Deconstructing @BainsWhisky @12_Apostles with @JSDistillery


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A spectacular sunset over the Atlantic ocean greeted members of the drinks media lucky enough to crack the nod for a whisky event with a difference – an evening deconstructing Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, led by Andy Watts, the man who makes it. The venue was the classy 12 Apostles Hotel, home to a bar with a great view and staff who understand proper service.


0047 MQDeconstructing a whisky usually involves tasting different components, separately, and working out how the components combine in the end product. We used to do this often with blended whiskies, tasting the grain and a few signature malt components, then the finished product. I’ve done this often with malts, and done properly can help people understand the complex flavours of whisky. Of course, it’s a lot of fun as well. Whisky lovers have fun while learning – part of the perks of whisky fascination.

0055 MQ-2Deconstructing a single malt or single grain, as we did with Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky is a different exercise. We start with the new make spirit, the liquid as it comes out of the still, clear as water without any of the rich colours aging in oak barrels provides. There are a few malt distilleries that have taken to selling their new make – cash flow is vital for a new distillery – but I can’t see the global liquor giant Distell, owners of James Sedgwick Distillery, home of Bain’s, doing this at the moment. And that is a pity, because the new make is good enough to enjoy on its own. It may be the starting point of an award winning whisky, but I’d like to see some of it bottled and sold. It is that good.

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We moved on to spirits that can be called whisky, having matured for three years in oak. The two whiskies we enjoyed, aged in first fill and third fill casks, showed the influence of oak in a positive way and gave a hint as to what an extra two or so years can do. The penultimate whisky was the standard Bain’s that we know and love, a nose of citrus, cream, lemon meringue pie, a soft, rounded palate of home made warm apple pie and a finish moving back to the citrus notes.

0012 MQThe final whisky was a grain, aged for many years, the last couple in a rare cask. It took me back about 15 years when a whisky writer from Scotland introduced me to aged grain. It was a 35 odd year old Invergordon. Unlike anything I’d had before, it opened my mind up to how good aged grain whisky could be. Now, this “work-in-progress” from Andy is one of over 60 projects that the team is working on. If the whisky I had gets released in its present form it will win many awards and be responsible for much joy in the whisky world. More than 14 years old, it has the smoothness and complexity of a spirit aged for 30, 40 years. Of course it was the star of the show, but until it is released and in what form, as a single grain, as part of a blend, maybe after another year or so in oak, I’m quite happy to sit back and enjoy my normal Bain’s, sitting home in Cape Town, celebrating Freedom Day!

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Will Kool and The Gang come to Cape Town for a whisky celebration? @whiskyliveSA @threeshipsSA

You’re going to be seeing a lot about the new Whisky Live CELEBRATION! Yes, think about a celebration and you’ll think about the West Indies cricket team last night (I assure you the party will go on for a long time!), and if you are a certain vintage, you’ll remember the classic Kool and The Gang song from around 1980.  Imagine seeing them live on stage, with a whisky in your hand. We can only hope. But while we daydream, we dream about whisky!

Let’s kick off the news with something local – a new expression from the James Sedgwick Distillery. Here is the most recent press release.


Whisky enthusiasts are in for a treat at this years’ Whisky Live Celebration held from 14 to 16 April at The Lookout on the V&A Waterfront, where they will have the privilege of a sneak-preview tasting of the Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt to be launched later this year.

In addition consumers can taste the Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select, named World’s Best Blended Whisky at the 2012 World Whisky Awards, and the Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish, awarded double gold at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits Competition.

Andy Watts, master distiller of the pioneering Three Ships range of whiskies, will share the extraordinary journey of these locally produced whiskies and how they have earned many firsts for the South African whisky industry – the first single malt, the first blend of South African and Scotch whiskies, a 100% locally blended whisky and the first South African whisky to take the title as the World’s Best Blended Whisky.

The whiskies are crafted at The James Sedgwick’s Distillery in the picturesque Boland town of Wellington. The distillery was established in 1886 and over the past two decades underwent several upgrades which transformed it into a state-of-the-art distillery, the only one in Africa.

Tickets cost R170 each at or, or R190 at the door. All ticket prices include a complimentary tasting glass, a 500ml bottle of Valpré Spring Water and 15 tasting vouchers.”

