Two en­trepreneurs tell us why go­ing into busi­ness with a par­ent was an ob­vi­ous choice

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - By Kris­ten Birch Photographs by Liza van Deven­ter

An­dre Pien­aar’s back­ground is in mu­sic, hav­ing fronted in­die-rock band, Ash­tray Elec­tric, and com­pos­ing mu­sic for film and TV. Yet he felt the urge

to craft some­thing dif­fer­ent. On the rec­om­men­da­tion of his fa­ther, Schalk, who’d been de­sign­ing equip­ment for dis­til­la­tion for more than 40 years, An­dre bought a tiny still, hop­ing this new hobby would sat­isfy his crav­ing. He soon re­alised this was some­thing he could get good at, and joined forces with his dad to cre­ate Pien­aar & Son.

‘We’ve been trad­ing for four months, and the re­cep­tion has been amaz­ing!’ says An­dre.

Pien­aar & Son Dis­till­ing Com­pany was es­tab­lished in 2015 af­ter the two had spent six months re­fin­ing the idea of open­ing a dis­tillery. They spent a year set­ting up and get­ting the liquor li­cences, and of­fi­cially launched in De­cem­ber 2016. Their dis­tillery spe­cialises in gin but they’re also in­tro­duc­ing a Waskis vodka range. Waskis is An­dre’s mother’s maiden name (she is of Lithua­nian de­scent).

‘Our gins re­flect an as­pect of Cape Town’s his­tory that we feel has shaped the cul­ture of the city I call home,’ says An­dre. He chose not to dwell on what would make a ‘tra­di­tional gin’ and try to em­u­late that recipe. ‘We also de­cided to not rely on the “fyn­bos-in­fused thing” every­one else was do­ing.

An­dre says they use be­spoke equip­ment, and to his knowl­edge, the pro­cesses they em­ploy have never been at­tempted on this scale.

‘It’s de­bat­able whether our mod­ern pro­cesses add a cer­tain flavour or char­ac­ter to our spirit. Some­times it’s not about what you do, but how you do it: the way we make liquor is more ef­fi­cient, greener and safer than a lot of the old ways. In­stead of “triple dis­tilled”, we be­lieve in get­ting some­thing right the first time,’ he says firmly.

As far as fa­ther and son re­la­tion­ship is con­cerned, Schalk says work­ing with his son has been very re­ward­ing.

‘An­dre has an amaz­ing grasp of the tech­ni­cal is­sues, which made it easy to teach him the ropes. It’s amaz­ing to share my ex­pe­ri­ence and for him to have a glimpse at what I did to put bread on the ta­ble,’ says Schalk.

With his own busi­ness in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, Schalk de­vel­oped a spe­cial method in al­co­hol dis­til­la­tion that con­tin­ues to this day. He de­scribes the en­ter­prise as his per­sonal ‘swan song’ be­fore re­tire­ment.

‘It’s awe­some to cre­ate some­thing with the fam­ily name on it,’ says An­dre. ‘My dad al­ways en­cour­aged me to be an en­tre­pre­neur, and I’ve never been too com­fort­able not hav­ing com­plete con­trol of my des­tiny. South Africa is in a unique and chal­leng­ing po­si­tion. But if you get it right, there isn’t a more beau­ti­ful place to go to work in.’

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