R536 Hazyview-Sabie Road, Hazyview 1242, South Africa info@dukegin.co.za
013 737 6500 / +27 83 601 0182

Glog Post

Meet the Distiller, DUKE @ Summerfields, 17 January 2019

This is the talk (or a version, as it changes frequently) given by Andre to guests on tours of the Summerfields Duke Gin Distillery.

Good afternoon and thank you very much for joining us at our humble little farm. We can never accomplish what many of you have forgotten, but we try to add value to much of what we do here at Summerfields, to make memories for our guests.

Gin is the latest of our endeavours, and was it not for a friend’s good advice, we would have bulldozed the litchi orchards.

Let me share a few gin stats with you, just to place matters in perspective:

  • While the Dutch and the Brits were the pioneers in establishing gin in the 17/18th centuries, it was in fact the French who were responsible for the resurgence of gin as a popular spirit, in the 1950’s
  • The most prolific consumption of gin is not in the UK, but in the Philippines, where the per capita consumption is 2l bottles per annum, or a whopping 100 million litres annually. And not any of the popular brands - a rather horrible San Miguel brand
  • The Spaniards consume around 1l bottles per capita, and the Dutch and English around a bottle each
  • The big three brands - Gordons, Beefeater and Tanqueray, sell around 150 million bottles each year, and they are growing
  • Craft Gins started in the USA shortly after 9/11 in 2002, and now count more than 3,000 distilleries with average prices of $45 per bottle. Most notable is Aviation gin, led by actor Ryan Reynolds
  • In South Africa, some seven years behind, Inverroche & Musgrave started the gin graze in 2011, and now export to 18 countries around the world. Estimates indicate around 200 South African distilleries at end 2018

So, onto what we do here:

  • We have 6 hectares of litchi orchards which are harvested between 15 December and 15 January every year, not a good time for farm labour, exporters, and in the height of our busiest season in the hospitality sector
  • We pip & skin the fruit, and make very sweet litchi fruit - feel free to taste
  • We then ferment with champagne yeast for about a week, until we have a fruit wine - once again, available for tasting. It is like any wine - rather sour
  • The next step is to turn this into litchi mampoer, with the copper Alembic still. You will smell and taste the litchi quite pointedly
  • Thereafter we use the continuous still, with six distillations, to produce a litchi schnapps/vodka - high in alcohol, yet smooth and well rounded - these are the benefits of a multi-fractioned still
  • The final step is to add the botanicals - juniper berries are compulsory to be called a gin, and many of the others. You are most welcome to smell the different botanicals. This is probably the most defining process for any distiller. It takes months, sometimes years of practice and experimentation to find the right flavor profile, to marry the right botanicals, in the right quantities.
  • Master distillers also teach students to keep very detailed records of their experiments, otherwise one day you hit the sensory jackpot, but cannot remember how you got there!
  • A word of caution – in the time of the Prohibition the term ‘Bathtub Gin” was coined. This referred to bathtubs being used overnight to soak the cheap alcohol with some botanicals to make it drinkable. This is still being done, and you will taste the difference between a properly distilled spirit and a bathtub macerated spirit immediately – the latter attacks your throat and lining with a vengeance, and the resulting hangover is a bitter reminder of an inferior spirit.

Let’s move over to some flavour profiles -

  • Feel free to smell & taste the big three. They are all London Dry, which means they are all juniper dominant. Both Gordons and Beefeater have been around for 250 years, which means consumers love their taste
  • Next, let’s consider the oldest gin brand - the Dutch product BOLS. It has been in continuous production for 443 years, and started life as Dutch Courage from poorly produced wines spiced with juniper to make it palatable. It is now produced by grain spirit, is very milky and tastes almost like a whisky hybrid
  • Also, if you like, smell some of the other craft gins around South Africa. It is believed that there are over 2000 gins being produced around the world today.

So, what makes us different from other brands, what is unique about DUKE?

Duke is our young Hungarian Vizsla, who came to Summerfields when the idea of a litchi gin was born. He really is the Duke of Summerfields and rules the roost around here. We like his attitude, which is quite regal, proud and upright. He is indeed a great ambassador for our farm.

Duke gin is produced farm-to-bottle. We do not use a neutral spirit, as do 80% of all gin distillers. Everything from plough to tasting is done here.

It is much more expensive - up to five times the cost of neutral spirits, but it allows us to control the entire process. We are able to retain some of the fruity flavour and nose, which a neutral spirit loses immediately. And we can control the quality and real craft - we take much care to remove the foreshot (heads or methanol) and retain only the best portion of the distillation - the hearts. This requires constant monitoring and temperature adjustments, and the discardation of the tailends. A tank of 1000 litres of wine under optimal temperature and humidity conditions leaves us around 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) yield, and mostly only 60 litres.

We have a bank of botanicals for you to smell.

A quick word of different flavour profiles:

  • Juniper creates awareness and arousal and is an essential element to all gins
  • Spices are causing negativity
  • Earthy roots are causing low energy
  • Fruits cause happiness and joy

So when you drink gin, consider the flavour profile:

  • Juniper & fruit = joy
  • Fruit & earthy flavour = contentment/relaxation
  • Spices & earthiness = depression
  • Spices & juniper = agitation/aggression

London Dry gins are typically juniper/coriander spices. Drink one too many and you will be the party fighter.

Come and smell and taste our flagship DUKE.  It is floral and fruity, light yet aromatic. There are hints of rose and liquorice and the nutty taste of macadamias, with a lingering dryness on the palate. I am confident that it will make you happy and relaxed.

This is how to taste - take a smell of the neat spirit like you would taste wine. Then a small sip to keep on your tongue for a few seconds. Add some room temperature water, which takes the sting out of the alcohol, and smell/taste again. Now you will get the real flavor, and taste.

It is recommended that you dilute your drink with no more than 3-4 times the quantity of alcohol. A normal shot is 25 ml. A normal bottle tonic is 200ml, or good for 2-3 G&T’s. At three times dilution (75ml), your cocktail is around 11% ABV, the same as a glass of wine.  Fill with the entire bottle of tonic, and it is no stronger than a light beer.

When you add garnishing, think about enhancing the main character of the gin – any tropical fruits go with Duke – orange, berries, some basil perhaps.

We are in the final lap to develop our own version of a London Dry gin, to be called DUKE SPORTSMAN. We would like to honour the traditional gin spirit with more juniper. We do add coriander, but balance this with orange peel to keep it fresh and joyful, and the earthy tones of rhubarb to add some mellowness. The name implies the sporty character of Duke as a working dog – athletic, full of energy and in his most natural habitat. Please taste and enjoy!

Over the far end are our bottling plant and our training/testing bench. This is where you can come and make your very own gin. We provide you with the basic steps, and the alcohol, you select the botanicals and create your own logo, and voila, within a day you walk away with three bottles of your very own gin!

Last, but not least, is the introduction of the first South African gin spa package at our Rose Retreat. You arrive to a beautifully pink and floral Duke cocktail, get exfoliated with powdered litchi skins & pips in a macadamia oil, and receive a soothing massage. Pure bliss.

We are here to answer any questions about tastings, training and pricing or anything else that interests you. Shortly we will move over to the Gin Bar where you may enjoy a complementary cocktail and some canapes.

Many thanks again for your presence. We hope this short introduction was of interest and that you will help us sell Duke to your guests.