Gin & Vodka Tasting:

Building a legacy and starting a tradition in the heart of Cape Town. If you’re above the age of 18, it’s always gin o’clock. Whether you’re meeting a few friends for sun-downers after a stressful day, playing silly drinking games on a night out, or picnicking with the family at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden over the weekend, a stiff drink is always a welcomed reward for adulting successfully. 

But all we really know about alcohol is that is combined with the right mixers, it tastes good, and if we drink too many yummy cocktails, we’ll end up feeling a little… erm… festive. So we visited Pienaar & Son to get a liquor education straight from a distiller’s mouth.

Image via: Hi Consumption

Pienaar & Son:

We arrive on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon, stomachs lined with Margharita and Pepperoni slices from the best pizza joint in the city. Andre is chatting to a customer at the counter so Stanford takes us through the distillery that makes vodka, gin and matures whiskey.
Steel cylinders stretch themselves up from the floor to the ceiling. Red pins jerk in their temperate gauges. All these and taps, knobs and crankshafts decorate one wall. Pine barrels filled with spirits are stacked up against another.

“People have become very accustomed to glossy tasting rooms,” the Son of the Pienaar & Son brand shares when he joins us. “I try model the brand as very relaxed and unpretentious. I don’t care for making things look ‘pretty’ or fake. People are welcome to come in here when there’s work in progress, and if we’re fixing a pipe, that’s what actually happens here. We aren’t ashamed of customers seeing what goes into making the product,” Andre adds candidly.

The young distiller went into business with his father who boasts a 40 year career in distillation. With a foundation of well made machinery, Andre has been playing with flavour combinations and distilling methods for the past two years. “He (Andre’s father) made the stove and I’m the head chef running the restaurant,” Andre compares

Start A Tradition:

Founded in 2016, and already winning awards for best vodka in SA, Pieenar & Sons is proof that being sentimental about yesteryear isn’t always smart. “I believe that big brands have sold this idea that heritage equals quality, which means they can exclude people from the market.” Andre begins, “I find it funny that technology has allowed us to move forward in the world but people will insist that the way we made whiskey 300 years ago is the best way to make whiskey.” But the distillery’s mantra is to start a tradition as it’s never too late to build a brand.

“It’s just booze. It happens to be really good booze, but it is just alcohol at the end of the day,” Andre explains as we make our way to the main counter. “It’s fun, and as distillers we tend to take ourselves a little too seriously,” he adds, lining up our tasting glasses .

Gin And Vodka Tasting:

Andre looks comfortable behind the counter. Quick-witted and comical in his conversation, the composer turned distiller is instinctive in preparing the tastings. He announces that we are going to start with the Waskis vodka and we wince. “Everyone has a bad memory of drinking really cheap, really bad vodka and it’s the reason they don’t touch it anymore, but give this a try,” he reassures us. The smooth spirit washes down our throats like water.
We move onto the gin tasters. “Empire is a shoutout to the British who brought gin to Cape Town,” Andre shares, pouring healthy shots into our glasses. The spirit has a crisp taste, it’s incredibly refreshing. “You can drink this all summer,” the local brewer explains and we decide this would go perfectly in a spritzer with cucumber, ruby grapefruit, mint and blueberries as garnish. When he pours another round of shots and adds tonic to it, the vision becomes clearer.
“Orient is an ode to the spice trade that came through the city; a bit of a Bo-kaap inspired gin,” Andre says. We taste the spicy spirit and immediately pick up cinnamon flavours and star anise. Paired with a honey-charred orange slice or peel would add a tanginess to the complex combination of flavours. “Orient is more of a winter drink,” Andre explains and the orange peel pairing we debated makes sense.
It was Jodi Ellen Malpas who said, “alcohol loosens lips and loose lips sink ships.” We are feeling the effects of the alcohol combined with the heat, and decide to duck out before we embarrass ourselves, though Andre is fully aware of the potency of his own product, and he’s too nice a guy to make us feel silly for acting silly. Leaving Andre and Stanford, we  agree that we should swing by the pizza joint on our way home.
*Note that while all tastings are free, a 750ml bottle of either Waskis, Empire or Orient cost R380 each and can either be purchased directly from the brewery or via the Pienaar and Son’s online store*

Tasting times: Saturday 10am – 2pm
Contact Number: 021 461 4993
Address: 1 Roeland Terrace, Cape Town City Centre
Will you go Vodka and Gin tasting this festive season? Let know in the comments below!

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