The global gin renaissance continues apace, and the Western Cape is turning into an unlikely trendsetter, as a new wave of gin makers gives the age-old spirit a South African twist. It’s less about juniper and more about endemic botanicals plucked straight from the Cape Floral Region, home to more than 9,000 plant species, nearly 70% of which grow nowhere else on earth.
Inverroche was the first brand to experiment with varieties of fynbos – a family of fine-leaved shrubs with distinct terroirs – chosen for their unique tastes and aromas. In 2011, it launched a few bottles of three handcrafted gins – Classic, with limestone fynbos; Verdant, with mountainous fynbos, and Amber, with coastal fynbos. Now it’s producing 18,000 bottles a month, and exporting to 15 countries.
The latest is Cape Town Gin, with a juniper-heavy Classic Dry, with notes of cardamom, orange and lemon peel, and coriander, and the Rooibos Red, which switches some of the juniper for organic rooibos tea.
There is also KWV’s Cruxland, flavoured with Kalahari truffle; Wilderer, produced with spring water from Franschhoek, and small-batch Musgrave Gin, which mixes 11 botanicals, including the spicy top notes of African ginger, and a delicate-flavoured pink gin infused with rosewater.
For a crash course on Cape gin, Hope On Hopkins, a diminutive artisan distillery in the heart of Cape Town, offers monthly curated gin tastings and more informal weekly samplings, as well as producing its own gins – the Salt River Gin includes native medicinal herbs such as buchu and kapokbos (wild rosemary).
For dedicated gin joints try Mother’s Ruin on Bree Street, or The Gin Bar, a speakeasy-style venue tucked behind a chocolate shop, which puts its own spin on gin cocktails.