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South Africa’s Liquid Gold Currency

South Africa’s Liquid Gold Currency
For six years in a row, South Africa’s liquid gold has been the number one currency in the world…

Words: Anita de Villiers

Photographs: Supplied


The sensual swirl of South Africa’s liquid gold.

International bodies sanctify the brandies from the Boland’s distillers as the world’s finest. For the last two consecutive years, Van Ryn’s Distillers’ Reserve 12 Year Old Brandy took top honours in the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

Any trip to the Cape Winelands gets an extra kick from a visit to Van Ryn’s just outside Stellenbosch. Take a tour of the distillery and entice your taste buds in to choc heaven. Pairing a Belgian chocolate with a 15-year-old pot still brandy is 100 per cent decadence of the palate. Also see the largest cooperage in the Southern Hemisphere, where coopers apply the age-old trade of repairing brandy, whisky and wine barrels.

Here are some good-to-know facts and fables about brandy:
  • Brandy is made from wine. In South Africa this base wine is mainly made from the highest quality Chenin Blanc and Colombar.
  • This wine is double distilled in copper pot stills, which means that heat is applied directly to the pot containing the wine.
  • In Van Ryn’s tasting lounge there is a 200-year-old Alambic Cognac pot that is still in use during the winter months, when the fire is fuelled by old staves from the cooperage.
  • The difference between a pot still brandy and a cognac lies only in the grapes used. Cognac is made exclusively from Cognac grapes in the Cognac area of France.
  • Brandy is matured in oak barrels. Van Ryn’s import barrels from the Limousin region of France.
  • The colour and flavour of the brandy mostly comes from the barrel.
  • In South Africa, three years is the minimum period for maturation. The longer the maturation period, the better the brandy.
  • Around three per cent of the brandy evaporates during a three-year maturation period. This is known as ‘the angels’ share’, their reward for turning the wine into liquid gold.
  • Unlike wine, brandy’s maturation stops once it is bottled. So drink up!

The base wine is distilled in copper pot stills before it is matured in oak barrels.


In Van Ryn’s tasting room where taste-bud heaven awaits. Here, pot-stilled brandies are paired with Belgian chocolate, coffee, cheeses and charcuterie.


Van Ryn’s historic building just outside Stellenbosch.


Gold in a glass. South Africa’s brandy is a world-class, liquid commodity.

Contact details:

Van Ryn’s Brandy Distillery: Van Ryn Road, Vlottenburg, Stellenbosch 7604.
Tel: 021-8813875
Email: [email protected]

READ MORE: High Spirits on Route 62

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