The artisanal gin trend has swept the country, with local variations on the Prohibition-era libation saturating the already competitive spirits market. Many of these small-batch operations begin with a bought-in base spirit, which is why it piqued my interest when I heard of a new distillery on the outskirts of Joburg CBD making their own neutral spirit.
Primal Spirits is a project started by friends Irvin and Tony. The two reunited after successful careers around the world in very different fields - Tony as an award-winning TV commercial director based in London and Provence, France, and Irvin as a top Johannesburg advocate.
The project has grown fast, going from a home operation to a full-scale small-batch distillery.
“We believe that in this busy market it is necessary for a new product to stand out. We feel we have achieved that. Each of our gins is distinctive in its character and flavour profile,” say the duo of their venture.
The process starts with the creation of the neutral spirit using non-hybridised, organic hard red wheat. This is diluted with ancient bedrock water from the Magaliesberg. The result is their Bedrock Vodka which, aside from being set for release as its own spirit, forms the base for their gin. From there it’s all down to the botanicals. Herbs are grown right outside the distillery door. Rare, Rex Union oranges - there are only roughly 300 trees in the world - kumquat marmalade, pink peppercorns, African roots and, of course, juniper round out their botanical pantry. The botanicals are macerated in the vodka before the liquid is distilled in copper pot stills.
At the moment, Primal Spirits has two variations on offer. The Complex Gin, described as “a gin for gin lovers”, is made up of 18 carefully selected botanicals and has earthy, herbaceous and citrus notes. Union Gin - named after those sought-after oranges - is tart, with bright notes of citrus and red juniper, followed by more delicate pomegranate, tamarind and orange blossom.
It is a project fuelled by pure passion and the team is eager to share what they do. So, if you happen to be in the trendy new precinct, stop by to check out this operation and, should you be so inclined, you can buy a bottle or two straight from the distillery.