Unleash Your Inner Lion With Leonista, South Africa’s 100% Karoo Agave Spirits


While the rest of the world is freaking out about the threatening tequila and agave plant shortage, South Africans are smiling as they sip on the country’s finest and first 100% Karoo Agave spirits, made the traditional way.

Increased customer demand and high agave prices have left tequila makers and distributors at a loss of how to address the shortage issue, but Sarah Kennan, the woman behind Leonista 100% Agave Spirit, seems unruffled by the scarcity of agave.

I met up with Sarah at Lapo’s Kitchen a couple of weeks ago, where she hosted a Night of Smoke And Fire to introduce the re-branded product. With a Lion Aperitivo (made from Leonista Honey reposado, Campari, vermouth) in hand, I asked Sarah how the global shortage will affect her brand. Turns out it won’t, unless the Mexicans start using our local Karoo agave for their products. But Sarah says she would be very surprised if they did, as Tequila is made from the Blue Agave Tequilana plant and the entire Leonista range is produced from blue Agave Americana. The plant occurs in abundance in the Karoo and Leonista has also implemented a “harvest one, plant three” program to make sure that they never run out.

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Blue Agave Americana plants in the Karoo

After breathing a sigh of relief, I turned my attention to the drink in my hand. Prior to this evening, my last encounter with tequila involved tribal chanting, a pile of shot glasses, and a bottle of …well, I can’t actually remember. For Sarah however, Leonista, or any other craft spirits for that matter, should be enjoyed slowly. As I swirl the Blanco around on my tongue, Sarah explains why this pure spirit deserves a slightly more prolonged experience.

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Sarah Kennan.

“100% agave spirits are the most energy-fueling of all the alcohols if treated with respect. In Mexico, they sip and have been sipping for hundreds of years. Sometimes with a sangrita, sometimes without, but the important thing is, they sip”, she says, adding that it’s also perfectly acceptable to enjoy it in a cocktail or even add it to your food.

Meaning “place of the lion”, the Leonista range offers something for everyone.

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Leonista Blanco

Meaning “white” in Spanish, this one is smooth and smokey. It is an un-aged variant in the pride characterized by the smooth but distinctly smokey flavour and is the closest adaptation to an authentic Mezcal.

Leonista Reposado

Meaning “aged” or “rested” is mellow and aged and is the senior member of the pride. It is rested for 3  to 6 months in oak barrels resulting in a smooth, sweeter flavour with hints of a smokey finish.

Leonista Honey Reposado

Wild and buzzy, the sweetest lioness of the pride. Infused with wild Cape honey, the honey reposado is subtly sweet with hints of a smokey finish.

The Leonista range is available online and at selected and speciality liquor store across South Africa.