Ask Kurt Schlechter what he loves most about brandy, and you’ll be entertained for hours. This award-winning bartender and drinks consultant is a brandy aficionado and created Cause and Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Brandy Bar in Cape Town as a tribute to his favourite tipple.
But for Schlechter and many like him, brandy is not only an after-dinner treat: it’s also a distilled gift of the vine to enjoy in many different forms.
“Vintage-style cocktails from the golden age between 1862 and 1920 are really what has ignited a new love of brandy. Classics like an Old Fashioned, a Sidecar and a Sazerac are all made with brandy,” he says.
The Sazerac is widely regarded as the world’s oldest cocktail. It was first mixed in New Orleans in 1873, using Sazerac French brandy, bitters and a dash of absinthe.
Schlechter says the raft of awards won by South African brandies has also assured plenty of attention focused on our world-class blends.
“And it’s all about the blending,” he says. “Unlike gin, which is really just vodka infused with different flavours, it’s all about the expert blending of the distilled Chenin Blanc grape that has given us so many unique flavours in brandy.”
Emmanuel Peprah, the head bartender at HQ Restaurant in Cape Town says he loves brandy because of its rich taste and its smell of dried fruit. He’s also a fan of its subtle sweetness and a hint of spice, as well as its full-mouth feel and smoothness when swallowing.
“I enjoy all local brandies but my favourite so far is KWV,” Peprah says.
And there’s no doubt that the hero of the South African brandy scene is KWV. Not only has KWV been named World Class Distillery (one of 23 distilleries to be honoured in this way worldwide) at the World Spirits Awards, it was awarded the ultimate title of Brandy Producer of the Year at the 2017 International Wine and Spirit Competition, where it also received the Worldwide Brandy Trophy for its KWV 15 Year Old Potstill Brandy.
KWV’s achievement has cemented brandy’s position as a rival to cognac — long considered to be the world’s finest distilled-grape spirit.
For those wanting to sample the winning brandy, KWV has created the magnificent House of Fire in Paarl, the original home to its brandies, with massive copper pot stills. House of Fire is located in the very building where KWV produced its first brandy in 1926 and is fast