Starting a craft distillery is not for the faint-hearted. While every country has it challenges, somehow the rafts of legislative frameworks in South Africa make it doubly so. The distillery needed an identity and Deep South was chosen as a name that paid tribute to the location of the distillery. The name was registered, and internet domains, trademark searches and the concept took shape.
But the road to a licence really starts with finding premises, for without these the licence application cannot even practicably begin. After several months of looking, we finally found something suitable in a little industrial area near Kommetjie. And so with the factory acquired, the long, arduous process of licensing and registering a craft distillery began. It was a process that was to take nearly 2 years, during which we could not sell spirits or really generate any income from being a craft distillery.
Among the many interesting people he met along the way, Steve encountered James Copeland, a crafter who had been making rum in his garage and who aspired to opening his own distillery called Copeland Rum. Their shared values in great spirits led to a collaboration for a time to establish a distillery in the valley and bring gins, rums and vodkas to the market, before James would leave to establish his own distillery, having successfully brought his first rum to the market.
A year of hard work ensued as the factory was gutted and rebuilt for the ground up to comply with the regulations for making spirits, equipment was designed and ordered, and every aspect of a working distillery was dreamed about, discussed, plotted and debated with experts in plumbing, drainage, electrical reticulation, roofing, insulation, heat management, pumps, filtering and of course, distilling.
Recipes for rum, vodka and gin were developed and tested in the emerging lab, and private tasting groups and events were held to test these in the market and refine the flavours and aromas. Packaging design, bottles and closure selection and the identification of suppliers were important tasks, as was the appointment of suppliers of our ingredients, from chemicals to botanicals, and molasses to neutral spirits. The paperwork of incorporating the business and licensing it seemed endless. And the longer it took for the licences to be approved, the more nerve-racking the days become.
Until the great day came when we were advised of our provisional approval, followed by the regulatory site visits and final approval.
But that was only the beginning – for now although we could legitimately make the spirits, we needed to sell them too – and not just in the distillery. We had gained some traction with distributors and sales outlets, but until we could actually make spirits legally, not much could be done in this area.
And so the long and winding road continues, each day filled with triumphs and challenges, growth and fun….