Great flavours from the craft distillers around South Africa - Qualitico Craft Distillery

BY GRAEME LUND - JUNE 5, 2018

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.

Qualitico Craft Distillery

Proudly located in Phalabowra, this husband and wife owned and run distillery produces a wide variety of spirits.

Master Distiller Pierre Raubenheimer began distilling as a hobby and enjoyed it so much that he and his wife now own a thriving and popular distillery.

We have tasted and written about Qualitico Craft Distillery’s wonderful Grey Hawk Craft Gin in the past.

At this tasting we sampled their Whisky.

Aging Qualito Heimer Craft Whisky

The most noticeable feature of this whisky is the bottling. It is nothing like the shape or labelling found in the more traditional whiskies and, most notably, it has pieces of oak sitting in the bottom of the bottle. Johnny Walker is rolling in his grave!

However, if you look past these anomalies, and open your mind, this is a very pleasant spirit.

On their website, the Raubenheimers say, “Hold a measure of authentic hand-crafted Aging Qualito Heimer Craft Whisky up to the light. Drink in hues reminiscent of a Lowveld sunset or the heart-warming coals of a Rooikrans campfire. These rich golden tones are the gift of time.”

They add, “Our Whisky slumbers in barrels of red wine oak before being perfected by oak flakes added by our master distiller to each individual bottle before further maturation. With the passage of time, notes of hazelnut and butterscotch flow gently into each other just like the Olifants and Gai Selati Rivers come together in this beautiful valley that we call home.”

We found this Whisky to be more of a liqueur in taste and as it is not chill-filtered, when you add ice or water, a haze might appear.

Janine, our most descriptive taster, said, “This is definitely a sweet, pleasant liqueur rather than a whisky. Caramel and nutty flavours are clear. It reminds me of the inside of Rolo chocolates.”

“Very pleasant as a dessert drink. The butterscotch is distinct,” added Jonothan.

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

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