South Africa has made brandy its own. New brands and innovations are now leading the way, reports Clifford Roberts.
As whisky is to Scotland and vodka is to Poland, so is brandy to South Africa. The heritage drink is distilled using ancient techniques refined over centuries and exposes the concentrated essence of a natural ingredient – grapes.
While the excellence of any modern-day spirit and the size of the industry are one thing, it is distillation’s long history over 1 000 years that makes it fascinating. In South Africa’s case, the spirit that took hold and grew has an inalienable Dutch strain in its DNA.
As a constant reminder, the Afrikaans name for brandy, brandewyn, is derived from Dutch.
The story of South African brandy is most frequently begun in 1672, soon after the first vineyards were planted by the Dutch settlers. Distilling had been an ancient tradition of the Dutch, but a new milestone emerged when a cook aboard the Dutch ship De Pijl, anchored in Table Bay, distilled the first locally grown grapes.
“For all the heritage of South African brandy, however, a fresh breeze has struck up, and one of the reasons may, in some part at least, be credited to another drink with prominent Dutch links – gin.”
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