South African vodkas and gins you should try right now

South Africa has made its way firmly onto the map as one of the best vodka and gin producing regions. Picture: Supplied

South Africa has made its way firmly onto the map as one of the best vodka and gin producing regions. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 8, 2020


South Africa has made its way firmly onto the map as one of the best vodka and gin producing regions.

With distilleries popping up all over, each company is unique in its techniques and flavours.

So, if you are looking for a local spirit to enjoy from the comfort of your own home, while also giving back to the local economy, look no further than one of these vodka and gin companies. If these spirits are not your favourite spirits, they are about to be.

So here is our list of locally-distilled South African vodkas and gins that you should try right now.

Gr8dient Vodka

Gr8dient vodka was co-founded in 2017 by Sakhile Mkhalele and Lesego Tshelane. During the conception stage, they focused on research and global affairs to produce and introduce a proudly SA brand into the market which will effectively compete in the alcohol-beverage industry which is dominated by international competitors.

Mkhalele said the Gr8dient vodka bottle is a true representation of SA opulence which is simply unquestionable, from the chrome cork closure which seals the pure fantasy to the tall slim bottle which towers of its competitors.

“We wanted a bottle that would be bold, eye-catching, and stand tall amongst our competitors. In regards to the design, we went with a gradient effect because we wanted a bottle design that tells a story about the process of life, that in life we go through different shades or phases, some phases will be brighter and darker than the other but at the end of the day, we need to enjoy the process as all those different shades shape us.

“We’re very optimistic about the future of Gr8dient vodka as we have a lot of new flavours that will be introduced into the market.”

Contact: [email protected]

Native Gin

The Native Spirits brand draws inspiration from SA’s rich culture and heritage of brewing beer and distilling spirits. It pays homage to the native men and women of the SA lineage who through the art of distilling, have curated and shaped SA celebrations over generations.

Speaking to founder Ashley Moemise, he said that as a restaurateur, they wanted to create their own in-house wines, beer, and spirits and they decided that gin would be the start of this journey. Moemise said the decision was made easy by the current boom in the gin revolution, the growth of the gin distilling industry, and how robust the craft gin market is.

He said their packaging represents who they are as a black-owned brand. That the copper represents not only who they are, but also the wealth of their people and their land.

“Almost all our botanicals are sourced locally, something we pride ourselves in. The logo is a native Maori face mask showing the Koru lines which represent family and the Manawa lines, which represent one’s life and life journey – in this case, my own personal and entrepreneurial journey and travels. With the botanicals that we chose, we were very deliberate in making our flagship, Native gin, a classic silver gin which forms the base of the other two gins that we produce.

“We distill it with honey-bush from the Cederberg mountains, and a combination of fourteen other botanicals. Everything that we do around this the brand is centered on our clients and their experience. We spend many sleepless nights thinking about new ways to delight them each time they engage with our brand. We are not in this game because we want to just sell gin. We aim to build a strong, proudly native South African brand and legacy, which is more of a forward-focused exercise,” said Moemise.

Contact: [email protected]

Vachellia Premium Vodka

Vachellia premium vodka which is founded by Siyabonga Sangquthu and Thabiso Mogodi currently only offers their standard grain-based vodka which they produce and bottle in Cape Town. They distill the vodka seven times then rest it for two days before bottling at 43% alcohol. It is an incredibly smooth vodka with an unmatched taste experience.

Co-founder Mogodi said the idea came when he was out clubbing with friends. He thought to himself as to how amazing the experience would've been if they were celebrating with locally produced premium brands that carried the same sort of stature as some of the brands they had been drinking that night.

From that, the idea to create a local luxury vodka brand that will compete on a global mainstream level came about. They went out to create a vodka that is of the highest quality and taste, enough to take on some of the biggest brands in the world.

“We wanted to do something different, something that would set us apart from the crowd, something inspiring, relatable, graceful, cultured, and something that embodies Africa and her elegance. Through our brand, we wanted to give the world a new taste of Africa. Our drive is to create a luxury spirit that embodies this majestic continent and to show it all off to the world, in style, and with luxury at the forefront.

“This is why one of the first details seen when looking at our meticulously designed bottle is the grand African continent in royal-white on the neck of the bottle. In any part of the world, when someone sees a bottle of Vachellia premium vodka, we want them to know of its African origin, and that it is the epitome of pure African excellence, craftsmanship, and luxury,” he said.

Mogodi said they are excited about what the future holds for their brand as they will be introducing a new addition to their product packaging this year, and that they are also working at getting their vodka into different liquor stores and bars across the country before looking to start exporting to other neighbouring African countries.

Contact: [email protected]

Gem of a Gin

Gem of a Gin is a collaboration borne out of serendipity by Martyn Mills who is the creator of the gem brand and Simon Von Witt from Distillers and Union who is the creator of the pink gin.

This brand was inspired by Gemma who is Mills daughter who at a young age was diagnosed with Leukaemia. The artwork on the front label has been re-worked from an original painting Gem created during her treatment.

The pink colour of gem gin is derived from pinotage red grape skin extract which is blended with the main ingredients during fermentation and maceration, and which not only adds colour but also releases resveratrol and polyphenols into the gin and of which are known for their antioxidant properties.

Gem of a Gin offers two beverages; one is a 43% alcohol pink gin and the other is a zero percent alcohol distilled beverage to cater to the non-alcoholic segment. Both liquids use South Africa’s finest fynbos, namely rooibos, buchu, and honeybush.

Mills said the gem brand is special and takes its inspiration from a true story of courage and hope and uses a beautiful piece of real art for its label. Their master distiller, Simon Von Witt is also special as he was one of the very first craft distillers in Cape Town to start producing gin.

“Simon is a perfectionist and purist when it comes to distilling. We sent two samples of gem zero percent alcohol to London in February this year to Distill Ventures who are the start-up investment arm of Diageo as they were interested in the gem brand.

“Unfortunately just after the samples were received in London the country went into lockdown due to the coronavirus and they could not taste the samples,” he said.

Contact: [email protected]

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