This week’s ‘Inside Africa’ on CNN International explores South Africa’s burgeoning spirit industry, and how distillers are trying to break into a global market from a country more commonly known for its major wine exports.
The programme reports from Cape Town, home to some of the nation’s most famous gins and brandies are produced, often adding distinct artisanal touches from regional herbs and plants, to examine the growth of the industry further.
‘Inside Africa’ meets Roger Jorgensen, a small-scale distiller who outlines how and why his industry has expanded in South Africa: “The ending of apartheid was a seminal moment for the whole of the country, obviously, but it played a great role in my life and business as well… Private distillation was outlawed. There were no private distillers in this country, just nationalist government monopolies, which had a stranglehold on distilling in South Africa, from brandies to vodkas, rums, gins, everything.”
The programme hears how Jorgensen was one of the first distillers to apply for a license over twenty years ago, and now produces nearly 2,400 bottles of brandy a year, whilst also moving into artisan vodka and gin.
Jorgensen outlines his expansion and the popularity of gin in Cape Town especially: “The gin bars that have grown up in Cape Town have become legends in a very short space of time. We feed into that, and they feed off us, if you like. It’s a symbiotic relationship. They are able to attract customers, which will give a great deal of exposure to our gins, our brands. They need us to feed that market.”
‘Inside Africa’ learns that South African gin consumption increased by almost 11 percent in 2015, and the programme travels into the city to The Gin Bar to explore the trend for gin in Cape Town further.
The Gin Bar’s manager Angelique Smith explains why the spirit has become so popular: “Here in South Africa, we have an abundance of natural botanicals and unique botanicals internationally… I’ve been able to see the progression of the South African market and consumer and their knowledge of gin… We like to help with education and what we’ve seen often is that those people that come initially, will come back with their friends and educate their friends.”
The popularity of gin and other botanicals have allowed local distillers to elevate and explore their taste further by incorporating many local herbs and plants.
Jorgensen explains to ‘Inside Africa’ how distillers are taking advantage of the area’s ecosystem: “Here in the Western Cape we live in a unique sort of biosphere called the fynbos floral kingdom… Distilling here is a logical extension of the wine-making business. It’s a logical extension of the fantastic plant kingdoms that we’ve got here in the Western Cape… What it does is it gives us a unique palette from which we can paint our gins onto neutral alcohol. It gives expression. It gives life to the plant kingdom that we’ve got here.”
The programme learns that the variation of tastes, spirits and appetite for locally sourced alcohol has allowed the distillers based in the Western Cape to look further towards global markets.
Looking to the future, Jorgensen tells ‘Inside Africa’: “We must have 20 gin producers in the Western Cape. Now we have an industry, we have credibility, we have traction in the marketplace. We have a news-worthy story and we’ve got a genre of products that South Africa can be proud of.”
The show airs at the following times:
Friday 3 March at 19:30 SAST
Saturday 4 March at 05:30 SAST; 13:30 SAST and 20:30 SAST
Sunday 5 March at 06:30 SAST and 13:30 SAST
Monday 6 March at 06:30 SAST
Tuesday 7 March at 11:30 SAST
Thursday 9 March at 06:30 SAST