Last Saturday I went to visit Van Ryn’s Brandy Distillery in Stellenbosch. It was a scorching 40 DEGREES so I was more than grateful to be greeted by both cooling aircon and a brandy fruit punch drink (which was delicious) upon arrival. I literally did my first toast to the aircon!
Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised that Van Ryn’s hosted an actual tour around the distillery. I had expected a simple tasting session, therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to be ushered in to join the tour and equally embarrassed to be the late ones!
I don’t enjoy when people come late to a tour so I do apologise for that.
The part of the tour that we joined was during the barrel making segment. The maker was a lovely man and had us all entertained with his public speaking skills as well as demonstration of barrel making. He says each maker has their own tune which they play whilst making the barrel. It was so fantastic I had to take a video!
We then explored the branding storing room (no photos allowed) which holds all the brandy barrels during their maturation stage. The room was totally cool inspite of the 40 degree weather outside. The barrels lose a large percentage of brandy through evaporation over their resting period which means the room smelt of a rich, potent brandy aroma. So much so that I could almost taste it (well it felt that way)! And no electronics or fire making substances were allowed in the room.
Before moving onto the brandy tasting, our tour guide was kind enough to teach us (Mrs Kitten D & I) about the initial steps of brand making and show us the rooms again after the tour had ended. We then moved onto the brandy tasting lounge to enjoy Van Ryn’s brandy. Mrs Kitten D and I joined Natalie Roos of Tails of Mermaid and her partner Keenan for a lovely picnic style lunch and brandy tasting. We indulged in the 5 year, 12 year and 20 year which were paired with cool coffee as well as milk, dark and orange chocolate. The 20 year was delicious! We chose to sit in the lounge so we could continue to enjoy the aircon which allowed me to observe other visitors to Van Ryn’s who were there for, seemingly, a bachelor’s, international tourists or a lunch.
I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Van Ryn’s before and always thought it was a b-grade brandy. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong! I was really surprised and to learn that Van Ryn’s is one of the best brandies in the world! I even asked if it was TRULY one of the world’s best brandies or just something South Africa tells ourselves? I was assured that we had been internationally recognised on many competitions/accreditations which made me feel very happy, proud and foolish for not knowing what wonderful product was being made so close to home!
Although brandy has a reputation for being very potent, the Van Ryn Distillery tasting experience is presented in a very tasteful manner. The host ensures the guests enjoy every sip and learns about how to “treat” brandy so that it can be drunk with the best outcome. I’d absolutely recommend that you visit the Van Ryn’s Distillery and enjoy a wonderful day out in Stellenbosch. I’d even recommend visiting in winter as the tour is entirely indoors so the weather won’t interfere with a lovely day out at Van Ryn’s.