So popular is the drink that it’s outselling brandy and vodka at South Africa’s liquor stores. One of the city’s most celebrated bars also made its name by serving only gin cocktails (and having a pretty rad secret venue). And as a result of this dramatic rise, renowned gin distilleries have popped up throughout Cape Town, offering tastings of their unusual creations.
Although it’s true that by now, unique gins are not uncommon around South Africa or the world – there’s a local gin made with ingredients derived from elephant dung and one in England that features genuine squid ink – there’s more to it than a catchy name and cool bottle.
Those in the know, however, might dismiss these as mere novelties – it’s gins infused with regional botanicals, like Amafli lemons or Hamburg sage and cloves that are turning aficionados’ heads. And Cape Town is leading the way in this regard – its omnipresent flora fynbos, which lines dunes, limestone cliffs, and the slopes of the region’s majestic mountains, is now giving the city’s gins global fame.
The woman credited with first infusing gin with fynbos, Lorna Scott, did so with her now-famous Inverroche in 2017. So popular was her gin that she later sold it to giant French liquor company Pernod Ricard, who also owns Chivas, Absolut, and Jameson. It’s still available on bar shelves throughout the country and, increasingly, the world.
But since Scott’s wildly successful experiment, distillers around the city have followed suit with their iterations of the increasingly popular flavour profiles – and some, arguably, have done it better.
Fynbos comprises some 8,500 species of the Cape Floristic Region, 6,000 of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world. This means that it’s unlikely you’ll stumble across any two fynbos-infused gins that taste the same – and that each distiller likely has a tale about how they arrived at their unique concoction.
The impact of the fynbos infusion on the gin is important – depending on the combination, you’ll breathe in a variety of floral notes and taste flavours unique to the Cape present in fynbos berries, flowers, and even roots. But fynbos-infused gin is as much about the journey and the story you’ll walk as you sip on a drink derived from one of the world’s most diverse biomes.
So with the theory out of the way, it may now be obvious that sampling these world-famous gins is a must in Cape Town. But open a menu at a gin bar, and you’ll know picking and choosing is often easier said than done. We’re only slightly biased here, but for this reason, we believe there’s no better way to explore the city’s multitude of gins, flavours, and associated tales than by hopping on a tour that takes you to several distilleries – and ends in Cape Town’s coolest gin bar.
Kiff Kombi Tours’ Gin Jol does just that. We’ll take care of the transport, select three distilleries in Cape Town that are ahead of the pack, include tastings at each along with local snacks. And then we’ll end up with a gin cocktail at the Secret Gin Bar, where you can test the expert mixologists with your new appreciation of local gin.