Tag Archives: brandy tasting

A long-standing reputation of “Excellence in Maturation”

A long-standing reputation of Excellence in Maturation
Cape Town's history of wine-making started way back when Jan van Riebeeck (the first Commander of the Cape) brought the first vines to our beautiful part of Africa.

Some 200 years after this, in 1845, Jan van Ryn left Holland, landed in Cape Town, and opened a bottle store in the suburb of Rondebosch. The bottle store eventually evolved into the Van Ryn Wine & Spirit Company, whose name you can see on this 100+ year-old bottle of Harvest Brandy!

In 1884 Van Ryn's won their first international award; over the years they've won many more, including two gold awards for their 20-year-old Collector's Reserve and another two golds for their 15-year-old Fine Cask Reserve, in 2011.

Brandy tasting at Van Ryn’s

Brandy tasting at Van Ryn's

Our visit to Van Ryn's (map) was not only our first visit to a brandy distillery, but also the first brandy tasting that Kerry-Anne or I had ever attended - and I have to say that it was superb.

The Van Ryn's website lists several tasting options, and we had the pleasure of the Florentine Tasting, which I highly recommend. The Florentine presents four brandies, a 5-, 12-, 15- and (ultra-smooth) 20-year-old, all paired with delicate florentines (see the first photo below).

Jean, our taste-master, started off by explaining how you're supposed to cup the glass in your hand to transfer a little heat into the golden liquid. She then explained how you gently introduce the aroma to your nose, before taking the first sip and appreciating the refined liquid for the gold it is.

The atmosphere was sophisticated yet relaxed, and the personal attention - which allowed us to ask plenty of questions - was great. Van Ryn's looks pretty understated from the road, but once you're inside the complex you'll be surprised to see just how beautiful the buildings and gardens are. And besides, it's so close to Stellenbosch that it's a shame not to pop in for the short tour and tasting!

A cooper, a barrel, and lot of brandy

A cooper, a barrel, and a lot of brandy
We arrived at Van Ryn's brandy distillery at 11h30, just in time to join the second group of the day for a short tour before our eagerly-anticipated tasting.

Jean, our guide, took our little group through to the distillation room where she explained the process by which wine is turned to brandy. We then moved though to the room shown in this photo where Neville Ebrahim, a seasoned cooper, demonstrated the process by which barrels used to be made.

In this photo Oom (Uncle) Ebrahim was showing us how coopers used to shape staves that form the brandy barrels. His demonstration was certainly a highlight of our visit to Van Ryn's - I'd encourage you to take a tour if only to see Oom Ebrahim in action. :)

Tours start at 10h00, 11h30 and 15h00 on week days except for Sundays and public holidays when the last tour is given at 13h00. Visit Van Ryn's website for more information about the tastings and tours.

Van Ryn’s, one of Cape Town’s finest brandy distilleries

Van Ryn's, one of Cape Town's finest brandy distilleries
Every time that I visit the well-known Spier Estate in Stellenbosch I drive past the huge Van Ryn's sign inviting passers-by to a brandy tasting experience at the distillery (map).

After years of rushing past the sign and making mental notes to pay them a visit, we finally managed to get it together and organised a brandy-tasting outing. I'm normally more inclined to drink whiskey rather than brandy, but I have to admit that our visit to Van Ryn's and to pleasure of an ultra-smooth 20-year-old gliding over my tongue may just have swayed me! :)