@The_Maltman @JSDistillery @BainsWhisky A few drops of rain, a hint of peat.

Sunday evenings are times for reflection of the week past and planning the week ahead. Not really, not when there’s an opportunity to show Donald & Andrew Hart of Meadowside Blending Company in Scotland some of South Africa’s finest products. Last time I met Donald was in Havana, 2004, so catching up was a nice 10-year reunion and Donald’s 50th year in the whisky industry. Andrew, Donald’s son, was recently inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich so two Keepers and me cracked open the Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky and Three Ships 5 year old Premium Select Whisky, with the rain gently falling onto the yachts in the Waterfront Basin.

The venue was the Bascule whisky bar, which is where Checkers launched its Single Cask Whisky Selection. These whiskies, bottled by Donald & Andrew, are quite superb.  I had a sneak preview into what could be available later this year from Checkers and if even one of the offerings makes it to South Africa, whisky lovers are in for a real treat. Unfortunately Bascule did not have any the Single Barrel available and nobody there could assist us with answers.

Back to the South African whiskies. Bain’s & Three Ships have won many awards but, of course, whisky tasting is subjective, so before I gave Donald & Andrew the history & pedigree of the whiskies, I invited them to try them.  They loved them, both. The Three Ships reminding Andrew of a walk around Isley, a hint of peat which takes Andy Watts from Distell to his roots at Bowmore and the Bain’s had Donald licking his lips with the banana, toffee flavours.  And I got that warm fuzzy feeling again, when people who really know their whisky, give a South African product the thumbs up.  Maybe it is a bit of patriotism, maybe it is a desire for some good after the disappointment of the cricket, maybe its because I know the passion and skill that goes into the whisky making at the James Sedgwick Distillery.  Proudly South African.

Whatever it is, it was a perfect evening. Superb company, outstanding whiskies from Andy & co and a promise of more excellence from Checkers.

Oh – and before I forget – we had cigars. Cuban. R & J. And we reminisced about Havana…men in kilts causing quite a stir!

And another thing – Proteas – let’s have a victory in the T 20 – please. Please.

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Sipping a Three Ships Whisky from @jsdistillery or watching @officialCSA on a Monday afternoon?

When there is test match cricket I sit at my computer and work with the TV on in the background. Anytime there is a shout, a noise, an appeal, I turn and watch. Today, Monday the 3rd March, at 3.45 p.m I’ve not had much I’ve enjoyed watching. Hopefully we can fight back, score another 400 and get the Aussies out for 50 on day 5.

If not, head to Facebook – this is the PR release from Distell.

Good luck whisky lovers, good luck Proteas cricket!


The proudly South African and pioneering whisky brand, Three Ships, will launch a new creative Facebook campaign on March 13th which will see a bottle of Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select whisky awarded every second, live and within only 5 minutes (a total of 300 bottles) to loyal consumers who know the brand inside out.

The competition will only be open for 5 minutes and consumers using this time to answer a set of 15 questions will be rewarded by Three Ships matching each second with a bottle of Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select to those who are the quickest to show their smarts about the brand.

A 10 day build-up on Facebook will offer consumers information, facts and insights into the Three Ships brand, the James Sedgwick’s Distillery where the whiskies are crafted and Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select. This whisky was named World’s Best Blended Whisky at the 2012 World Whisky Awards, ahead of whiskies from traditional whisky producing countries such as USA, Scotland and Ireland.

Consumers can sharpen their knowledge of Three Ships prior to the competition by visiting www.threeshipswhisky.co.za

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Forgive the talk of boardrooms on a Friday, but… @JSdistillery

Being a lifelong resident of Cape Town I understand that Friday lunchtimes often signal the end of the work week. But have a look at this interview with the Distell MD.  We are luck South Africans to have guys that make superb whisky and people in the boardrooms who understand alcohol.

Have a great weekend and drink responsibly.


A business that has tremendous upside potential.’


HILTON TARRANT: Distell South Africa and Africa’s largest producer of spirits, wines, ciders and ready-to-drink products reporting results for the six months to 31 December today. Best known for some of its brands like Klipdrift, Mainstay, Hunters, Savanna, Nederburg and Bunnahabhain Single Malt Whisky. The producer saying sales volumes up 5.5% in the half year… revenue up 15.1% with normalised headline earnings per share up 8.5%. Richard Rushton the new managing director of Distell joining us now.