Email for more information

Winning hearts with whisky – another award for @jsdistillery

This isn’t news as the story broke 3 weeks ago, but I held off posting something as the news took a while to sink in. The news was that Andy Watts was chosen as the Master Distiller / Master Blender of the year in the Rest of the World category in the Icons of Whisky competition. It is a very important award, and further indication of just how far things have come in the whisky scene in South Africa.

The significance of the award is that South Africa is climbing higher and higher in the international whisky scene. Three Ships and Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, produced at the James Sedgwick distiller in Wellington, a quiet town in the Western Cape, lead the charge. Andy, his right hand Jeff Green and the rest of the team have been quietly going about their business, picking up awards along the way. But ignore the awards, for a moment. Sit down in the bars and restaurants in South Africa, and listen to what whiskies people are ordering. See what whisky lovers around the world are talking about – Three Ships & Bain’s. Recently Andy went to America to launch Bain’s, to fantastic acclaim.

I’m sure Andy, the distillery and the whiskies will win more awards, and win more hearts. What they are doing is an example to anyone producing a product for the public – make it well and it will sell, making yourself a lot of friends on the way.

Here is the post from the Icons website:

Icons of Whisky Rest of World 2016

Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky Awards recognise and celebrate the finest companies and individuals in the whisky industry. With the America and Scotland regional winners already announced, the time has come to reveal those receiving an award in the Rest of World stage.

Regional winners of each category will now battle it out against each other for the overall Global title, judged by the magazine’s expert editorial panel and announced at the Whisky Magazine Awards dinner in London on 17 March 2016.

With new categories for 2016, including Master Distiller / Master Blender, Travel Retailer, World Whisky Ambassador and Supermarket, there is an opportunity for many sectors of the industry to be rewarded for their contribution.

Rupert Wheeler, Managing Editor and Chairman of the Icons of Whisky says: “The whisky industry is expanding worldwide with many new distilleries being planned to fulfil demand. These awards are in recognition of all those exceptional companies and individuals who are working hard to make their brand different and engaging. I look forward to presenting the overall Global winners in March.”

Master Distiller / Master Blender of the year

Andy Watts – The James Sedgwick Distillery (South Africa)

Since the James Sedgwick Distillery was established in 1886, it has only had six managers, one of which is current Master Distiller, Andy Watts. After spending some time in Scotland, Andy returned to South Africa to prove that this too could be an excellent whisky producing nation. The distillery’s Three Ships label was the first single malt to be produced in South Africa and Bain’s Cape the first single grain.

Andy has been instrumental in the success of this award winning distillery, putting the country on the whisky map.

Iconic evening – The Macallan Rare Cask – @GrandAfrica @TheMacallanAFR @CandiceBaker


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The evening view was the sun setting off to the left, the road to the Clifton beaches winding up to the right, while in front, palm trees lined the beach, with white sands and an orange skyline framing the Atlantic Ocean.

My vantage point was upstairs at The Grand on the Camps Bay strip, one of Cape Town’s most iconic tourist hangouts. The event was the introduction of The Macallan Rare Cask, a special release from one of the whisky world’s most iconic brands.

Our host for the intimate evening was Candice Baker, the face of Highland Park and The Macallan in South Africa. Candice was nominated to take part in the Whisky Magazine Icons of Whisky awards and was shortlisted for the World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year award . It is a great achievement and deserved recognition for a truly passionate whisky person.

Amber, Ruby and Sienna from The Macallan 1824 series of whiskies made up the welcome drink and were paired with the outstanding meal, enjoyed in the company of an esoteric group. We had to wait for dessert for the reveal of the hero of the night, The Macallan Rare Cask. Firstly, it is a beauty to behold, for those for whom appearance is important. I’m far more interested in what’s in the bottle – and in true The Macallan fashion, was a superb dram. I don’t know the composition of the whisky but it is clear some very mature whiskies were used. How much and where? Available from R2999.00 in all major liquor retailers and online liquor stores. Here is some info, tasting notes and so on from the press release.

“Rare Cask is a truly individual Macallan whisky. It has been crafted from whiskies selected from 16 individually different casks profiles –the most ever used in a single Macallan whisky.

