Disclaimer: Publishing this post during a time where our priorities should be social-distancing and strictly following any measures imposed or recommended from local governments and health organizations, I am definitely not encouraging anyone to go out or travel in this moment. But I truly believe there are still lots of opportunities to support local businesses who direly need supporting as well as adding new destinations to your bucket list; because however long it might take there will be the time when travelling will be safe again and we all should look forward to this.
There is a true gin revival taking place around the world thanks to the craft gin movement. Though gin can only legally classified as such when its principal characteristic is the juniper, the range of new craft gins adding an almost unlimited number of botanicals to add new flavours to this classic spirit. One place that shines in crafting absolutely wonderful new types of gin is South Africa, and especially the Western Cape is not only home to a growing number of craft distilleries. There is now also a growing number of places offering awesome gin tasting opportunities that should be on everybody’s list.
Mention the Cape Winelands in South Africa and the first thing that will quite obviously come to mind are the excellent wines produced in this breathtakingly beautiful region.
Yet whilst the region is most famous for its award-winning wines and eclectic cuisine, somewhat secretly it has branched out to producing a range of spirits, manly gin and brandy.
There are now more than 50 registered gin distilleries in South Africa of which around 30 are located in the Western Cape according to the South Africa Tourism website.
Several of these distillers have become household names in South Africa and some are now even known and sold outside the country. If you have not yet heard about them, Inverroche, Hope Gin, Woodstock Gin or Autograph Gin are all worth a try.
Given the hype around gin and the Cape Winelands being recognized as one of the leading regions of wine tourism in the world, it’s likely no surprise that today you will find a growing number of wineries and bars offering gin tasting experiences.
I recently had the opportunity to attend two amazing gin tastings, and it’s safe to say I am totally hooked and will certainly seek out other places offering similar experiences.
Asara Winery – Sansibar Gin Bar Gin Tasting experience
You can drink other spirits here and off course the winery’s own wines but Sanisbar at the Asara Winery and Hotel in Stellenbosch is not called Gin Bar by chance.
At Sansibar, you will find more than 500 different gins from South Africa and all over the world, making it one of the largest gin selections globally.
Sansibar Gin Lounge itself is just stunning whilst weather permitting you might opt to settle down on the patio overlooking the small pond in front of the restaurant and hotel. It is truly one of the best spots to enjoy a sunset in the Cape Winelands.
Much more so if it is accompanied by the awesome gin tasting experience Sansibar is offering.
You can chose between local South African gins or having a gin tasting experience including international gins.
So I am sure the latter will offer a lot of new flavours to be discovered, I was obviously opting for the local gins. In part because I am still having to do a lot of catching up to the many new types that have been introduced to the market over recent years.
The session will last around an hour and will start first taking you through some essentials of gin making, including some of the main botanicals used for production.
Following this, you are going to taste four different gins. Which ones these will be can change from session to session but here are the ones I tasted:
- The by now very well known Mediterranean Hope Gin, the most complex of the distillery’s gins. This particular type it is distilled from Western Cape grape spirit and then infused with twelve botanicals, including olives, cardamom and fresh herbs. For the tasting, it was garnished with a lemon zest and a olive.
- The Time Anchor Distillery Livingstone Botanicals Gin, crafted with 12 African botanicals including fynbos and honeybush – garnished with orange and strawberry.
- Autograph Gin, which was named the best gin in South Africa by The Gin Guide in 2019 as well as awarded the Top Scoring Craft Gin at the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards the same year obviously needed to be part of the experience. Garnished with papaya, rosemary and blueberries, it was indeed a real revelation.
- Rottcher Slowveld Gin, which is the first ever made gin from citrus, which means the gin is orange based and not only infused with orange flavour which makes for a very intense flavour. For the tasting, it was added to a orange-based gin cocktail.
Leopard Bar, 12 Apostles Hotel Gin Tasting experience
What’s not to love tasting award-winning gins while feasting on some absolutely delectable freshly prepared matching canapés.
Leopard Bar at the iconic 12 Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay not only offers a gin tasting. If you are in the mood, you can even go a step further and create your own gin with the gin-making experience.
For the gin tasting session, expect to taste three different gins again chosen from the available selection at the bar. The ones I tasted were:
- Cape Town Pink Lady Gin. As the name suggests, it is a gin distilled in Cape Town by Cape Town Gin & Spirits Company which puts high focus on crafting high premium gins with a distinctive South African flavour. The Pink Lady Gin is infused with Rose Geranium, an indigenous multi-branched shrub, dried hibiscus flowers which are ground to a powder and then added to the gin to create the pinkish colour whilst a hint of Rose water is added to compliment the natural rose scent of the geranium plant. For the tasting, the gin and tonic was garnished with a slice of cucumber and a rose petal.
- Jorgensen’s Gin, which is a traditional style gin crafted with Macedonian Juniper and peppery Grains of Paradise. After adding tonic it was garnished with an orange zest and strawberry.
- Inverroche Gin, which is likely one of the best known South African gin these days on an international scene. There are three different types of Inverroche gins including the amber, classic and verdant ranges. For the tasting, I was offered the verdant gin which is infused with fynbos from the mountainous terrain of the Cape Floral Kingdom. For the tasting, it was garnished with lime and thyme, adding an interesting twist.
As for the canapés served alongside your gins, these are freshly made to match the gins and are indeed a real pleasure to devour.
I had an awesome time trying these two very special gin tastings which both were presented in a very fun and educative way. I only can recommend to not only go for a gin and tonic or gin cocktail when hitting a bar or restaurant in Cape Town or the Cape Winelands but to make the most of the growing offer of dedicated gin tastings in the area. You will have a fantastic time.