Richard you are ex SABMiller and most recently ran the Columbian business there, what have you found at Distell?

RICHARD RUSHTON: Hilton I found a business with a tremendous platform for international growth and well-established brands in many markets across Africa and select geographies in Europe. So yes, it certainly is a business that has tremendous upside potential.

HILTON TARRANT: If you look at the trends worldwide in terms of beer versus ciders, the ready-to-drink category, spirits as well… the trend perhaps a little bit more in favour of where you’re sitting now versus some of the other categories in beer.

RICHARD RUSHTON: It depends on the geography. Essentially in the case of ciders, while it is a very much smaller niche market compared to mainstream beer globally, it is a category that’s growing. That growth isn’t uniform across the world and in markets like South Africa, some markets in Africa, Australia, Western Europe, UK where ciders are particularly strong… and we’re starting to see the growth of ciders even in niche craft type segments in the US. So certainly I think ciders have a long way to go in terms of growth potential, and as a result Distell is extremely well placed both domestically and internationally to capitalise on that growth given our two outstanding brands that we have in the portfolio. With respect to spirits, that’s a slightly different story. Spirits depend on the country… obviously in the US we are seeing spirits growing share at the expense of beer, but the inter-plays in the rest of the world globally is pretty stable… the trends are pretty stable.

Within spirits itself, we are seeing strong whisky growth and local spirits like brandy, Cachaça ‎in in Brazil, Baijiu in China… these local spirits are under more pressure so obviously a lot of local manufacturers, ourselves included, are looking to premiumise and add further attributes and reasons to buy those local spirit offerings like our brandy portfolio.

HILTON TARRANT: You mentioned whisky there, that’s definitely the rising stars… astonishing to see just how whisky has grown in volume worldwide, and where South Africa takes its place at the ranking table as well. We seem to consume a very large amount of whisky.

RICHARD RUSHTON: Ja, that’s true and obviously it has grown in the last decade and that’s a kind of global story as much as it is a South African story. We’re obviously very pleased with our performance. Firstly, we acquired Burn Stewart for that purpose, to participate strategically in the medium to long-term in the growth of that segment of the market. And then our own domestic whisky portfolio has a very good performance in the first six months, both Three Ships and the recently launched Bain’s are performing exceptionally well. So ja we’re also lower based as a company in whisky but certainly participating aggressively in what is likely to be a strong category growth driver in the future.

HILTON TARRANT: Richard if we look at these numbers, the real driver has been the international operations. Locally things are tough, still growing… things are tough but the real star… offshore.

RICHARD RUSHTON: That’s true. Obviously we grew in South Africa, both revenue just over 5%, volumes just over 3% and we think when you compare that growth to some of our major recent competitor announcements, we think we’ve done really well in South Africa, notwithstanding the challenging economic conditions that we face here. And that again, is largely as a result of our strong cider performance. And then internationally, our star performer has been Africa and our reach, our platform, the years that we’ve spent exporting into Africa are starting to pay dividends for us, albeit still off a low base and you will have seen recently that we have announced a Greenfields investment in Nigeria. We’re advanced in the final phases of starting up local production in Ghana… that facility is now commissioned and we’ve got through a number of regulatory hurdles to acquire land and bulk up our business in Angola. So our plans now are to invest pretty aggressively in local infrastructure and root-to-market in select African geographies to capitalise on the seeds that have been laid for our portfolio in Africa.

HILTON TARRANT: Speaking of regulation, there is the prospect of the South African market going dark with the banning of alcohol advertising. Have you got experience in this arena in other geographies?

RICHARD RUSHTON: Ja a good question… firstly we’re not sure whether there will be a full advertising ban in South Africa and that depends I think, on the engagement between stakeholders and a fact-based evaluation of the impact of advertising on harmful abuse of alcohol. My experience as it relates to restrictive advertising actually goes back to Columbia where it is more restrictive than South Africa and so certain time windows are allowed for advertising. Perhaps that could be a potential outcome going forward. But I wouldn’t want to speculate at this point. Obviously the industry is engaged with government on this topic. We, like government, are concerned about the harmful abuse of alcohol and will do everything in our power, and are doing a number of things in order to tackle the at-risk target populations who do elect to drink and then abuse alcohol. That, for us is as much of a concern as it is for government.

HILTON TARRANT: Richard Rushton, the managing director of Distell.

Original report here

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Beam, Suntory, Wallet & Heart

Suntory buys Beam. Some people revolt, boycott Beam blah blah moan and groan.

