Once again, a fine Cape brandy has proved to the world of connoisseurs that top South African cognac-style brandies are up there with the best, and are, in some cases, judged as best in the world. In May this year it was the turn of Oude Molen's XO to bring home gold for its distillers, the only South African entry to win gold in the 2016 Global Spirits Masters.
This London based competition is renowned as impartial and credible, using only independent judges who rate entries through blind tastings.
It was, naturally, great news for Oude Molen distillery MD Andre Simonis, who emphasises that the description of Cape Brandy pays off in marketing both locally and in export markets.
But of course it's basically the impressive quality of this aristocratic spirit that attracts awards, and this is a brandy that offers consumers an almost overwhelming combination of aromas, fruit and layered flavours on the palate with a long, lingering finish. Grapes used in this distillation include colombar, chenin blanc and ugni blanc.
Tropical fruit dominates on the nose, with a little coconut discernible, while the palate will also detect stone fruit flavours, both fresh and dried, before the vanilla undertones from the oak add depth to the meld.
The fact that it is also encased in a beautiful bottle and presented in a stylish box add to the visual appeal and no doubt help account for a hefty retail price of R800. So, the average brandy lover is going to keep Oude Molen XO for auspicious occasions and use nothing except an ice block or two to dilute the mastery in the balloon.
Those consumers whose budget won't stretch to these heights can find more affordable pleasure in the consistently high quality of the Joseph Barry brandies, made at Barrydale, which, incidentally, brought home silver in the same international competition and are also products of the Edward Snell company.
There will be additional reasons to pause at this delightful Barrydale cellar soon as a restaurant is scheduled to open in spring. Apparently the delay is owing to waiting for approval of their liquor licence... a rather ironic situation one would think, given the site of the restaurant...
Meanwhile, hearty congrats to all concerned in the production of Oude Molen XO, available from the distillery in Elgin, as well as other liquor outlets. Edward Snell & Co is the largest family-owned wine and spirit merchant in South Africa.