The Art Of Brandy Blending

As a lover of wine, I never really imagined finding a soft spot for brandy. My first encounter with brandy was as a teenager when I browsed through my dad’s liquor cabinet. Soon after tasting the Oude Meester, I reached for the Nachtmusik to get my breath back. I occasionally went back to the Oude Meester, like when I had a sore throat (which works like a bomb btw), but most of the time I felt sorry for the “men” with their Klippies and Cola.

And then I grew up and after visiting 198 wine estates in South Africa, I decided it was time to rediscover that “super cough mixture” and ventured to Van Ryn’s. Helmuth Kisting welcomed me to Van Ryn’s with open arms and made my 199 tasting one of the most memorable experiences in my life. Little did we know that our paths will cross again.

So Helmuth got a “promotion” (probably after my review) and welcomed me to Van Ryn’s once again. This time, for a brandy blending experience with their cellar master Johan Venter. Helmuth introduced me to Johan and the other guests and suggested that we help ourselves to the canapés on offer.

Our adventure started with a quick video on the history and legacy of Van Ryn’s followed by an educational tour of the cellar. Helmuth and John explain the production process in detail and Van Ryn’s veteran cooper, Abie Valentyn, demonstrated his talent and showed us how to make a barrel. I discovered a whole new world that day in Van Ryn’s Cellar. RESPECT is all I can say.

The day escalated from fantastic to “can life get any better?!” when Johan welcomed us to the private tasting room in the cellar. He introduced us to the 8 base products that they use in the Alchemy of Gold range. I found the variety of brandies and their uniqueness intriguing as I scribbled down my tasting notes.

Johan called for the artists within us and it was time to try our hands at brandy blending. Flashbacks from science class entered my mind as I crafted my first blend. A bit of Fish Eagle, a dash of Klipdrift Premium, a whole lot of Oude Meester Reserve and a drop of hanepoot brought on the birth of my first blended brandy which I christened Teen, in memory of my youth. The brandy master himself played the judge and complimented the nose while crit-ing the taste. My second brandy blend consisted of a dash of Klipdrift Gold, a few drops Van Ryn’s 12-year-old, a drop or 2 of the world-famous Van Ryn’s 20-year-old Potstill and once again a whole lot of Oude Meester Reserve. Spirit was born and thanks to the brilliant brandies of Van Ryn’s, I’m the proud owner and creator of my own hand-crafted Potstill brandy range: Teen Spirit.

I left Van Ryn’s once again filled with memorable moments, knowing that I’ll return before my brandy collection runs low. Every night my work of art takes me back to my youth. I  laugh at my ignorance as a Teen and I am thankful for my Spirit that made me venture out and discover the magical world of Van Ryn’s Brandy.