Great flavours from the craft distillers around South Africa - Zululand Distilling


Contrary to popular belief, the distillation of spirits is a relatively modern art. It was only at the time of the industrial revolution that the whiskey, rum, vodka and gin, as we know them today, began to be developed.

Although distillation is a rather simple process of separating the alcohol from a fermenting, carbohydrate-based brew by selective boiling and condensation, the equipment required for efficient and safe spirit production took many hundreds of years to develop.

The earliest evidence of distillation comes from Alexandria, in Roman Egypt, in the 1st century BC. Yes, we take our favourite spirits for granted and assume that something as special as whiskey has been around since the days of Braveheart, but this is not true.

China, India and Europe all developed basic and, what we would consider, very primitive distilling processes from that time onwards.

The spirits were very weak and by the Middle Ages, chemists were reported to carry out as many as 500 to 600 distillations in order to obtain a pure spirit! In the early 19th century, the basics of modern techniques including pre-heating and reflux were developed, but it was the emergence of chemical engineering as a discipline at the end of the 19th century that was the greatest contributor to today’s delightful range of strong drink.

In the mid 1900’s, governments worldwide almost killed off the art of distilling. The thousands of micro, boutique or craft distilleries that had been handed down from father to son were banned and destroyed and large corporations obtained the sole rights to distil mass produced, but well-marketed mediocre spirits.

Thankfully laws around the world are being liberalised and craft distilleries are on the rise. For those of you, who enjoy something special and want to pair their spirits with their food, mood and the atmosphere, there are new delightful, well-crafted and very special spirits appearing on shelves and more importantly, in on-line stores.

At Home Food and Travel, we take our food, brews, wine and spirits very seriously and, at times, light-heartedly too. Thus, in the true spirit of investigative journalism, we embarked on some very careful research at a recent craft distilling tasting.

We spent an evening at the Brickmakers Distillery Co in Port Elizabeth where owner, Eugene Coertzen, introduced us to his distilling process before we embarked on our tasting. This is what our team of twelve - journalists, taste specialists, chefs, distillers and foodies, discovered.

Zululand Distilling

Zululand Distilling is located on the KZN North Coast and their premium rums carry the Tapanga label. A tapanga being the tool used to chop down sugarcane, also known as a machete.

Tapanga Rum is one of South Africa’s first ‘Rhum agricole’ or cane juice rum’s. This style of rum originated in the French Caribbean islands and Brazil and is distilled from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses.

The Tapanga Rums are single estate Rum and are bottled in limited batches.

Tapanga White Rum

The Tapanga website has this to say, “This clean, smooth Rhum Agricole is delicate and soft on the palate, with an aroma of tropical botanicals is ideal to mix with your favourite mixer or that special cocktail. Our fresh sugarcane ingredient magically escapes the bottle proving the authenticity of this rum.”

Well-liked by all who tasted this rum, Darren, a Star Wars fanatic, says, “The force is strong with this rum. Smooth and best enjoyed neat and any mixing will dilute the awesome flavour. The nose is sharp but pleasant. An after dinner, fire side rum.”

Eugene, a rum distiller himself, adds, “Very good aroma of vanilla and caramel. There is also something mysterious that I cannot identify and it intrigues me. Smooth on the palate. I would say that this is the best Rhum Agricole that I have tasted.”

Tapanga Gold Rum


This is the barrel aged Tapanga Rum and it has a prominent vanilla nose with an attractive, well-balanced, dry taste and long fruit and floral finish. The barrels add a touch of class and Tapanga Gold Rum is ideal sipping neat or on the rocks.

Kirsten shouts, “Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla. Fragrant and sweet on the nose. Spicy and full on the palate. Very good overall.”

“Very sharp at first but smooths off wonderfully on the palate,” adds Darren.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more about the other craft distilleries we sampled, read more about the Brickmakers Distilling Co

Contact Franchisee Alison Kirk
eThekweni contact number 031 764 7425
eThekweni email address