Jungle Juice to make spirited impact in SA
By Lauren Cohen
It's been on British shelves for the past two years, and now South Africans can also go wild about a Plettenberg Bay liqueur called Jacks Jungle Juice.
It's potent stuff, this JJJ - and even sniffy emporiums such as Harrods stock it.
The Nyati distillery - essentially a shed on Wittedrift farm - is where 11 flavours of fruit liqueur, Van der Hum and a traditional 60 percent alcohol content mampoer are distilled by owner Tony Kinahan and learner distiller Sebastian Andrews, a Rastafarian who has never tasted the stuff as Rastas don't drink alcohol.
The staff of five produce 1 000 litres of Nyati JJJ a year but with international and local demand on the rise, Kinahan plans to increase output to 20 000 litres.
In June, national retail chain Makro placed its first order, and because JJJ has now been classified as a preferred supplier, another order has been placed.
"We are also producing an exclusive bottle for Makro's Christmas catalogue," Kinahan said.
In Britain the products have been sold at Marks and Spencer and Harrods for the past two years.
Fruit such as apricots, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and marula are locally sourced for the 37 percent and 24 percent alcohol content of the two liqueurs, while citrus fruit is used for the 60 percent "XXX Mampoer".
Fiery mampoer is too much for some palates and a neighbour suggested that "something sweet" be made for the ladies to enjoy.
Kinahan jumped at the idea and after much experimentation - and sampling - Nyati JJJ liqueurs were born.
"The juice is extracted in an automatic juicer but everything else is done by hand to ensure the highest quality," Kinahan said.
The raw juice is of such a high quality that it's a firm favourite with guests at Kinahan's Buffalo Hills Private Camp, the game farm which shares its land with the distillery.
Pith and pips are removed from the juice to prevent any possibility of methyl alcohol appearing during the fermentation process.
After sifting, the juice is poured into drums where it begins to ferment naturally within a day or so.
Andrews said: "We add brown sugar and a natural, imported yeast to boost the alcohol content and the mixture is allowed to continue fermenting for four to eight weeks, depending on the weather.
"Once the juice has reached the desired alcohol content, we pour it into a 1 000 litre copper kettle and bring it slowly to just below boiling point.
"We use traditional copper pot stills to produce our products because they are safe and because the thermal qualities of the copper allow the distiller to maintain the steady temperatures needed to produce a pure, quality alcohol."
There is no waste. The remaining fruits are bottled and sold as "dronk berries", fruit preserved in alcohol which can be eaten as a dessert.
Mampoer was first made in the Cape Colony about 350 years ago, after the arrival of Dutch settlers. The recipe has been passed down through the ages and JJJ is the new-age product.
And while drinkers around the world raise their glasses in appreciation, the Mampoer and Witblits Distillers' Guild has repeatedly bestowed top awards on Nyati JJJ at their annual competition. Last year they got five gold, two silver and four bronze medals.