End Game for Brandy


Driving in to Wellington on Saturday morning from Cape Town for the Harvest Festival, we came upon Sasolburg in the Boland aka the James Sedgwick distillery which is growing like Topsy on the outskirts of town. Yet another store has been thrown up and soon you won’t be able to see the oriental-style distilling house from the road. Joni Mitchell comes to mind about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. But the barrels being parked here are evidence that whisky is now more than one third the production of brandy at Distell, the biggest player. And in terms of profit, on another planet entirely.

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But not only do the Sedgwick products win international kudos galore – the latest gong is the Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish being named as Africa’s Best Spirit and receiving a trophy and gold medal at the 2014 China Wine and Spirits competition. But watching distiller Andy Watts (above) in action at the harvest festival, its clear that the success of whisky in SA does not rely on taste alone. Brandy marketing is in meltdown.

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Showcasing whisky at a wine festival is guerilla marketing at its best. And not celebrating brandy in an appellation that makes some of the finest – I’m talking Napier, De Compagnie, Nabygelegen and Upland here, is criminal. Heck Oude Molen even make a brand called Wellington! But where was the brandy bar? Where were the cocktails? Where was the enthusiasm? The cooking demos? Where were the beautiful babes and boys (above) giving brandy rubdowns?

If Distell are serious about reversing the terminal decline of brandy, they should transfer Andy to the brandy portfolio asap.