(Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
In an area known for its rich wine and brandy-making history, a newcomer in the spirits and liquor space has come to challenge for the mantle of Stellenbosch's best attraction. It faces some stiff competition but Autograph Gin in Distillery Road at Bosman's Crossing makes a laudable attempt.
Autograph, South Africa's newest bespoke craft gin distillery and bar is well on its way to garnering a name for itself with its excellent offerings - both as a epicurean destination and the venue wherein production of limited volumes of handmade and individually crafted premium spirits.
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Here's what you need to know if you want to go:
- Where: 13 Distillery Road, Stellenbosch
- Offerings: Distillery Tour, The Story of Gin and 9 Cocktails, The Gin Making Experience, Gin and Food Pairing
- When: Gin Bar and Lounge open Fridays 16:00 - 20:00
- Prices and more information: Contact Autograph by following this link to make bookings and enquiries
The space itself is aesthetically pleasing, with the entrance being flanked on either side with what one comes to realise later are a selection of botanicals grown for use in the production of this gin. It truly is a completely local, vertically-integrated operation where the ingredients are grown and processed on site and the product is bottled and prepared in cocktails - all under one roof.
Distillery Road in Bosman’s Crossing, Stellenbosch, was chosen as the perfect location for the distillery due to the area's unique history and world-renowned reputation for pedigree of wine and spirits production. While Stellenbosch is renown as a wine growing region, it is also developing a reputation as an area for boutique spirits production. Stellenbosch is also a known foodie paradise offering a wide variety and assortment of gastronomic experiences and food and drink pairings.
It is here that Autograph stands out as a confident newcomer to the scene. According to the Autograph website "Autograph’s inspiration and identity lies in the rich, colourful history of a thousand years of gin making. Autograph is the embodiment of this timeless tradition, encapsulating years of passion, inspiration and discovery."
Listening to head distiller Matt Beech, it is abundantly clear that this statement is true. Distilled and bottled by folk who are immensely knowledgeable not just about the process but the history of gin, the research, experimentation, refinement and inspiration is abundantly evident in the curated food and cocktail experience.
The team at Autograph will take you on a culinary journey with their gin and food pairing with three canapes carefully selected to pair exquisitely with Autograph's signature cocktails.
With canapes expertly prepared by Brad Ball, the first pairing is called "The Medicine Man". An apple gin blend topped with juniper served short and paired with coconut prawns and a lime emulsion.
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Each cocktail has its links to the rich history of gin-making and drinking and "The Medicine Man" is no exception. This cocktail's inspiration 14th century Europe and Asia, a time when the Black Death (Bubonic plague) was killing off people in droves. Doctors at the time used gin ingredients as remedies and donned duck-billed masks filled with juniper berries in an attempt to ward off the plague.
The second pairing was called "The Ladies Delight" and consisted of a strawberry and fennel gin cooler paired with bhan mi, steamed bun, sticky pork belly and green chilli. The Ladies Delight draws inspiration from the 18th century gin craze that swept over London. To meet the demand gin was made almost anywhere including bathtubs. Names such as Mother's Ruin and Ladies Delight found their origin in this era.
The final food and gin pairing was called "The Alchemist" and consisted of warm pinotage poured over ice-topped ginger and gin with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper for balance. It was served up with teriyaki duck breast, soya, ginger, apricot on vegan noodles. The Alchemist traces gin back to some of it's earliest roots. The word gin is derived from the French 'genievre' and Dutch 'jenever'. Medieval monks in the 11th century used to concoct gin-like liquors by heating wines in primitive contraptions and 'The Alchemist' is a modern take on this ancient practice.
With each drop of the gin being curated by hand, and each drink storied and imbued with pleasure and passion - it would be no stretch to say that Autograph is likely to make a big splash on the boutique bar and restaurant scene in South Africa.
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