Introduction to SA brandy


A few weeks ago I was invited to learn about Brandy, with Distell. Look I knew Brandy was quite the process to produce, but I didn’t know it was such an art. Nic Holdcraft presented the day and everyone hung on every word he said. This short course is for the Brandy appreciator as much as it is to get to know the product.

Admittedly I was not the biggest fan of Brandy, I found it a bit harsh to drink neat. But it is amazing what education can do. By being taught to add a tiny drop of water to the glass of brandy it made it SO much more palatable and I was able to taste distinct differences between the different types.

This course is open to the public and I highly recommend it. This is SA after all, what is more South African than Brandy and biltong?


South African brandy and the noble pursuit of knowledge


The global reputation of South African brandy is at an all-time high, with Oude Meester Souverein winning the International Spirits Challenge World’s Best Brandy trophy this month.


So what makes South African brandies so well received on the global stage, and what are the differences between a blended brandy, vintage brandy, potstill brandy and French cognac? What is brandy made from? To answer these questions and cast light on the art of brandy distillation and the science of maturation, the Cape Wine Academy holds an ‘Introduction to South African Brandy’ course numerous times a year which is open to the public.


The three-hour workshop imparts a deeper understanding of the subtleties of flavour and aroma found within the different styles of premium brandy.  “Production of brandy is strictly regulated in South Africa and our legislation allows for three different types of brandy; blended brandies, vintage brandies and potstill brandies, each with their own purpose and distinctive flavour profile,” said Distell brandy ambassador Nick Holdcroft.


There is both a practical and theory component in the course before participants are tested on their new found knowledge and certificates are awarded to all those who pass. After a brief introduction into the 300 year history and heritage of South African brandy the really fun part of the course starts with a guided tasting.


Klipdrift Export was selected to represent blended brandies; this everyday, accessible style of brandy is created by blending potstill brandy with unmatured wine spirit, and is generally meant to be enjoyed with a mixer of personal preference. The Richelieu 10 Year Old  is a vintage brandy which means that it is a combination of potstill brandy and matured wine spirit; both of which has been aged for a minimum of 10 years in oak casks before bottling.

But it is the potstill brandy category in which South Africa really shines on the world stage and participants will learn to appreciate how extended maturation in oak barrels softens the spirit and adds different flavour levels of complexity. Examples include Oude Meester 12 Year Old Reserve and the Van Ryn’s 15 Year Old Fine Cask Reserve.


“The time is ripe for South African brandies to achieve the recognition they deserve and this Cape Wine Academy certified course is just the tonic we need. The exceptional quality and value of South Africa’s wines are no real secret, and there is no reason why our brandies should not enjoy the same recognition for their excellence, especially here in South Africa,” said Holdcroft.


The Introduction to South African Brandy course is run four times a year, in Johannesburg and Cape Town, at a cost of R420 per person.  The Cape Wine Academy will also host special courses for groups by request.

Nic Holdcroft





    Not a fan of brandy – but this post has given me some insight to respecting something I never knew anything about. Nice read Lyds.

    August 27, 2017 - 9:27 pm Reply
  • kerryheathfield

    I used to only drink brandy up until about two years ago. This was all really interesting to me.

    April 9, 2018 - 12:42 pm Reply

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