SA in good spirits after launch of craft gin club

Len Maseko Drinks on the House

This year, South Africa has undoubtedly experienced an unprecedented surge of local gin brands and just as many festivals to showcase the spirit.

Altogether there are more than 75 local gin brands produced by 50 distillers gracing booze store shelves - from Limpopo to the Cape, where there is a greater number of producers of the spirit and signature bars.

Notably, gin is currently experiencing the best of times worldwide, but the trend in South Africa is being spurred by the availability of the vast diversity of flora from which local distillers source a rich array of botanicals for the craft spirit.

Noticeable growth in gin consumption in the past two years has been particularly recorded in Britain, the home of London dry gin. According to The Guardian, the British bought 40million bottles of the spirit in 2016. However, the Philippines top the world, followed by the US, when it comes to consumption.

Now comes the news that SA has its own craft gin club, The Gin Box, recently launched at the Beechwood Gardens in Hyde Park, with an exhibition of locally distilled craft gins paired with botanicals. The line-up included Grey Hawk, Trouevaille Spirit, Amari Gin ,Ginologist, Westcliff & Ginifer, Six Dogs, Geometric Gin & Symmetry Tonic, Flowstone, Clemengold, New Harbour Distillery and Fitch & Leeds tonic water.

Jean Buckham, founder of The Gin Box, said members of The Gin Box will receive on a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly or on an ad hoc basis a box showcasing a small batch of craft gin with unique tonics and hand-picked gourmet food items for pairing with the spirit.

"Gin has long been enjoyed in South Africa and, for decades, we have been drinking many imported British gins, because, up until recently, we had never really 'South Africanised' it," Buckham said.

Leading the campaign to localise the spirit are brands with eye-catching packaging like Ginologist, Clemengold, Time Anchor, Flowstone and Grey Hawk.

Noteworthily, it is the women who are leading the distilling revolution - like Shanna-Rae Wilby from Time Anchor Distillery in Maboneng, and Glyn French of Flowstone in Magaliesberg.

As with any spirit, gin is assessed on its clarity; nosing it while mixed with a bit of water to open the aromas; taking a sip and swirling it around the mouth.

The factor that distinguishes an outstanding spirit from an ordinary one is the balance, length, complexity, intensity and how it expresses the typical gin characteristics on the palate.

Meanwhile, Septimo Italian Market & Restaurant at Sandton City's Nelson Mandela Square recently launched some drool-inducing gin cocktails on its newly revamped bar list, adding some twist to old favourites.

Look out for Cassis Negroni cocktail, which is essentially Campari, Vermouth Rosso, gin and cassis. Cucumber and Basil G&T includes Premium gin shaken with cucumber extracts, lemon and fresh basil served tall and charged with tonic water.

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