Cin cin for gin’s women

Cape Times - - SPIRITS - Nathan Adams

GIN has be­come an un­stop­pable trend that has baf­fled many fore­cast­ers and is still as pop­u­lar at the bar to­day as it has been for con­sec­u­tive sum­mers, if not longer.

The rea­son for the sus­tain­abil­ity of the gin move­ment has been pinned down to the fact that un­like many other spir­its, gin can cap­ture the flavours and flo­rals of any re­gion. In South Africa this is par­tic­u­larly true be­cause of the botan­i­cals which flour­ish here.

No one knows this bet­ter than the team at Su­gar­bird Gin, and co-founder Nzeka Biyela. Set­ting up a gin brand is one thing, but Biyela and her team have gone one step fur­ther and lever­aged from the sales of their spirit to do­nate to­wards grants and bur­saries of en­trepreneur­s, mostly women from pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas.

The do­na­tion starts after ev­ery 1 000 bot­tles of gin sold, their Thunda­fund crowd­fund cam­paign also raised over R1 mil­lion. Tes­ta­ment to the fact that they want their gin to be more than just al­co­hol, Biyela says: “I am beyond thrilled that we have gone over and above our dream goal. The re­sponse and sup­port from our back­ers has been ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble and we can­not thank them enough.”

It’s a brave move for a young craft gin brand in what is a fast grow­ing niche in­dus­try. But you have to be a brave en­tre­pre­neur when you step into the craft gin busi­ness and no one knows that bet­ter than Lucy Scott. She launched In­ver­roche Gin in 2012 and had no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence dis­till­ing spir­its. But she was fear­less and blazed a trail when she in­fused fyn­bos into gin for the first time.

Scott says: “From the start it was never just about the gin. I wanted to cre­ate a prod­uct that would tell a story and the fyn­bos was the in­spi­ra­tion.”

Her busi­ness in Still Bay is ecofriendl­y and more than 70% of her staff are women. To­day In­ver­roche has three gins on the shelf and the team uses more than 9 000 fyn­bos botan­i­cals to get the flavour notes just right. In­ver­roche is now ex­ported to 15 coun­tries glob­ally.

Pas­sion in the craft gin move­ment is the fuel at the heart of a suc­cess­ful brand. At Hope on Hop­kins they have an abun­dance of pas­sion and an­other se­cret weapon, owner Lucy Beard.

She and her husband quit their jobs as lawyers and cre­ated a pre­mium lo­cal spirit.

Later this month she will be show­cas­ing her gin at the Women of Wine South Africa Fes­ti­val, in cel­e­bra­tion of Women’s Month at the Can­dle­woods Bou­tique Venue in Cen­tu­rion.

She says it’s not that sur­pris­ing that women are mak­ing their mark when it comes to pro­duc­ing a good gin.

“It’s a sci­en­tific fact that women’s palates are of­ten more so­phis­ti­cated than men’s, so this is a great as­set as a dis­tiller. It’s all about nu­ance of flavour and gin mak­ing is all about play­ing with those nu­ances.”

But Beard is not naive about women in gin, she says: “In­ter­est­ingly two of the other early SA gin dis­tillers are both women (Lorna Scott of In­ver­roche and Shan­naRae Wilby of Time An­chor Dis­tillery) and I think we are slowly start­ing to make waves. It is still a male dom­i­nated in­dus­try though and I’m not sure that we’re taken all that se­ri­ously yet.”

CHEERS: Su­gar­bird Gin is one of the women-owned gin brands mak­ing great strides in South Africa and abroad

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