KWV Brandy – A guided cellar tour

KWV Brandy – A guided tour of the cellars

One of the great things about the local brandy market is the variation of production from tiny microdistillers bottling one barrel at a time, to the mass master craftsmen putting hundreds of thousands of litres on our shelves every year. KWV Brandy is one of the biggest, and I was lucky enough last week to have a guided tour of the Paarl maturation facility, and what a marvel it is…

KWV Brandy: Getting lost in the maturation cellars

Huge Holding Tanks abound!

I was met at the front door by Pieter de Bod, Manager: Spirits and soon introduced to Lourens Stander, Manager: Blending and Distillation. The tour started with a walk through a number of huge cellars, with hundreds of wooden barrels and stainless steel tanks of various sizes.

From the (relatively) small 10000 litre barrel, to the huge 200000 litre oak barrels, it really was a marvel to see the size and scale of production here. Unsurprising, when you consider that apart from brandy, well over a million litres of wine are produced here annually as well, not to mention spirits and other products.

The last stop on our tour was into one of the actual brandy maturation cellars, a top secret space with a strict no photo policy! The angels share hangs think and sweet in the air in here, while row upon row of stacked shiny french oak barrels slowly transform our liquid gold into the mellow nectar we so love and enjoy!

KWV Brandy: A huge part of SA brandy History

A little piece of SA brandy history

Right next to this maturation cellar was a little piece of brandy history in the cosy and well decorated brandy tasting room. All around bottles of brandy of varying age and demarcation lay in proud tribute to an industry with hundreds of years of tradition.

KWV in the early 1900’s was, by special decree, the enforcement body in local brandy production, as making of the spirit at various levels of quality was spiraling out of control. In order to ensure the quality and consistency was kept high, the KWV inspectors would visit farms in the region and close down those making brandy without the correct permit.

Here in the brandy tasting room, are pictures, letters, documents and hundreds of year old bottles all a dedication to the making of brandy in SA. In fact the guys tell me there are plans afoot to put a lot of this history into a museum space in the facility, which will be a great place and further attraction here.

KWV Brandy: Sampling the very good goods

But what tour would be complete without a sampling of the superb products produced here. I had in the past managed to try on a couple of occasions KWV 10 year old brandy, and the exceptional Laborie Estate Brandy, but the other big players in the range had thus far avoided me. So I was very excited to see the glasses already lined up and the full range on show, including the highly acclaimed KWV Imoya VSOP brandy, as well as the prized 15 and 20 year old brandies.

The prized KWV brandy range

Tasting was informal and leisurely, and as we worked our way through the range, I had to admire Pieter and Lourens’ patient answering of a heap of no doubt mundane questions from a relative brandy amateur. These guys do make the brandy after all, so it was too great an opportunity not to learn more from!

All tasting notes will be going up in the tasting room soon, but to say these brandies are anything short of superb would be an understatement. And what is more remarkable is that they keep to such exceptional quality standards, with production levels 22 times higher than those of the closest rival.

KWV 10 year old brandy, winner of the 2011 Worlds best brandy title is put out to market in substantial volume and keeping the quality and standard high enough to impress international judges at this sort of volume is no mean feat

KWV Brandy: Keeping things fresh with age

The 15 and 20 year old brandy we sampled was a new variation, that Pieter has just created this year. Having recently joined the KWV team, he is keen to experiment and try new things, and with the freedom to do so is creating some stunning blends. Lets just say with the very special new 15 year old blend, I will no be surprised to see the medals coming in soon. Watch this space…

Brandy Masters, Pieter (r) and Lourens (l) with Brad from Platinum Seed

We were able to compare new and old, and the new style seems slightly more fruit driven with a touch less wood, but both equally as structured. It really is down to individual preference to say which is better, but for me who personally enjoys a strong wood palate profile, I was very pleasantly surprised.

What is also interesting is that Pieter is going to create a new blend each year for the 15 and 20 year denominations, which is a great way of keeping things fresh and up to date with ever changing modern taste profiles. So good luck to the guys, it is certainly exciting times at the house of KWV brandy.

Many thanks must go to Pieter and Lourens for taking the time out to show me around, and of course for the personal tasting at the end. Great work guys, do keep it up and I look forward to visiting again soon…


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