Gin apparently was invented in Italy in Salerno by the monks—who else?—as long ago as the 13th century. The Dutch perfected it, the English made it famous and now the whole world drinks it. There are many kinds of gin but they all are supposed to have as an ingredient juniper berries which give it its unique flavour. The Dutch word genever gives it its name –gin. Other things are added to make it really different—it is a palette waiting for inventive artists to make their mark on it. Here in SA we have some excellent and award-winning gins, all of which are gathering an ever increasing army of devotees. I have sought out some I think you will just love. Look for them –usually at Tops or get in touch with the makers.
In the quaint little harbour of Hout Bay you will find Hout Bay Harbour Distillery turning out world award winning gins that will make you sit up and take notice
.HOUT BAY HARBOUR NAVY STRENGTH
This gin won the Best Navy Strength in the World Award at the World Gin Awards in 2020– a great achievement in a large international arena. What is Navy Strength? –The story is that the Royal Navy in the 18th Century stipulated that their vessels had to carry a certain amount of gin while sailing. It was required to help fight illness and disease. Some officers were suspicious of the gin and felt it had been watered down. To test it was of the right strength they lit a mixture of spirit and gunpowder. If it burned clearly it was “proof.” Failure to light meant it was not high enough in alcohol and meant it had to be at least 57 % which today this gin is. The judges said—“Pleasant sweetness- good balance of flavours. Well-structured with floral intensity -exceptionally tasty –great effort –beautifully crafted SA Navy gin.” Just don’t light a match near it.
HOUT BAY HARBOUR DRY
Now this is the sort of gin you want to dab behind your ears and pat on pulse points. It was awarded Best London Dry SA gin at the World Gin Awards this year and one can taste why—spectacular. The judges noted –“Fragrant in the extreme, very green nose with herbal notes. Spice flavours predominate –elegant combination of herbs and spices with a touch of citrus finish—simple, smooth, well balanced.” I couldn’t say it better
This premier gin pays tribute to the spices of the African Spice Route with superb underlying notes of the perfumes of the African markets. Warm and slightly peppery, this is serious stuff and no blushing violet. A woody character is always present –just the right accompaniment to the cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon which reveal themselves as you sip—absolutely brilliant. Presented in beautiful bottles in various sizes including one they call “swig” and tiny ones called nips—so quirky. Perfect for handbags and picnic baskets.
MUSGRAVE PINK GIN
A much gentler version of the Musgrave 11— this rose gin is totally delicious, made with 12 rare botanicals, including spicy warm cardamom, juniper and African ginger, fragrant on the nose with a tiny peppery nip on the tongue—irresistible.
NAAKTE NAARTJIE GIN
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the country near Oudtshoorn, a brilliant old copper still at the Grundheim farm is turning out some fabulous, quirky products with a distinctly SA flavour. This one is handcrafted in small batches– redolent with naartjie peel and rose fragrances—superb and beautifully packaged in a 375ml bottle and box.—the perfect gift to show you really care.
Definitely no Sleeping Beauty this one—fragrant with Turkish Delight rose petals and the gentle kick of a Klein Karoo afternoon, most appealing—also in cute packaging to get the heart aflutter.
BOPLAAS 8 CITRUS GIN
The Nel family have been making fabulous products since 1880 in Calitzdorp. The son of the family, Daniel, has been distilling superb spirit products from their famous brandies, to whiskies, to three fabulous gins. This one is packed with citrus dynamite with underlying orange supporting tangerine and lemons–a flavour knockout if ever there was one. The other two are a Pink Gin with rose petals, star anise and orange zest—unbelievably delicious– and a classic Cape Gin which will appeal to the connoisseur.
FRANSCHHOEK DISTILLERY GIN
Jonathan Lermer has been making some outstanding products on the family farm La Verdure in Franschhoek for some years now. More about those in another post. When he and Anné married he wanted to make a gin especially for the occasion –you know —the sort of thing we all do. The result is this delicious addition to his formidable slate. The base of this gin is Shiraz from the farm supporting a medley of gentle and fragrant herbs, some honey and caramel nuances, slightly smoky and endearing beyond all the talking of it.