A relative novice to the global whisky scene, South Africa is winning accolades for its whiskies as they and fellow new world producers Taiwan, Japan and Australia look to challenge the dominance of Scottish and Irish brands. David Pollard reports.
It takes a moment or two for master distiller Andy Watts to savour his whisky. It's taken decades for South Africa's only commercial distillery to get to a point where it can challenge the world's top brands. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SEDGWICK DISTILLERY MANAGER, ANDY WATTS SAYING: "Back in 1977 when we started making whisky we didn't realize at that stage that we would grow to where we are now." The James Sedgwick distillery is in an unusually good place. Global spirit consumption slowed with the economy last year. China - the world's biggest tippler - saw total consumption drop by 3.5% last year - equivalent to Portugal and Chile going teetotal. But sales of premium spirits - including some whiskies - surged in popularity ... In South Africa, tapping into a rising middle class prosperity. 2014 saw whisky climb to more than 40 per cent of spirit sales there - most of the premium market. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GLOBAL MARKETING MANAGER, BAINES CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY, LIEZL DEPPENAAR SAYING: "The interest that this has created globally of whisky connoisseurs even local consumers actually want to know and want to be part of a journey of we've been here, we actually cannot believe that something is happening in South Africa." But with the distillery's Baines Cape Mountain Whisky matured in casks for around five years .... it's a not a process than can be rushed.