Less than 1% of the casks maturing are selected for Rare Cask, some of these are no longer available. Owing to the number of cask types involved and the length of time it takes to identify them, it takes longer to create than any other The Macallan. This is an extremely rewarding whisky owing to the complexity of flavour.

Rare Cask has been crafted from Spanish and American sherry seasoned oak casks, a high proportion of them being first fill, including some of the most precious and scarce casks. Collectively these factors have given rise to an exquisite whisky with a splendidly rich and resonant hue, and an unmistakably woody whisky. 

Soft notes of opulent vanilla and raisin pique the nose, giving way to a sweet ensemble of apple, lemon, and orange. All balanced by a spicy quartet of root ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. On the palate this spicy quartet are unwavering. Oak resonates, timeless, polished and rich. Vanilla and chocolate lead the finale along with a light citrus zest. The finish of this naturally occurring mahogany-red spirit is full, warming and woody.”


Introducing The Macallan Rare Cask

Since 1824, The Macallan name has been a guarantee of unrivalled craftsmanship and quality. And now there is a new whisky bearing this name; a single malt born from this unwavering endeavour. This is Macallan Rare Cask, the embodiment of our obsession.

Rare Cask is crafted by our Master Whisky Maker from a small proportion of maturing casks at The Macallan distillery. These casks are handmade from Spanish and American oak; and are the best in the business.   Wood defines the flavour of The Macallan, with over 60% of the character comes from the cask it is aged in. But as the name suggests, there is more to this story. Rare Cask is truly rare. This rarity comes from the fact that some of the casks used in the creation of this whisky will never be used again.

The Macallan Rare Cask captures a true decadence; its creation goes beyond any other Macallan whisky and its rarity is absolute. It is a single malt of such diversity and intricacy it challenges the very conventions of whisky creation. It is almost a reinvention by design, but yet The Macallan at its core.

Bob Dalgarno, the Master Whisky Maker is responsible for creating Rare Cask, testing his knowledge and skill to create a whisky worthy of The Macallan name. “Rare Cask is about firstly identifying a selection of casks which can truly be called rare. Each of the cask styles result in different character, so each imparts their own distinct influence on the final whisky.”

With a rich mahogany red hue, The Macallan Rare Cask showcases two of The Macallan’s greatest strengths, exceptional oak casks and natural colour, which are combined with knowledge, skill, passion, commitment and creativity. A whisky produced through meticulous dedication to wood. Some would call this an obsession. We call it The Macallan.”


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The Cold War ended. Drink @BelugaVodkaSA – From Russia with Love


When I received this press release I got home and searched for my old mother of pearl caviar spoon, a relic of the times I used to wander around the streets of London alternating days of work with days of shopping for shirts. Those days, like the Cold War, are over, but I still enjoy the old time James Bond movies – you know, the time when the Cold War was in full swing, when Bond could do as he pleased without any thought of moderation in drink, women or killing. But we are now in different times. We need to drink less, but drink better. We need to cozy up to mother Russia as we want to go visit to watch the Football World Cup. Beluga Vodka  is being distributed by the team that brought you the superb Innes and Gunn range of beers, so you can expect great things.



10th Jan,2016 – Russia’s premier Beluga Vodka is to be launched in South Africa this month. This supreme quality vodka is going to be available in select outlets nationally.

Distilled in the small batches in the Mariinski Distillery in remote Siberia, Beluga Vodka is made using centuries-old traditional Russian methods. Each bottle is adorned with a hand-fitted Beluga fish, the source of the finest caviar, and long considered by Russians to be the supreme accompaniment for Beluga Vodka.

Katerina Mechetina, Beluga Vodka Brand Director: “South Africans have extremely sophisticated taste, but have yet to be offered genuine Russian vodka of the same level of quality as the Single Malts and Cognacs they are drinking. Beluga Vodka is a handcrafted vodka, made using traditional Russian methods, and we hope South Africans enjoy the remarkable character and softness of an authentic, super premium, Russian vodka.”

