Create your own South African gin route
A round-up of some of the unique gin distilleries around the country
Forget the famous wine routes or the craft beer breweries of a few years ago. Gin is the new kid on the block – and it’s taking South Africa by storm. Craft distilleries are cropping up all over the country, entire bars are dedicated to concocting the perfect gin-based cocktail, gin tastings are du jour, and even the uninitiated have an opinion on whether they prefer lemon, mint or cucumber as their gin garnish.
A good gin and tonic is hard to beat, and there are so many locally distilled options available. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best distilleries to visit, wherever you are in the country.
Inverroche, Stilbaai, Western Cape
One of South Africa’s first craft gin distilleries, Inverroche in Stilbaai, is probably one of the most influential local gin producers out there. It has stayed true to its original plan and still offers only its three flagship fynbos-infused gins: Amber, Verdant and Classic.
Aside from just tastings and tours, Inverroche also offers a Gin Sensorium and School on the last Saturday of every month. A small group of participants join “interactive gin distilling classes and learn all about the art of alchemy. Take a journey that is part science, part personal creativity, as you select and weigh your own combination of botanicals with which to infuse your gin.”
You’ll leave with your own personalised gin, a recipe card, tonic and a newfound appreciation for the art of gin-making.
Woodstock, Woodstock, Cape Town
The Woodstock Gin Company is located near the Old Biscuit Mill in, as you might have guessed, Woodstock. It offers tastings of its fynbos-infused gin six days a week but is closed on Sundays. For a real treat, taste one of the signature cocktails, which are carefully crafted using the company's own gins.
Jorgensen’s, Wellington, Western Cape
The beautiful winelands town of Wellington offers more than just wine and Cape Dutch-style buildings. The owner, Roger Jorgensen, says he wanted to make a gin that was good enough to drink neat but that would also be the crowning glory of a good cocktail.
Indulging in a tour and tasting here might be one of the best decisions you make – Jorgensen is entertaining and charismatic, and makes a pretty good G&T too. While you’re there, try his vodka, potstill brandy and – if you’re brave – absinthe.
Bloedlemoen, Salt River, Cape Town
Credited for being the world’s first blood-orange gin, Bloedlemoen is a creative distillation of 10 botanicals. Founders and business partners Pierre Strydom, Stefan Coetzee and Mike have the London dry-style gin distilled at Hope on Hopkins Distillery. The nose is led by citrus notes, light juniper and spicy floral nuances. Nutmeg combined with cassia and grains of paradise add a sweet spiciness, ending with a lingering blood-orange aftertaste.
And if the illustration of the label design looks familiar, it's because it was done by internationally renowned local artist Lorraine Loots, who is celebrated for her miniature depictions of circular landscapes and everyday objects on a white background.
Time Anchor Distillery, Maboneng, Johannesburg
This small distillery based in inner-city Joburg is a true hidden gem. It’s a labour of love, one which chief distiller Shanna-Rae Wilby kept as a side project until recently. She laid the floors herself and often used to distill at midnight after leaving her regular job to go to the distillery.
The distillery has a London dry and an African botanicals gin, but the real treats are the limited quantity of sloe gin (a red liqueur made with gin and blackthorn drupes) that they produce each year. They also have beautiful gins that make up the Mirari gin collection; some of them shimmer or change colour, while others just taste great.
You can book tastings by visiting the distillery's Facebook events listings, and you can also find it at expos and regular pairing events.
Red Stone, Clarens, Free State
The Red Stone brewery in Clarens might be more famous for its beer and cider than its gin, but the latter is not to be scoffed at. Named after the surrounding Rooiberge Mountains, Red Stone Craft produces an authentic orchard to bottle gin from its own apples. It also produces pre-mixed gin and tonics in blueberry, brambleberry and classic flavours.
A visit to the little town of Clarens is always a worthwhile endeavour, but a gin tasting and bite to eat at the bustling brewery and pub on the town square kicks it up a notch – or head to the separate gin bar, just behind the brewery. We challenge you not to leave with boxes and boxes of its creations.
Distillery 031, Durban
Durbanites will instantly recognise that Distillery 031 is named after the dialling code for Durban. Run by local boy Andrew Rall, the Durban dry gin is a standout: a classic London dry with an African twist and strong notes of African botanicals. The D’Urban barrel-aged gin is also excellent and quite different from the usual gins in the South African market. The distillery offers in-depth tours and tastings every Saturday, which include a cocktail, a meal, a tour and a guided tasting.
Qualito, Phalaborwa, Limpopo
Take a break from the infamous Phalaborwa heat with a refreshing gin at Qualito Craft Distillery. Its Grey Hawk gin has a strong floral note and a strong lemony finish. It’s produced with non-GMO grain and the crystal-clear waters of the Olifants River.
Your tour introduces you to the distilling process, takes you through the process of gin flavour matches, and moves along to pairings of the various Qualito spirits (gin, whisky and vodka) with all kinds of culinary delights. It’s the perfect way to break up a long trip to the Kruger.
Cape Town Gin Route
Established by the Pepperclub Hotel & Spa, the Cape Town Gin Route “aims to celebrate the skill and premium gins of six inner-city distilleries” by offering an immersive full-day tour every Tuesday, Thursday and the first and third Saturday of each month. Visit the website for booking information.
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