Here’s a newsflash: Big companies buy and sell things. Whisky is global. Deal with it. Big business will ALWAYS control the whisky business.

BUT — forget big business. Focus on the people who work in the distilleries, the ambassadors, the small retailers, the independent bottlers, the passionate people who work in whisky for the love of whisky.

Big business is the wallet of whisky. Passionate people are the HEART of whisky.

We can live without a wallet, but not a heart.

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Full text of #Obama speech / remarks at #Mandela memorial

Here are his remarks, in full, as prepared for delivery:

To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests – it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other.  To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe – Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement – a movement that at its start held little prospect of success.  Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would – like Lincoln – hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.

Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection – because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend.  That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith.  He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

But like other early giants of the ANC – the Sisulus and Tambos – Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,” he said at his 1964 trial.  “I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”  But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa- Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.  We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailors as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.  It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask:  how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?

It is a question I ask myself – as a man and as a President.  We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation.  As was true here, it took the sacrifice of countless people – known and unknown – to see the dawn of a new day.  Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle.  But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done.  The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.  For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future.  Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.

We, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today – how to promote equality and justice; to uphold freedom and human rights; to end conflict and sectarian war – do not have easy answers.  But there were no easy answers in front of that child in Qunu.  Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.  South Africa shows us that is true.  South Africa shows us we can change.  We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.  We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own.  Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land.  It stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us.  After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength – for his largeness of spirit – somewhere inside ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach – think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

What a great soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.


From businessinsider.com

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The awesome @threeships from @jsdistillery klaps it stukkend, again.

Ok look – a bit of a disclaimer here. I like Three Ships.  A lot. And I got a lift from Joburg Airport to Sandton with Hayley & Linda, assistant brand manager & PR queen respectively. Cool chicks. And passionate about what they do and the brands they represent.  So now that’s out the way, some more good news about the lovely whisky that comes from South Africa.

Here is the press release.


The two proudly South African premium whiskies, Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish and Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old, are among only seven whiskies from around the world to receive a double gold award at the 2013 New York International Spirits Competition.

The competition, now currently in its 4th year, sees spirits from 37 countries competing against each other and with only 48% of entries receiving awards, the competition is fierce. The impressive judging panel of trade judges includes buyers, retail storeowners, restaurant and bar proprietors, distributors and importers – the very individuals who have a direct impact on sales.

The Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old is an artful blend of grain and malt whiskies, aged for a minimum of five years in oak casks. The whisky is robust, aromatic and unpretentious with a full peaty character, ending in a lingering, warm finish. The Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish is initially matured for three years, after which the final blend spends a further six months in oak casks originally used for bourbon. This results in the slight honeyed sweetness on the nose. The vanilla notes on the palate are complemented by subtle hints of pepper and spice, ending with a lingering finish and a hint of flavour from the bourbon casks.

The Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old and the Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish are both available from leading liquor outlets and retail for about R120 and R149 respectively.

DATE                         NOVEMBER 28th, 2013





Posted in AWARDS, Distell, Press Releases, South African Whisky, Whisky news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Well done @bainswhisky – I love it when local does so well.

Bain’s has featured quite often on my blog – and here is more great news. This is a press release I just received.





Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, the proudly South African single grain premium whisky, stole the show at this year’s New York International Spirits Competition, when it received a double gold award.


The distinctive taste of Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky has impressed the palates of elite whisky connoisseurs around the world to such an extent, that it has received prestigious accolades at all the major international whisky competitions. It is one of the most talked about whiskies in the world, since being awarded the World’s Best Grain Whisky at the 2013 World Whisky Awards held in March this year.


Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky is crafted from the finest South African grain and holds toffee, floral and vanilla aromas softened by sweet, spicy undertones, a warm mouth-feel and a long, smooth finish. The whisky is double-matured, spending three years in casks previously used for bourbon and then re-vatted for a period of time in a fresh set of casks. This allows maximum interaction between the wood and the whisky.


Distilled at The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky is inspired by the natural beauty of the Bain’s Kloof Pass.  The whisky pays tribute to Andrew Geddes Bain, the pioneering pass builder who planned and built Bain’s Kloof Pass in 1853 to connect Wellington to the interior.


Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky is available from leading liquor outlets and retails for about R220.

Bain's pack shots (LR)

DATE                         NOVEMBER 28, 2013






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