There are very few things a South African has to be proud of about Mzansi.
But one thing a South African certainly can (and does) brag about is the famous Van Ryn’s brandy. Established in 1845, the Van Ryn’s distillery is the oldest enterprise still in operation in the southern hemisphere. A survivor of all the ups and downs of the economic and political issues. The brandies from Van Ryn’s distillery have been named as the world best brandies a total of nine times in the past ten years at the most esteemed international competitions.
Although the region’s roster includes an assortment of wines, gins, and vodkas (yes vodkas!), by far the most famous of its products are its award-winning brandies, which are produced by the Van Ryn’s. Like all top-notch spirits, the high quality of this liquor begins with the region’s grapes. Occupying the banks of the Eerste River, Van Ryn’s is in the heart of the ancient Cape wine region, a gem of viniculture perched above the Atlantic ocean.
Sourced from wine estates that grow grapes specifically for the production of brandy, the grapes fortunate enough to make their way to Van Ryn’s are transformed into brandy using a process identical to that used to make Cognac in France—double distilled in small copper pots, aged in oak barrels, and then carefully blended. The grapes are of a typical Cognac variety, an assortment that includes Colombard and Chenin Blanc. Despite the company’s rigid adherence to the French production methods, Van Ryn’s is not located in Cognac nor anywhere in France and therefore cannot formally call their products “Cognacs.”
Van Ryn’s twelve-year distiller reserve I got my hands on is the second youngest of the company’s brandies and its harshness seems best suited for disinfecting emotional wounds. But as the products age, so grows their smoothness and complexity.
The twelve (as I call it) is more robust than anything, don’t let my description above fool you. It features a deep reddish mahogany color. Dense aromas of varnished wood, vanilla, cherry, and dried fruits with a supple, dry-yet-fruity medium-full body and a long, resonant finish with notes of berries and honey. Lots of mature, wood aged complexity and panache for very serious sipping or cigars. Make sure to aerate for several minutes. Van Ryn’s suggests that its best served with ice or a dash of water.
I found out, while experimenting, that it is quite enjoyable as a cocktail. Try it with Cream Soda, Cardamom Syrup, Naartjie Juice, Egg White and Herbal Liquer. Perfect for these last few summer days.
You can grab Van Ryn’s 12 year old distillers reserve for R650 at leading fine liquor retailers or for FREE by entering our competition here
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