With the gin boom in full swing in South Africa, there are lots of distilleries that offer tastings and tours. Here are a few to start you off.
Hope on Hopkins in Salt River has various tours and tastings. The hour-and-a-half Gin Experience (R85) has an introduction to gin plus a distillery tour, where you’ll learn how they make gin … not only theirs, but Musgrave and Bloedlemoen too, which they also distil. It ends with a tutored tasting of perfect-serve Hope on Hopkins G&Ts.
If you’re into martinis, the two-hour Martini Masterclass (R200) is for you. While you nurse said cocktail you’ll be taken through the history, styles and terminologies of this classic drink. You’ll then learn how to make (and taste!) three types of gin and vodka-based martinis. For good measure, you’ll get another martini all to yourself afterwards. The masterclass caters for up to 12 people, so round up some friends and give it a whirl.
In summer, you can also do general tastings, choosing which (and how many) gins you’d like to taste out of the full range distilled (from R60 for three gins). There’ll also be more detailed distiller-led tastings every week … Find out more by contacting the distillery.
Triple Three in Stellenbosch has light-hearted yet educational tastings of their three gins in the spirits room (R30), and from spring 2016 there’ll be gin-and-food pairings in the Bistro at Blaauwklippen.
New Harbour in Woodstock has three super fun gin experiences. The first is a simple gin lab and distillery tour followed by a distiller Q&A and a comparative vodka and gin tasting (R50). The other two are more in depth, for the more serious gin lover.
In Spirits Lab Mixology, the master distiller will teach you the art and science of infusing a neutral spirit base – like gin, vodka or rum – with complementary herbs, fruits and spices. (R1 000, which includes course material, tastings, recipe booklet, a bottle of New Harbour Distillery Vodka and a DIY infusion kit.)
They also offer a Make Your Own Gin workshop, making gin from scratch! The course covers gin history, types and manufacturing techniques, plus the master distiller will show you, via a guided tasting, what effects different botanicals have on gin flavours. (R850, which includes course material, tastings, recipe booklet, a bottle of gin you made yourself plus a certificate.)
Inverroche in Stilbaai has two options. You can either do an hour-long distillery tour and tasting (R70 per person) or a straight-up 15-minute sampling (R50).
Distillery 031 in Station Drive Precinct has a whammy of a spirits tour experience, as not only gin but vodka, cachaça, absinthe and various other natural spirit aperitifs are distilled on site. After an introduction, tasting and tour you settle in for a cocktail and meal at 031 Bar & Restaurant. (R270 for three spirits plus tonic or R350 for six spirits plus tonic, both including a meal and cocktail.)
If you’re into absinthe, do the Absinthe Experience add on, with a traditional louching ritual from a hand-blown absinthe fountain.
Time Anchor in Maboneng does exciting tastings of up to five of their craft gins in a ‘taste and discuss’ format lasting an hour and a half (R150). You’ll get to be part of their Alchemy Trials, testing their experimentation range, like their Gincello and Sloe Gin. Then, while you sip on a craft cocktail or G&T they’ll tell you all about the fascinating world of craft distilleries. You’ll even be able to bottle and label your own 50ml gin, for keeps!
This post first appeared on Food24 on 22 July 2016.