Angel Heart Beverages - The amazing world of gin small batch distilleries

BY GRAEME LUND - APRIL 13, 2018

Angel Heart Beverages - The background to the origins of gin

Gin has recently seen a tremendous revival. In fact, the last time gin was this popular was back in early 1700’s. The big difference between then and now is that back then, gin was considered a social evil, hence the origin of the derogatory terms ‘gin soaked’ and ‘gin joint’.

In fact, gin was so bad 300 years ago that most of its flavour and content was derived from turpentine!

This was not always the case. Gin, or jenever, as it was originally known, was first distilled in Holland as herbal medicine in the 1500s. History records that soldiers drank juniper for its calming effects before battle, hence the term ‘Dutch courage’.

Gin only became popular in Britain when William of Orange, leader of the Dutch Republic, occupied the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones with his wife, Mary, between 1689 and 1702.

At this time, the English government allowed unlicensed gin production, and, at the same time, imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits such as French brandy. Gin was thus, the cheapest and least controlled spirit available and its production methods became quite dubious.

Gin received another revival in in the 19th century in tropical British colonies where gin was used to mask the bitter flavour of quinine. Quinine comes from a very bitter tree bark, which was the only effective anti-malarial compound at the time. Quinine was dissolved in carbonated water to form tonic water, which resulted in the now world famous gin and tonic.

As one would expect, today’s gin is subject to more rules and regulations than ever before, especially since the European Union got involved.

There are at least four different legal definitions for gin and any beverage bearing the name gin, must be produced in the manner stipulated. However, the one common rule is that gin is a liquor, which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries, Juniperus communis specifically.

Most gin today is not distilled from juniper berries, but is based on some other spirit of agricultural origin and then flavoured with juniper berries. Many other flavours may be added provided that the junipers are dominant.

This allows distillers a wonderful amount of leeway and has resulted in today’s gin being one of the broadest categories of spirits with some interesting, exciting and downright fun ingredients.

Today’s craft or boutique distillers have let their imaginations run wild and we now have a massive selection of wonderful gins. Much fun can be had in discovering, which gin pairs deliciously with a particular meal, flavour or mix.

So, at Home Food and Travel, along with a couple of experts in the tasting, distilling and mixing business, took it upon ourselves to sample some of the amazing small batch, well-crafted gins from South Africa.

Here’s what we found.

Angel Heart Beverages – Johannesburg

Angel Heart Beverages is located in Johannesburg and they produce Angel Heart Liqueur, Two versions of the Ginifer brand of Gin, Westcliff Gin and Luvoa Vodka.

The owners say that the company was born out of a passion for creative and extraordinary alcoholic products. Having tasted their three gins, I have to say that they are certainly on the right track.

Angel Heart Beverages are very proud of their Jo’burg heritage. Many of the rural distillers in this article sourced their botanicals from the surrounding farms and even from the local veld and bush. In Jo’burg, when producing the gins, Angel Heart Beverages visit Faraday Muthi Market to source a few unique flavours.

Based in Linbro Park, they offer tours of their distillery and have a tasting area where they encourage you to mix your gin with a wonderful array spices, herbs and non-alcoholic drinks.

All their products may be purchased online from their website www.ahbev.com.

Ginifer Chilli Gin

I love chilli and made sure that this was the first gin that passed my lips at our tasting. The chilli comes through strong and almost, but not quit, aggressively. I was content to enjoy the Ginifer Chilli neat, but found that adding ice and soda water took away some of the zing, but left it very refreshing.

This gin is made up of 13 botanicals. It takes four days to make and is aged for two months. The unique African herbs and the chilli give this gin a distinctive taste and smell.

Janine, one of our tasters, says; “I loved the chilli infusion. I can just imagine pairing this with Mellisa’s Chilli Fudge!”

If you liked this article and would like to read more about the other gins we sampled, check out our article on the Six Dogs Distillery.  

Contact Franchisee Natalie Major
Johannesburg contact number 083 489 2319
Johannesburg email address natalie@homefoodandtravel.co.za