Oude Molen Brandy: Distilery Tour

The name Rene Santhagens should ring familiar in any true South African brandy fan’s  ears. He is widely considered the father of South African brandy, and through introducing best practices learnt in the Cognac region of France, has probably been the most influential individual in creating SA’s award wining brandy legacy.

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Oude Molen Brandy: Continuing the legacy

Rene Santhagens - The father of SA brandy

Santhagens’ brandy legacy came to an end with his passing in 1937, but his memory and craft lovingly lives on in the name of Oude Molen brandy. Situated unassumedly in the heart of the Grabouw – Elgin wine valley, Oude Molen distilleries produce 4 fine potstill brandies using the same philosophy Santhagens over a century earlier. And not only are the brandies a treat to drink but the whole distillery tour is an experience in its own right.

After meeting our passionate and knowledgeable host and guide, Siobhan, the tour started with a great coffee and casual chat about brandy and its rich history in South Africa. Next on the agenda was an audio visual introduction to Oude Molen in the form of an expertly produced short video about Rene Santhagens and his rich life. At the end of the video, feeling educated and inspired, we were led off into the heart of the distillery for the rest of the tour.

Big Bertha, the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere

Oude Molen Brandy: The biggest stills in the Southern Hemisphere

And what better a place to start then right next to the biggest copper potstills in the southern hemisphere? Big Bertha and Long Tom have legendary status thanks to their 23000 and 18000 liter capacities. Sitting next to a third smaller, yet equally impressive potstill, these stunningly maintained stills make some viewing in all their gleaming polished copper glory. We were lucky enough to see the stills mid distillation, and feel the heat beaming from their big brown bellies.

Behind the copper stills sits a large bank of copper and stainless steel column stills and we got to sample some pure wine spirit. The wine spirit gets diluted down to 23% from its original strength of over 95%! Mostly odourless and completely colourless it was amazing to think that our potstill is also so clear when it first enters the oak barrel for aging.

The maturing barrels of liquid gold

After the tour of the distillery, we moved through to the maturation cellars, and gawked at the vast banks of maturing oak casks, quietly going about their task of aging the young brandy.

Also most interestingly were a number of real Solera systems being employed for brandy making, using Spanish sherry casks in a top to bottom tier replacement system. Really good to see this method in action, and also taste the uniqueness of the Oude Molen Solera brandy in the tasting room.

Another excellent AV experience awaited us in the maturation cellars, with the happy ghost of Rene Santhagen’s visiting us to explain brandy making processes, and check up on his beloved Oude Molen brandy stocks.

Oude Molen Brandy: Sampling the goods

The tour culminated in a tasting journey through the Oude Molen range in a beautifully decorated tasting room. After having been through the whole production facility, it was great to culminate the trip in a tutored tasting of the four products in the range.

The Oude Molen VOV flagship brandy

Oude Molen 100 Reserve, a vintage brandy of very high quality, aged for 8 years or 100 months, the exceptional and different Solera, aged for between 5 and 12 years, Solera style in old Spanish sherry casks, the excellent Rene Single cask, unblended potstil from a single barrel of superb quality, and the flagship VOV, aged 14 years and blended maticulously to give a complex, long and lingering experience.

All in all a superb trip to Grabouw, and our thanks must go to Siobhan for the tour. Her knowledge and passion for Oude Molen brandy shine through and add an extra personal touch to the experience. Small group cellar tours are available on arrangement with Siobhan for R50 per head and we couldn’t recommend them more.

Find out more:

Web: www.oudemolen.co.za
Tel: 021 859 2517
email: info@oudemolen.co.za



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