As the ninth-largest whisky market in the world, South Africa imports 42 million bottles of Scotch whisky every year. Strict global regulations on Scotch production prevent distillers from cutting corners with their craft, ensuring a premium standard and taste are maintained across the international stage.
However, these rules have historically also limited local innovation and customization of the spirit, according to Gerrit Wagener, CEO of Redford Beverages, the official distributor of the proudly South African Toor Whisky.
This is why the South African government’s latest announcement of a new spirit category – a ‘whisky aperitif’ – has been very well received by local craft distillers such as Toor. Wagener says: “The clarification of the whisky aperitif category is music to our ears, as it allows us to showcase unique South African flavours in whisky to our unique local audience.”
In recent years, increasing interest from millennials – both male and female – has challenged the long-standing whisky-drinking stereotype of a middle-aged man in a gentleman’s club. All over the world, brands are re-evaluating their values and zeroing in on a new type of whisky drinker.
An industry leader, Toor Whisky is one of the first to launch two variants into this new spirit category, their Camel Thorn and Rooibos releases. “When Toor was conceptualised, we always wanted to showcase South African flavours in whisky, especially that of South African wood,” says Wagener.
“Unfortunately camel thorn is not an easy wood to make a barrel from. So, for us to showcase the flavour of this iconic wood in a whisky, we had to work with the government to find a category that enables us to expose pure whisky to actual camel thorn wood, which is why we are so delighted to finally have the whisky aperitif.”
As with any new category, the jury is out as to what the local market will think, but Wagener says Toor’s intention over the coming years is to release more proudly South African flavours that showcase the local culture as well as an appreciation for the fun, lighter side of life.
“This new category allows Toor to further amplify real whisky with uniquely South African flavours using our vacuum cycling technology at Doña distillery, under the watchful eye of our stellar distiller, Danielle Schoeman.”
He concludes: “Keep an eye out though because according to government rules the maximum alcohol in this category is 30% (as opposed to 43% in our original grain whisky). For many whisky drinkers, the lower alcohol content rule comes with additional benefits, whereas others might have to pour a double!”
The full Toor Whisky range is stocked at a variety of outlets, including Takealot and Makro for national delivery, and in selected Tops at Spar in the Western Cape and Gauteng for easy access over the festive season.