part of the standard range.
SIGNED, SEALED AND BOTTLED
Once your distillate starts making its way up the still head and down the coils, you’re guided to make sure you separate the heads (with their dangerous levels of alcohol) from the hearts (with the alluring flavours you’ve created), while being careful not to dilute the flavour by adding too much of the tails (the last part of the distillate which is also discarded).
The process is wrapped up by adding distilled water to your hearts to achieve the correct alcohol percentage, bottling and labelling your gin — an entertaining process of tasting your counterparts’ creations and marvelling at the ingenious names they produce.
I landed on “cool as a cucumber” — perhaps not the most original of names but a state of mind I soon hope to inhabit once festive December days roll around.
BOOK YOUR SPOT
The base experience which includes the gin production costs R850. For R1,200 attendees can have the full experience, including the gin making, three cocktails or G&Ts and canapés.
The Inverroche Gin Academy at the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff is available to book any day of the week and will be running for the next three months.