Down Brandy Lane

Road Trip - - CONTENTS - Story & Cap­tured by: Jim Freeman

BMW F650GS on Route 62

Join Jim Freeman as he trav­els the Brandy Route along the R62 on his BMW F650GS, sam­pling some of the best brandies in the coun­try along the way.

Brandy apart, the R62 is made for mo­tor­cy­cling. The sur­faces are good al­most all the way to Oudt­shoorn and the stretch into Bar­ry­dale sweeps through beau­ti­ful pas­tures and vine­yards.

Few peo­ple know this, but the “Fa­ther of Afrikaans”, CJ Lan­gen­hoven, was an avid road trip­per in his day more than a cen­tury ago. So keen was he, in fact, that he would sad­dle his horse each Fri­day and ride out from Oudt­shoorn to Grund­heim farm where his friends, the Grundling fam­ily, made brandy and mam­poer.

Grund­heim is one of the fi­nal ports of call for a friend and I as well when we take on the R62 Brandy Route, a 300 km run from Robert­son to De Rust, which in­cludes main­stream and bou­tique dis­til­leries such as Klip­drift, Kingna, Bar­ry­dale Cel­lars, Ladi­smith Cel­lars, Bo­plaas, and Grund­heim. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, the route is best ex­plored over three or more days. Un­like Lan­gen­hoven, how­ever, my friend and I will be do­ing the route on mo­tor­cy­cles, Pete on his BMW 1200GS and I on my BMW F650GS.

Ev­ery­one in South Africa (brandy fan or not) knows of Klip­drift, sit­u­ated right in the mid­dle of Robert­son. Un­pre­pos­sess­ingly in­dus­trial from the road, it is a joy once you en­ter the tast­ing room, with walls abound­ing with clocks stopped at Klip­drift’s trade­mark two-min­utes-past-eight (the ex­act time

on 4 May 1938 when Klip­drift was first pro­duced by brandy-mas­ter and far­mowner, JP “Kosie” Marais). My favourite dec­o­ra­tions, though, are what I can only de­scribe as spin­nek­lip­pies: minia­ture bot­tles of Klip­drift with wire legs that make them look like al­co­holic spi­ders.

We are pre­sented with mini tast­ing­plat­ters – sweet and savoury items – paired with each of the brand’s four best-known prod­ucts; Klip­drift Ex­port, Pre­mium, Gold, and the cola pre-mix. There is also a restau­rant at the dis­tillery, Bran­dewyn­tuin, where vis­i­tors can en­joy brandy cocktails as they dine on hearty pub-grub in a lush gar­den.we choose to forego the cocktails – we still have some rid­ing to do – but our burg­ers were de­li­cious.

Our next stop, Kingna, is named af­ter one of the rivers that flows through the area. It is not far away and lies on a short but won­der­fully scenic back road off the R62 a few kilo­me­tres out­side Mon­tagu.we pulled up mo­ments be­fore a del­uge com­menced and were greeted warmly by owner Nor­bert En­gel and brandy mas­ter Ruan Hun­lan (an ex-diesel me­chanic). Need­less to say, they im­me­di­ately pressed glasses of brandy into our hands.

We spent the first night of our road­trip (an ex­cep­tion­ally good idea, es­pe­cially af­ter a very con­vivial braai) at the four-bedroomed self-cater­ing Fish Ea­gle Cot­tage at Kingna. But, first were treated to a cel­lar-sam­pling of some of the pair’s of­fer­ings, in­clud­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal (but non-com­mer­cial) slivovitz as the rain pounded the tin roof.

The tor­ren­tial but brief down­pour had caused the Kingna River to push through at more than its usual placid pace and we came upon it very un­ex­pect­edly in the dusk on our way to the cot­tage.the two bikes had no prob­lems with the ford­ing.we, how­ever, got soaked.

Feel­ing sur­pris­ingly perky the next morn­ing, we took to the road once more. Brandy apart, the R62 is made for mo­tor­cy­cling.the sur­faces are good al­most all the way to Oudt­shoorn and the stretch into Bar­ry­dale sweeps through beau­ti­ful pas­tures and vine­yards. It is fast and ex­hil­a­rat­ing. There are a num­ber of dining op­tions along this stretch; Ka­roo Saloon is a favourite with Boland bikers on their Sun­day break­fast runs, but we opt for the Coun­try Pump­kin in Bar­ry­dale it­self. The “Pump” is also ex­tremely biker-friendly and rid­ers are greeted with a free glass of lo­cal mus­cadel while laz­ing on sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able and at­trac­tive chairs made from old tyres.

Bar­ry­dale Cel­lar is one of the most un­der-rated dis­til­leries in the coun­try but, their Joseph Barry la­bel is gain­ing enor­mous trac­tion among dis­cern­ing brandy drinkers. Maker Ferdi Smit has been in the in­dus­try for most of his adult life, begin­ning his ca­reer by dis­till­ing moon­shine at an il­le­gal still. He hi­lar­i­ously re­counts how he wrote his fi­nal ma­tric ex­ams af­ter pulling guard duty at the still the whole night be­fore.

From Bar­ry­dale, we head off to Cal­itz­dorp with the oblig­a­tory stop at Ron­nie’s Sex Shop for some­thing cold and a look to see whether there is any in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion to the lin­gerie col­lec­tion hang­ing from the ceil­ing.

There is not, so we soon make our way to the four-star Cal­itz­dorp Coun­try House and check in for the night. Head­ing back to­wards Bar­ry­dale the next morn­ing, we turn off into Sewe­week­spoort, one of the most breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful dirt roads in the Ka­roo. It is a rel­a­tively easy ride but, to my as­ton­ish­ment, the F650GS han­dles it bet­ter than the 1200. Big­ger might be bet­ter when it comes to long tar stretches on a road­trip but the op­po­site ap­plies when you set out on the gritty stuff.

Fi­nally, we ar­rive at Grund­heim. We are feel­ing pretty “brandied out” but Dys Grundling is en­ter­tain­ing and our tired­ness is soon for­got­ten. Grund­heim was es­tab­lished six gen­er­a­tions of Grundling ago with the sole fo­cus of stok­ing wit­blits.their prod­uct was trans­ported to Kim­ber­ley by wagon to as­suage the thirsty di­a­mond-dig­gers. Apart from brandy, Grund­heim still makes a range of wit­blits-based liqueurs, in­clud­ing one fiery vari­ant flavoured with chilli.

Nei­ther of us was fool enough to try it. We still have a way to ride, we lied …

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