Craft gin is having a ‘ginaissance’

Craft gin is having a ‘ginaissance’

Globally it’s called the “ginaissance” – the trend for small-batch, locally-made craft gin – and South Africa has embraced the movement, with more than a dozen artisan distilleries springing up in the past year and giving it a unique local spin with ingredients like fynbos, buchu and spekboom.

Craft gin takes your standard G&T with a slice of lemon to the next level, meant to be slowly sipped neat or on the rocks, or with a dash of good quality tonic water and garnished with fruit, herbs and spices to bring out its distinctive flavours.

Whether commercial or craft, gin recipes are usually a closely-guarded secret, but the key element that makes it gin is juniper, along with a mix of traditional botanicals that could include angelica, coriander, ginger, liquorice, lemon or orange.

Craft distillers take it up a notch, with a focus on traditional techniques like double-distilling, and attention to detail in the ingredients – like Wilderer in Paarl that uses only spring water from the Franschhoek mountains, or local craft gin pioneer Inverroche with their hand-harvested fynbos from the coastal dunes and mountains of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Well-known for their in-house craft beers, Port Elizabeth’s Bridge Street Brewery has tapped into the artisan trend with a new craft gin tasting experience that presents different ways to taste a selection of local gins – each with its own specific garnish.

The brainchild of manager Kosie de Jager, the artisan gin board guides you through the tasting steps – first, the aroma, starting a little further away from the nose, then a gentle swirl and sip of the neat gin.

Next, add the garnishes selected for each gin, give them a swirl and taste again and, finally, top-up with a dash of Fitch & Leedes tonic water and ice and decide which of the G&T options you prefer.

Craft gin is in

The selection will change as Kosie experiments with new gins but the current offering is Inverroche Amber, Woodstock Inception beer-distilled, Musgrave Pink and Triple Three African Botanicals.

The Inverroche Amber is made at Stilbaai and infused with specific coastal fynbos plants that give it its distinctive colour and a mellow, spicy flavour, rounded out with a garnish of orange peel and zest that add some sweetness.

Rooibos and buchu give Triple Three African Botanicals, made at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate, a very different profile – it’s richly fragrant and earthier, and super-smooth.

Kosie’s garnish of thyme brings out the earthy herbiness and a sliver of grapefruit peel gives it some zing and a refreshing sour tang.

Musgrave Pink gin is made at the Hope on Hopkins distillery in Cape Town’s Salt River industrial area, infused with rosehips and rosewater for a delicate pink hue, a gentle rose aroma and floral and herb flavours with a hint of spice. Crushed rose petals and black peppercorns enhance the flavours.

Kosie’s favourite (and mine) of the four is the Woodstock Inception – distilled from a beer base that gives it some sweetness and a caramel note. It’s the punchiest of the four, full-bodied and very smooth, a good one for sipping just on the rocks.

The tasting board costs R110, and any of the gins with their garnish can be ordered as a drink on its own once you’ve found your favourite.

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