The Durand Distillery School in the Barossa Valley is the ultimate gin experience

When artisan gin distiller Brett Durand set up the Durand Distillery School on his mother-in-law Maggie Beer's property last October, he never anticipated it to be the huge success it has become.

But it seems small batch gin distilleries are the hottest trend in the traditionally  wine heavy region of the Barossa Valley. What's more it's where executives are heading to learn the art of gin making and take home their own creation.

Durand takes classes every Saturday fortnight and has found a way to lure men to the cooking school, which doubles as a distilling space, to learn about booze, botanicals and bottling their own batch.

Familiar territory

The scene might be familiar to Masterchef viewers after Maggie Beer hosted an episode here some weeks ago. In fact it was Beer who inspired Durand to explore gin making in the first place – she even bottled her own titled the Maggie May (as a nod to Rod Stewart's 1971 hit no doubt).

"Men are big drinkers of gin," says Brett Durand who became curious about alcohol making thanks to his grandfather – a five-foot-four-inch French men who would make him drink pastis. The anise-flavoured tipple is known for being slightly sweet with notes of black licorice.

"It was thanks to this French provincial drink that made me want to explore making my own alcohol and in turn distilling pure clean alcohol after that. Once I could do that, Maggie said, why don't you try to make me a gin," he says.

Big flavours

Durand put his creative thinking cap on and created The Matriarch in Beer's honour – a gin designed to be part of a classic martini with vermouth, an olive and brine. Then there's The Good Wife [for his partner in business and pleasure Elli Beer], which is ideal over ice or mixed with a sparkling cabernet. His own bespoke range will be available in stores across Sydney and Melbourne by September this year distributed via Mindful Spirits.

To tie in with the 70th anniversary of Porsche and the release of the new Cayenne, Durand teamed with the racing car manufacturer to undertake a masterclass for lovers of fast cars and clear spirits.

"There's definitely a similarity between creating something from scratch like gin and understanding the mechanics of a luxury car. It comes down to appreciating the finer detail, understanding how it works and building your flavour according to what you want your drink to do for you. It's not unlike a high end luxury car," he adds.


Back to school

Durand is all about educating people about gin and says it's a great bonding experience for couples, executives and curious spirit lovers.

"The base for creating a gin is much like a blank canvas for artists," he says. "After that just go for it. As long as you have juniper in there you can call it gin."

The art to the perfect gin

According to Durand, the art to perfecting a gin is to apply a pizza rule. "No more than five ingredients or it will become too hard to pick out individual flavours in your mix," he offers.

"Some brands mix the tiniest amounts of botanicals but use 100 of them and load up the gin so you have fragranced aromas," he explains.

"The beauty about doing it yourself is you choose the botanicals and top them up slowly and rely on your sense of smell and preference."

The writer was a guest of Porsche to the Barossa Valley and Durand Distillery.