First came the artisan coffees, then the craft breweries and now South Africa is undergoing another new taste revolution – craft spirits. Craft gin is now the tipple of choice and across the country micro-distilleries are changing the way people drink a classic G&T. In a quiet downtown courtyard in New Doornfontein, two blocks from fashionable Maboneng, Shanna-Rae Wilby and Warrick Brown are busy conjuring up a new and unique range of craft gins and rums under their own brand Time Anchor.
We took a tasting tour of Joburg's pioneering craft distillery Time Anchor to find out what makes these handcrafted spirits so special.
THE RECIPE FOR A PERFECT G & TShanna-Rae, chief alchemist at Time Anchor, first started experimenting with spirits in varsity when she would make her own skittles-flavoured vodka for parties. It proved so popular that she began to look at other flavour combinations, dabbling in a fruit schnapps and flavoured rums and brewing her own spirits using a 5-litre micro-distilling kit. After much studying and experimentation, in 2013 the pair decided to take the leap of faith and follow their passion for unique handcrafted spirits by opening their own distillery.
While Shanna-Rae carefully measures and records ingredients in one corner of the bar, Warrick, who jokingly describes himself as 'chief bottle washer', guides us through the science behind making gin and rum. The recipes for Time Anchor's range of gins and rums came about through months of trial and error. 'It took us about 60 or 70 batches to get the perfect gin' says Warrick as he uncorks a bottle of Time Anchor London Dry Gin, carefully pouring it into miniature tasting jars.
Perfecting the right proportions of botanicals to be added to produce gin is a fine science as each ingredient can mask or enhance another depending on the proportions used. Essential to every gin is juniper berry. Time Anchor also uses coriander seeds and angelica root as a base for their London Dry Gin and for the amber-rose coloured 'new world gin' Livingstone dried orange peel, rooibos, rose geranium (a flowering shrub which smells just like Turkish delight) and a touch of honey are also added.
DARK AND STORMY RUM COCKTAILSFollowing our gin education we move onto the rums, which are Warrick's favourite. 'Rum is so versatile' he points out. While gin is enjoying a massive revival in South Africa, rum still remains misunderstood. Judging by the products Time Anchor have conjured up, this could all be set to change.
First we try the classic white rum, a surprisingly complex spirit with subtle burnt caramel, banana and macadamia nut flavours. Then comes the vanilla rum flavoured in the bottle by pods of the finest Madagascan vanilla. Shanna-Rae also treats us to a taster of her latest invention - cocoa rum made with roasted cocoa beans. Other products the pair are dreaming up include an old-fashioned Old Navy Rum (which is aged in oak barrels), a spiced rum and an Old Tom Gin (popular in 18th Century England and reputedly used to make the first ever Tom Collins cocktail).
It's at about this point that you start thinking about a long iced cocktail, which is the same moment that Warrick reads your mind and runs you through the cocktail list. There's the TAD & Stormy – white rum, ginger beer, bitters and fresh lime, the Pineapple Mojito and the perfect Cuba Libre. You can also of course opt for a G & T, (the pair favour Fitch & Leedes tonic). Or both. It's all part of the educational experience.
WHERE TO FIND ITTime Anchor's individually labelled bottles can be bought at the tasting room (prices start from around R320) and you'll also find their spirits on sale at the Joburg's leading bottle shops. Visits to the Time Anchor distillery tasting room are by prior appointment only (weekends only).
TIME ANCHOR DISTILLERY 7 Sivewright Avenue, New Doornfontein, City Centre, timeanchor.co.za, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +27 72 495 1983