If you're a fan of Cape Brandy, then this is the blog post for you! It will tell you everything that goes into crafting a premium bottle of Cape Brandy, how it differs from other brandy styles, and the best way to enjoy it – all straight from the Cape Alchemist himself!
New Harbour Distillery’s master distiller, Nic Janeke, gave an inside peek into the making of New Harbour Distillery’s Cape Alchemist Brandy – read more to unravel the mysteries behind this customer-favourite spirit.
Q: First things first! What's behind the name – Cape Alchemist Brandy?
Cape Alchemist is a reference to me and how we go about creating spirits at New Harbour Distillery. We combine science, art, and nature with new and innovative processes to create the smoothest tasting spirits.
Our spirits are created with nature and perfected in the lab – as is the way of the alchemist.
Q: What is a Cape Brandy?
Cape Brandy is a potstill brandy. The basic rule applied to Cape Brandy is that 100% of the final blend that hits the bottle must have been distilled using a copper still and bottled after ageing it for at least three years.
Q: How do you make it?
The process starts with a base wine, which is added to a still made up completely out of copper metal and shaped in such a way that evaporated spirit goes up into the still’s neck through convection. This is where it gets cooled before finally being captured by the spiral pipes. Two-thirds are discarded while only one-third remains for the second distillation.
This is where the magic happens. The liquid that remains goes through a second distillation process and we only use one-third of it – the absolute best stuff for making Cape Alchemist Brandy!
Q: What makes potstill distillation unique?
Potstill distillate is the richest and most full-flavoured alcohol – it’s essentially a concentration of the wine. The slow distillation process and subtle contact with the copper ensure that only the best flavours are extracted from the wine.
The rough element in a traditional Cape Brandy sets it apart from other types of brandies because it preserves hints of smokiness and fruity flavours which are otherwise lost during standard production methods.
No additional flavours or preservatives are added to the Cape Brandy – what you drink is straight from the barrel!
Q: Why do you use copper? What are the benefits?
Copper is great because it removes sulphur compounds, keeps the distillate sweet, reduces bacterial contamination and has excellent heat transfer properties. Copper also helps to reduce ethyl carbamate – toxic substances that can be formed from cyanides found in the stones of fruits. It's also really awesome at improving the quality of the final product too.
Q: What are blended and vintage brandies, and which one should I choose?
A Vintage Brandy has between 30 – 80% potstill brandy that's been matured for a minimum of eight years. It also needs 20 – 60% matured wine spirit to qualify as "vintage".
Blended Brandy, on the other hand, is made from a minimum of 30% potstill brandy that's been matured for at least three years, and blended with unmatured wine spirit.
The style of brandy is purely on your taste preference. Potstill brandy does have the best overall taste for sipping neat. Our Cape Alchemist Brandy is amazing whether enjoyed neat or with your mix of choice.
Q: What is the big difference between Cognac and Cape Brandy?
Cognac and Cape Brandy are both region-protected spirits. Cognac must be made from white grapes that come from the Cognac area in southwest France.
Cape Brandy is a specially made wine that comes from the Cape Wine regions. It's only made with fresh, sulphide-free grapes to produce the finest Cape Brandy suitable for long oak maturation.
The grapes most commonly used to make Cape Brandy are Colombard, Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc. The warm summers of South Africa give these grapes a fruity flavour that shines through in Cape Brandy. You can taste its complexity and inviting fruitiness when you take your first sip.
Q: What’s the most prominent scent and flavour of Cape Alchemist Brandy?
The long-lasting and infinitely characterful smoky finish.
Q: Are there any other interesting facts about Cape Alchemist Brandy that brandy-lovers will enjoy knowing?
After the initial three years of ageing, our Cape Alchemist Brandy undergoes an extra cask finish in heavy toasted French oak barrels for that extra touch of character.
Q: What’s your serving suggestion for Cape Alchemist Brandy?
The perfect combination is a Cape Brandy Old Fashioned using our orange bitters.
Make your own using this recipe: