DURBAN - Gin drinking in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has soared in 2018 as the volume imported almost tripled between May 2017 and May 2018 to 166 190 litres from 60 403 litres.
Part of this is then sent on to other provinces such as Gauteng, but the attraction of KZN as a market for gin distillers is evident in the launch of Autograph gin at Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel’s Panorama Bar in Durban.
The Autograph gin won the Top Scoring Craft Gin of 2018 award at the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards, which is the largest competition of its kind on the African continent.
The Autograph gin is an infusion of interesting botanicals and fynbos native to Africa, including citrus buchu leaves, naartjies ; Cape rough skin lemons; wild rosemary; confetti bush and African wormwood. The creator and master distiller, 21-year-old Matt Beech, is the youngest gin maker in the country and is based at Stellenbosch.
Cape-based Ginny Fowl won the Craft Spirit Innovative Trophy for their Resurrection Classic. Shane and Noel Douglas-Evans are also targeting the KZN market, even though KZN also currently has four gin distilleries, namely Midlands Distillery, 031 Distillery, Zululand Distillery and Rawdons . Angelo Page from Midlands Distillery said it takes between R200 000 and R4 million to establish a distillery, so there may be more on their way.
“I personally think the cause for an increase in bespoke distilleries is technology in small still production, making it accessible to the small guy. Google is also a major factor with people sharing information and ideas. I also believe consumers are looking for niche products and more options,” he said.
Noel Douglas-Evans warned that there was a perception that gin is easy to make, but it's not. It required serious dedication and staying power as over a quarter of new gins were being removed off the shelvesas non-sellers.
“Whose fault that may be is difficult to assess. You could argue that it is up to the retailer, but actually it is up to the gin maker. Apart from the production costs, you need to add in marketing costs such as promotional events, give-aways , advertising and other things such as branded hats and other goodies,” he said.