Good water, the best molasses, yeast and a mother’s prayer.
To name but a few...
A mother’s prayer:
I won’t tell anyone that alcohol is good for them. It certainly is not good for you physically, but emotionally and mentally it has a role to play. At Whistler, we buy into the prayer that my mom used to pray at Bible study.
Initially, she had quite a hard time with the fact that her two lovely sons started making rum. For a conservative Afrikaans lady from the Free State this was hard to accept. So, my mom found it quite difficult and she ultimately found a loophole as far as prayer is concerned.
Once, just after we started building the distillery, she arrived at the distillery and had a “Eureka” moment and announced that she now knows what to pray for. She prayed that “a lot of people drink just a little bit of Whistler Rum”.
Amen to that. We never designed Whistler for people to get drunk on. It is more about the experience and savouring what we put inside the bottle.
Molasses from KZN:
There is a good reason to savour what is in the bottle because the ingredients that we use are so good. We start with molasses from KZN. We originally used treacle from Swaziland but have since moved to 100% molasses. It is top quality stuff. Sugar produced in South Africa certainly matches the best in the world. Otherwise, we would not have such a large sugar industry in South Africa.
Really good water: Plaaswater.
We get groundwater from our farm. That water we put through a filter. It ends up being the cleanest water you can find. In many cases cleaner than the best mineral water you could buy.
A lot of people think that the flavour you get out of rum is down to the distillation process. That is somewhat true but, it is mostly down to the type of yeast you use. The yeast combined with the molasses evolves in this phenomenal flavour.
With the manufacturing process, time is key. It is quick to produce white rum, but we certainly don’t believe that is where it should end. That is why every drop of Whistler Rum is matured in used barrels that have been previously used in South Africa. The latest products that we will be releasing now will be at least two years and six months old. That age will continue to increase in the future.
We certainly try to keep our people as happy as possible. Our main man Kantoor (Caretus Mzaka) is still with us and at least as far as we can tell still very, very happy. We certainly are very happy to have him.
Pretty much everything we produce is used again. It typically takes about four litres of water to produce a single bottle of rum, but that does not mean that the remaining three litres of water is wasted. We recycle that water back to the fields and it is used to grow grass or crops on the farm.
I won’t say we have a zero footprint. We do use electricity and when we ferment, we do produce CO 2. Unfortunately, those volumes are too small for us to capture and do something with. This is certainly something we intend to work on as our volumes grow.
Production system constructed and designed for Africa: This is the second rule for Whistler African Style Rum. We did this for several reasons – 1. We know a lot of our competitors and other local spirit producers import their equipment. We feel and we continue to believe that we have more than enough local expertise to construct this kind of equipment and that certainly was the case.
We built the largest rum distillery in the country only using local labour and local knowledge and we’ve since won the Best Rum of Show trophy and The Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show. So, certainly, we’ve proven that local is literally lekker. We can, in using local ingredients and materials produce something that is world-class and that can compete with distinguished brands.
By producing locally there is certainly also a lot of cost-saving. We aren’t subject to the Rand Dollar exchange rate. We aren’t subject to international labour prices. This means that we could produce something that is the same good a quality as international products, if not of a higher quality – for a fraction of the price.
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