Beluga’s crisp, fresh character is created by gentle, natural fermentation of malt spirit rarely used in vodka any longer.  Different natural ingredient infusions, individual for each product variant, are blended with water of the highest purity, from deep Siberian artesian wells.  Beluga’s delicate first distillate is washed through quartz sand, triple-filtered through graphite columns, and then allowed to slow percolate through quartz sand again. The batch is then carefully left to rest for 1 to 3 months to mature. The result is a liquid of luxurious softness, and the ultimate expression of authentic, aristocratic Russian vodka.

Rowan Leibbrandt, at Truman & Orange, Beluga Vodka’s South African distributor, comments: “Beluga is an exquisite product, and as Russia’s leading super premium vodka it’s the first choice of the most knowledgeable vodka drinkers in the world. Vodka is increasingly well understood by South Africans, and we are certain Beluga will appeal to those who are looking to experience authentic Russian vodka of the highest possible quality.”

The Beluga Family is made up of four unique variants, meticulously created in the traditional Russian style.

BELUGA NOBLE is the first to be launched in South Africa, and is a full-bodied vodka slow-percolated through birch and silver filters.  Natural honey, vanilla, and cereal infusions, and a 30-day maturation, create a product of extraordinary character. BELUGA NOBLE will be available at select outlets in the key South African provinces including Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal, and will cost approximately R500 per bottle.

Try Beluga neat or on the rocks, best enjoyed accompanied with black caviar.

Beluga. Made with pride.



For queries:

Nadya Surikova,

+27 (0) 76 091 5588


Pascal Despard,

+27 (0) 72 051 5760


Follow us:

Facebook: Beluga Vodka South Africa

Global Facebook Page: Beluga Vodka



Instagram: BelugaVodkaSA (VodkaBeluga)








TRUMAN & ORANGE is a partnership between passionate whisky connoisseurs, Jason Duganzich, and Rowan Leibbrandt. A love of single malt is evident with this pair’s experience in the Scotch industry and deep knowledge of fine drinks.  Formerly working for William Grant & Sons, the makers of Glenfiddich, and the world’s most successful single malt whisky, Jason was one of the driving forces behind this brand as its long-standing Brand Ambassador in South Africa. Likewise, Rowan worked for the company in the UK and Russia before moving on to Pernod Ricard, Chivas Brothers.  Truman & Orange’s mission is to bring the world of fine beer and spirits closer to the discerning drinkers in South Africa with some exciting brands in their portfolio, including the recently launched Innis & Gunn and Beluga Vodka.

Would you like to join me for a G & T?

I confess a weakness for a good G & T on a hot day. It’s my preferred choice of summertime tipple. It has the range and depth of flavours to satisfy my palate and to refresh. We have a mushrooming variety of Gin on the market, from premium international brands that sell millions of cases per year, to local micro distilleries producing superb spirits. Tonic water is no longer limited to commercial fizz, but international brands such as Fever Tree are now well known and readily available at Gin bars such as Mother’s Ruin. Yes, bars dedicated to Gin.

The highlight of my research – yes, I have done some in depth studying on the topic, mainly, shall we say, on the job training, was a tasting evening with 3 other whisky lovers, 15 different types of Gin and a sufficient quantity of superb tonic water. Tough work, I know, but we have to suffer for our craft…

I also believe that a Martini should be made with Gin, not Vodka, so yes, I have my preferences.

On the 30th January, I know where I’ll be. Have a look at the press release below, and please, come join me for a G & T.

“Gin & Tonic Festival 2016


The time has come for South Africans to celebrate our booming local gin distilleries. Following hot on the heels of the exploding local craft beer industry, the makers of small batch, artisanal gin is following suit. We can think of no better way to sample and celebrate than with a Gin & Tonic Festival!

This inaugural festival will launch in Cape Town on the 30th of January in the charming new Mason’s Press Building in Woodstock, showcasing 8-9 micro South African distilleries and some household international producers. A few to expect on the day will be New Harbour Distillery, Hope on Hopkins, Musgrave, Jorgensen’s, Triple Three Estate Distillery as well as the much anticipated launch of the new Bloedlemoen Gin.

Festival goers are also in for a real treat on the day; Vincent Parisis, a passionate gin-loving Belgian entrepreneur and founder of will be sharing his knowledge as well as curated tasters of a few unique gins at the speaker’s corner. Ginsonline has proven to be one of the most successful online shops in the BENELUX and offers a variety of more than 250 gins, tonics and botanicals imported from all over the world.

