Lonely Planet Writer

Why South Africa is embracing locally-produced craft gins

South Africa is making a name for itself in the production of one of the world’s favourite drinks; gin.

Just one of the South African craft gins exploding in popularity. Image by Inverroche Distillery.

South African craft gins specialising in local, unique ingredients have seen a huge boost in sales in recent years. Gins with the distinctly African flavours of Kalahari truffles and ginger are among the favourites and the gins from Inverocche Distillery use a local plant called fynbos for a distinctive flavour.

Lorna Scott, who runs Inverocche Distillery told the BBC that the response has been phenomenal. Inspired by the plants she grew herself, she launched the label in 2011 after a few years of experimentation with three different gins and hasn’t looked back since. “When we started I was producing maybe 100, 150 bottles a month and it became a mission for us to try and keep up with the demand. We’ve literally been doubling our production every six months and it keeps growing.”

Distilleries are marketing themselves to South Africa’s growing middle class and finding a captive audience. In the past year at least twelve new craft gins have gone on sale in the country and are proving worthy competitors for global producers like Diageo. Johannesburg hosted the country’s first dedicated gin and tonic festival over two days in April earlier this year.

Gin has been a huge trend around the world for the past few years with no sign that its popularity is due to abate any time soon. It’s also one of the easiest spirits to make as it has a quick turnaround and uses much the same equipment as other drinks, meaning it’s easier for distilleries to expand their production.