No matter who our guests are, or where they come from, one of the most commonly adopted traditions that get taken back to everyday life is that of pausing for a sundowner. Sure, it may not be from the edge of a landrover or watching a Londolozi sunset, but the act of honouring the day with something cold and delicious is a time-honoured tradition that we will always hold sacred.
At Londolozi, we are always trying to make sure we have the perfect beverage selection for you. This means ensuring international and local products with variety and unique tastes are available for any occasion during your safari. We also love beverages with a story behind them, and in this case we have found a gin that fits into the Londolozi selection perfectly. This quality gin has a fascinating backstory, unique and interesting flavours and is actually located at Londolozi’s backdoor.
I met Tanya Cruse for the first time in 2012. I joined her, her husband Hylton, and a group of friends for dinner. The next time I saw her, she was at a local market in White River, my home town, selling ice cream out of a quaint little caravan which she had purchased and named ‘Dollie’.
Dollie was not destined for ice cream sales though. Soon after owning the caravan, Tanya was asked to serve gin and tonics out of the caravan. It was from this request that Tanya found her customers at festivals and markets selling gin cocktails made from standard London Dry gins. It wasn’t long after this that Tanya purchased her first copper pot still, at a small size of 5 liters, and started experimenting and brewing gin. And with that Dollie Gin was born…
Dollie The Caravan became rather cumbersome to cart around to festivals and was replaced with a Land Rover Defender, renovated and kitted out to serve the Dollie Gin creations. The 5 litre still was replaced with a 13 litre still, and Dollie Gin became a firm favourite around the area. Tanya was mentored on gin distillation by her friend, Frank Theron, who owned Rottcher Wineries in White River.
Rottcher Wineries was a winery founded in 1959 and was well renowned for producing wines from oranges.
The winery underwent numerous rebirths and reinventions over the years with various owners and Frank was producing orange wines, limoncillo and his own ‘Slowveld Gin’.
After Frank’s passing, and discussions with his family, Tanya purchased Rottcher Wineries with the intention of utilizing the space and equipment for further gin production. She named it Gin & Co, based at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River where Tanya now has a very modern setup with a 400 litre copper pot still, aptly named ‘Frankenstill’ in honour of Frank, to produce her range of gins. For those of you who have had a transfer to Londolozi or driven yourselves here, you would have passed the Gin & Co on your way in.
Tanya now produces four variants of Dollie Gin, all of which she took inspiration from her natural surrounds, and created these gins based on ingredients she had available in her garden at the time of their creation. She produces the Dollie Lowveld Dry Gin which is produced in a London Dry style. The others are compound gins which are infused with delicate flavours, these are namely Blueberry & Pimento, Rooibos & Lemongrass as well as Strawberry & Wild Basil.
Tanya has also released Guardian Gin after being approached by South African National Parks to produce a gin to assist with fundraising efforts to preserve our national parks. 10% of the purchase of each bottle of Guardian Gin helps to save our endangered rhino, lions, elephants, wild dogs and abalone. This contribution also goes a long way to help to activate local communities, educate our youth and preserve our rich cultural heritage. Guardian Gin recently received the highest level of recognition at the SA Craft Gin Awards with a double gold award.
Distilling quality gin is no easy feat, as it takes 27 hours to run a batch of gin through the distillation process. ‘Frankenstill’ produces approximately 500 bottles of gin in one run. The entire process takes 3 weeks from start to finish with the infusion of flavours, bottling and labeling by hand. Tanya produces approximately 2,500 bottles of her own gin per month, with an additional 500 bottles on top of that for external producers.
Tanya is constantly looking towards the future and further innovation. She is currently in the process of changing her gin base from a sugar cane neutral spirit to maize neutral spirit. She is working on a new gin label for the international and local market (I’ll share more on this at a later stage). She is also working out how to recreate the famed Rottcher Wineries orange wines, the recipe for these unfortunately passed with Frank. It is going to be exciting to see how the wines are recreated, possibly with a completely different base and process, time will tell.
If you find yourself driving through White River on your way to Londolozi, it is well worth stopping at Gin & Co and doing a gin tasting with her expertly trained staff. You can even get a glimpse of ‘Frankenstill’, and maybe see a gin run in action. Gin & Co also stock some other delicious local craft gins from the surrounding area and you can even do an orange wine tasting. There is still some limited stock of the Rottcher Wineries orange wines which were produced by Frank.
If you are not driving through to Londolozi, don’t worry! You’ll be able to try Dollie Gins or the Guardian Gin at Londolozi…
The Lowveld Dry is beautifully complemented with a wedge of lime and a stem of mint, Rooibos & Lemongrass with rosemary and a grapefruit slice, Blueberry & Pimento with a sprig of thyme, blueberries or figs and the Strawberry & Wild Basil with fresh cucumber.
If, on your next visit to Londolozi, you find yourself tasting this range of local craft gin while watching one of the famous Londolozi sunsets, let us know what you thought…