‘The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire’ — Winston Churchill
I think the same could be said for South African minds, if not lives. The huge resurgence in the popularity of gin shows no signs of slowing down, locally or internationally. The local Craft Gin industry appeals to our love of customisation – we don’t just want a drink, we want an experience. We want something that feels personal and allows us to have a unique signature drink.
The vast range of flavours, botanical infusions and unusual garnishes makes gin the ideal choice. With more distilleries opening up all over the Cape, gin tasting is set to become as popular as wine tasting.
Keen to try it out? Here are a few of our favourite spots for gin tasting:
Hope on Hopkins
Hope on Hopkins is a small artisanal distillery in the heart of industrial Salt River in Cape Town. Their handcrafted spirits are packed full of interesting flavours and a range of botanicals, made using the age-old process of batch distillation, with their faithful stills – Mildred, Mouma and Maude (named after the owners’ grandmothers) and the latest addition to the team – the beautiful copper pot still, Mad Mary.
There are three flavour ranges of Hope on Hopkins gin. The classic grain based London Dry Gin, with carefully selected botanical flavours of fresh citrus, lemon verbena and juniper, is your perfect go-to G&T. The South African inspired and more contemporary Salt River Gin is distilled from a grain-base, with eight botanicals including juniper, hand picked wild rosemary and buchu as well as organic citrus peel. The savoury Mediterranean Gin is infused with olives, rosemary, basil, thyme and cardamom with notes of citrus.
The Hope on Hopkins Distillery Tasting Room is open on Saturday afternoons, between 12:00 and 17:00 and costs R120 per person for a three gin tasting. Bookings can be organised for up to 12 people and do book in advance to avoid disappointment!
Situated in the valley of De Wet, nestled between the Breede River Valley and the Hex River Valley, the Six Dogs distillery was started in the farm’s shed, home of the owners’ six dogs. Their gin is infused with their own home-grown botanicals and they source fruit from neighbouring farmers and water from the nearby Keeromberg Mountain.
Six Dogs Karoo Gin is a delicate and balanced gin with twelve select botanicals including the Karoo Thorn flower, Wild Lavender and Acacia Thorn, and is distilled and bottled on the farm. Six Dogs Blue gets its name from the Blue Pea Flower, which also gives it its striking natural blue colour. The owners discovered this flower by chance, whilst travelling through Indonesia. Six Dogs Blue is a classic dry gin with an enticing taste experience of freshly cut lucerne and hand picked rose pelargonium. With a touch of good tonic water, the intense blue colour changes to lavender, which is truly fascinating to watch.
Distillery Sales are open Monday to Friday mornings and tastings are by appointment only. Six Dogs initial tastings are free, thereafter drinks are charged. You are welcome to take your own snacks or picnic basket and enjoy a mellow outing to the farm.
The Inverroche Distillery is located just outside Still Bay, in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountain ranges, indigenous forest and the ocean not far away. This family-owned distillery produces small batches (250 bottles at a time) of delicately handcrafted fynbos-infused gin, packaged in elegant French glass.
The Fynbos used are harvested by hand from the coastal dunes of the Cape mountain regions, when they are in season. Particular attention and procedures are in place to ensure harvesters do not harm the environment or damage the natural ecosystem of coastal dunes. Each Inverroche Gin has a distinctive profile with a unique recipe containing between 20-30 different varieties of Fynbos.
The Inverroche Gin Classic has a citrus lead with a subtle floral character. Inverroche Gin Verdant has a more delicate floral aroma, almost reminiscent of elderflower and chamomile. With its warm amber colour, the Inverroche Amber variety is a blend of intriguing flavours, combining the fresh floral botanicals of Africa with spices and berries from India and Europe respectively.
Inverroche offers some of the most aromatic and flavourful gins in the country. You will also be blown away by the breathtaking scenery of the distillery itself. Tastings are R50 per person and should be arranged by appointment only, as space is limited. The distillery is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 15:00; and on Sundays, from 11:00 to 14:00. Tastings take place every hour on the hour.
The Woodstock Gin Company, located near the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, Cape Town was started by Simon Von Witt, a passionate distiller who experimented with different botanicals to produce a high-quality South African Fynbos infused gin. The water used in the distillation process is collected from the Albion spring in Newlands, Cape Town, which enhances its intrinsic flavours as there are no chemicals in the water that will compromise the taste.
A base of beer and white wine is used to make their gin, both of which have a distinct, full flavour. The gin is double distilled from the original base of beer or wine, to strip the base spirit of any impurities. The second distillation is done with the pure alcohol produced from the base spirit and water and provides a smooth and balanced finish.
Inception (wine base) is a very smooth, elegant and full-bodied gin, with a hint of jasmine, coriander, tones of buchu and rooibos as well as a citrus aftertaste. Inception (beer base) is a stronger gin, with hints of caramel and traditional juniper berry flavour, interwoven with subtle lemon and lime. The High Tea Gin has an undertone of rooibos and honeybush, which gives it a truly South African taste. Cask Aged is a grape distilled gin that is aged for 3 to 4 months in American Oak barrels. It has rich vanilla and marzipan flavours and can be mixed with lime, red peppercorns and natural tonic water for the ultimate premium gin.
Woodstock Gin is open six days a week for tastings, from 09:00 to 18:00 on weekdays; and from 09:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays. For R50 per person, visitors are introduced to their micro-distillery before enjoying the sensory experience of tasting their gin. Seating space is limited to 25 people and bookings are recommended.
Misty Mountains Estate is located on the R43 just outside Stanford, within easy reach from Hermanus. Here you can enjoy gin, wine and beer tasting as well as wood fired pizzas at the adjacent restaurant. The Estate also has four beautiful self-catering cottages available for rent. With all the tastings you will want to do, it might well be a good idea to stay overnight!
The gins are beautifully packaged and uniquely named. The Dragonfly Gin has juniper and spice flavours and is very smooth; while the Butterfly Gin is pink in colour and slightly sweeter than the Dragonfly. The Firefly Gin is infused with Peppadews, giving it a spicy kick.
The estate is open for meals and tastings Monday to Fridays from 09:00 to 17:00; and on Saturdays from 10:00 to 14:00. Gin tastings are R120 per person.
Any gin tasting experiences you can recommend? Pop them in the comments section below, we’d love to find more interesting spots to visit!