11 Oct 2020
Distilling Star of the Republic

Copper Republic, a local family-owned spirit company has been picking up international accolades for their artisanal spirit range. Leah van Deventer finds out about this up-and-coming distilling star.

Bryce Kennard and his team at Copper Republic have quietly been tinkering with their spirit portfolio for some time now, and it’s starting to pay off, with their various liquids having accumulated 20-odd awards in the last two years. So what’s the backstory? One minute no one had heard of them, and the next they were kicking arse on the global stage. Let’s take a look…

Initially working in finance in the UK, Kennard found himself bored, and decided to try his hand with spirits. In 2010ish, he launched Copper House, a low-end spirit production and contract-packing company servicing West Africa, China and more.

However, just as he was about to take his spirits to market – with bottles and labels ready to go – Kennard got a call from Diageo to say that the Copper House logo, an overlapping CH, too closely resembled David Beckham’s Haig Club insignia, an overlapping HC. Although Haig Club was also brand new, Kennard decided not to tangle with the titans, and established Copper Republic instead.

Once the fledgling company had taken flight (and Kennard had learnt more about the spirits business), he decided to see if he could soar to greater heights, and turned his attention to high-end spirits.

This production pivot entailed a physical move too, with the building of the Copper Republic distillery near Zinkwazi Beach, to the north of Durban. While his father, Peter, and wife, Carey, assisted on the business-administration front, Kennard started concocting in earnest, getting advice from established distillers as much as possible. 

Part of this educational quest lead Kennard to the Western Cape, where he worked with some of our famed brandy distillers to create his four Copper Republic brandies: the Zula XO Cape Brandy, Zula VSOP Cape Brandy, Honeybush Brandy and Rooibos Brandy. 

Of course, as a younger distiller still building up his stocks, Kennard leaned more heavily on the Cape distillers for his XO, but his fingerprints are all over the younger blends, and they’re doing well. The VSOP just took a silver at The Luxury Masters of 2020 – hosted by The Spirits Business – while the others got gold!

These are just the latest accolades that Copper Republic have achieved. Most impressively, the Copper Republic African Dry Gin was not only named World’s Best South African Signature Botanical Gin at the 2020 World Gin Awards, but went on to win World’s Best Signature Botanical Gin too.

Similarly, the Copper Republic Single Grain Bourbon Cask Whisky won Best Grain Whisky under 12 years in South Africa in the 2020 World Whiskies Awards, and then won World’s Best South African Whisky as well.

The standouts for Copper Republic Rooibos & Grapefruit Gin would be Double Golds in both the 2019 SA Craft Gin Awards and 2019 Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits awards.

“We feel extremely proud and grateful for all that we have achieved.” said Kennard. We are a proudly family owned, uniquely South African company that has proven that South African spirits are a force to be reckoned with and should be taken seriously in the international spirits arena. We have constantly strived to create spirits that are innovative; spirits that push the bar and boundaries within the spirits industry, and to be recognised for this has made the journey well worth it.”

Kennard shows no sign of slowing down. While his current business model is a hybrid, where he uses the facilities and equipment of other distilleries as well as his own, he’s in the process of moving his distillery to Hilton, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. 

While his brandy production will stay in the Cape as a product of origin, the expansion will allow him to be more self-reliant, and it will enable him to receive distillery. In addition to continuing with his existing gins, Kennard is also looking to expand his whisky range, and may even delve into Agricole. 

We’ll be keeping our eyes on Copper Republic, and you should too.

This post first appeared on Fermented on 10 October 2020

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