Qualito Distillery - The amazing world of gin small batch distilleries

BY GRAEME LUND - MARCH 6, 2018

Qualito Distillery - 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 jenever 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 jenever berries, jeneverus communis specifically. 

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

Qualito Distillery - Phalabora, Limpopo

This distillery is driven by two Master Distillers, who also happen to be husband and wife, Pierre and Loumarie Raubenheimer. 

To quote their website; “Since 2005, Loumarie and Pierre have formed the perfect duet with Loumarie enhancing Pierre’s fine spirits with innovative combinations of traditional and exceptional modern organics.”

Clearly, this couple, are passionate about what they do.

“A true craftsperson puts a big part of themselves into what they do. Time. Learning. Creativity. Passion. If I put something special into every bottle, then people will get something special out,” says Pierre.

Qualito is a small batch distillery based in Phalabora, in Limpopo Province, and produces a whisky, a gin and three Vodka based spirits. They also offer tours of their distillery and you can purchase their products online at: www.qualito.co.za.

Grey Hawk Classic Graft Gin

Beautifully-packaged in a clear, short bottle with a wooden stopper, this gin proved to be much-liked by our tasting team. One of our tasters claimed that this was her favourite.

The tasting notes that we received from Qualito say that this gin is produced from the crystal-clear waters of the Olifants River and non-GMO grain. The spirit goes through a triple fractional distillation process, which means that complete control of the quality and character is maintained through.

“Only when we’re satisfied that we have crafted the spirit to be as a pure, clean and crisp as the Phalaborwa sky do we move on to infusing Grey Hawk Classic Craft Gin with traditional jenever berries along with three carefully selected botanicals,” says Pierre.

Loumarie adds, “Inhale the classic aroma of jenever, lemon zest and unique herbal notes. On the palate, anticipate bold jenever, sweet floral spice and fresh citrus delivering a dry lemony finish. Grey Hawk Classic Craft Gin pairs with subtle cheeses, the smokiness of salmon or the sweet saltiness of oysters.”

We also found that Grey Hawk Classic Craft Gin is complemented by a dash of Plantation Tonic concentrate.

Nadine Lombard, from our tasting team, says; “It starts crisp and fresh and the aftertaste is pure Turkish Delght.”

“Paired with cinnamon I had a definite taste of melktertjies,” adds Katherine Grewar.

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

Contact Franchisee Linda Thünemann-Faasen
Mpumalanga contact number 0026 87 659 3411 or 0027 82 971 7609
Mpumalanga email address linda@homefoodandtravel.co.za