LISTEN | Fancy a G&T infused with elephant dung? JabuGin is a world first
Fancy a bit of elephant poop in your G&T?
In a world first, Les and Paula Ansley, both Western Cape scientists, have created a gin made from botanicals extracted from elephant dung that also benefits the animals at a dedicated sanctuary.
Elephant herds at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve in the Western Cape and Jabulani in Limpopo have become part of a “mixology team”, with their droppings integral ingredients of two brands of gin in the Ibhu stable, owned by the couple.
It was during a Kenyan safari, while sipping on a gin and tonic and learning about the browsing habits of elephants, that Paula was struck by a “crazy idea”.
Would it be possible to make gin with elephant dung?
“We also learnt during an elephant-watching trip that elephants have a poor digestive system and only absorb about 30% of what they eat. All the rest of this ends up on the veld floor. They have a wonderful diet of botanicals,” said Les.
“We are both scientists, and therefore inclined towards novel ideas and problem solving, so when Paula had the idea, we wanted to see whether it would be possible. The more we explored the concept, the more it opened up and the more excited we became.
“We got to a point where we were happy with the botanicals that were extracted from the dung, but neither of us know how to make gin.”
The coupled approached gin master Roger Jorgensen to lend his expertise. It led to Indlovu gin using the dung of elephants at Botlierskop; more recently, the herd at Jabulani has been given a chance to be part of the gin process.
The couple felt it was important to contribute to wildlife conservation and approached Jabulani, a big five private reserve.
Jabulani was built nearly 20 years ago to help look after a herd of rescued elephants. It led to the establishment, by owner Adine Roode, of SA’s first dedicated elephant “orphanage”, Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation & Development.
JabuGin sells for R450 a bottle and Indlovu Gin costs R535.
When it comes to the collection of the dung, the husband-and-wife team prefer to do it.
The collected dung is dried, crumbled and then, in accordance with a prescribed method for sterilising grey/borehole water in SA for human consumption, is immersed in a sterilising fluid that kills 99.9% of bacteria, fungi, spores and viruses. The sterilised dung is thoroughly rinsed, dried and stored in breathable sacks until use.
“There are numerous studies that show that an alcohol solution between 40% and 70% is very effective in killing bacteria,” said Les. “Therefore the direct infusion of the dung that occurs in one of the flavouring runs acts as an additional step in the cleansing process.
“During the bottling process the gin passes through a micro-filter and finally, a sample from each batch of gin is sent for laboratory analysis to ensure that it meets the stringent standards of potability.”
The base gin is a traditional London Dry, distilled from cane spirit. It includes juniper, angelica, orris root, coriander and citrus.
The process, which is carried out in the Cape winelands where the Ansleys live, takes a few weeks to make a batch.
Roode said JabuGin had piqued the curiosity of guests.
“It’s a unique ingredient that you may either be very curious to try, or perhaps need some tempting to even sniff.”
The elephant herd was “happy and healthy and their dung is proof of that”, she said.
“All proceeds from the bottles go towards the high ongoing costs to care for, sustain and protect the Jabulani herd of rescued elephants and the elephant orphans.”
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