Gin lovers can also look forward to having their taste buds tantalised by artisanal food offerings that can be expertly paired with various G&T cocktails, as well as the opportunity to learn from various expert ginsmiths and mixologists about what goes into making their G&T cocktail unique and learning a bit more about their “Gin Story”.

Of course a G&T Festival would be nothing without the tonic technicians, so festival enthusiasts can also look forward to quality hand crafted tonics to complement their favourite gins.

All ticketholders will be presented with a beautifully spacious balloon glass at the festival – the best way to appreciate the crafted drinks and yours to take home as a great festival memento.

G&T lovers in the JHB area and surrounds will be excited to know that plans are already in place for the 2nd phase of the G&T festival to take place at a venue and date which will soon be announced.



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Manchester United – the Gutman family history, from my perspective. @ManUtd #MUFC #VanGaal


Yes I know this is a whisky blog but this post has nothing to do with whisky. Please indulge me, I’m in an emotionally delicate state;)

I started supporting Manchester United in 1977. I was 10 at the time. It was the night before the FA Cup Final. United were the underdogs and Liverpool were favourite. I support the underdog. It’s my thing. United won.

My brother, Herschel, is 39 and started supporting the team before he could walk. He just didn’t know it at the time. My son, Jeff, is 15 and started supporting the team when he was in the womb.

The week before I got married (1993) my brother and I went up to Joburg to watch United play Arsenal at Ellis Park. David Beckham was an unknown youngster, along for the ride. I met Sir Alex – there is a photo somewhere. Mark Hughes was sent off during that match. I watched Ryan Giggs dancing along the left wing running circles round defenders. I can still see that picture today, in my mind.

In 1999 we won the treble. My brother and I watched the game at my house and when we won, we woke up my daughter, who was 2 years old. She is also also a United fan, although not as passionate as the gents in the family.

I watched United play Everton at Goodison Park. I was in London at the time and took the train to Liverpool Lime Street Station. It was one of the best days of my life. I wrote about it. My story was called “To Live and Die Football” and I’m sure I will find a copy of the story somewhere.

Last year I went to Old Trafford as part of a whisky tour. It was my first visit and was during the off-season. My hosts were involved in the corporate world at United so we got special treatment. I walked into the United dressing room and there, against the wall, was a United jersey with my name on it. Bucket list? I couldn’t even have dreamt of something so good.

My son and I watch every United match together. It is our thing. One day I hope to go with him to Old Trafford and see our team playing. We both realise that there are bigger issues in the world, but our team is our team. He has been away at camp for the past three weeks, which is a good thing, as I would have hated to see him watching our display over the past few weeks.

When we watch, we wear our jerseys and are quite animated. We jump up and cheer or slam our hands on the couch and swear. Football is a passionate affair in the Gutman household.

We are not fair weather supporters, but are there for the long haul. Yesterday I tweeted “Supported ‪@ManUtd since 1977 and not going to stop now. I may, however, fall asleep during the second half”

I do mind losing. But, footie is a game and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It is not the end of the world. I get upset, yes, but life goes on. But when we play without heart, without soul, when we seem to not care, then I mind. When the tactic seems to be to hold on to the ball and not score, I wonder what is going on in the manager’s mind. The players seemed almost frightened to play, like they were being held back on a leash.

I often listen to my son and his mates discuss the tactical detail of the entire European football scene. With the internet and FIFA they have access to all the information they need and they devour it. Their knowledge is remarkable. When I was their age, we had the newspapers and during school holidays our weekly treat was to watch Match of the Day on a Tuesday lunchtime somewhere in town. I’ve been thinking what Jeff would have made of the last 4 matches. A couple of months ago he was expressing concern about Van Gaal. It struck me that Jeff’s early teens would be remembered as the Moyes and Van Gaal era. Pretty tragic.

Tomorrow we play Chelsea. If we win, great, if we lose, it is the worst run since 1936 or something. Whatever the result, Van Gaal must go. We need a change. We need to regain the passion, the pride of playing for the jersey. United is not a normal team, it is an institution.

The people that wear the badge on their hearts need to understand the history and the passion that go hand in hand with playing in the Manchester United jersey.

Glory Glory!