When you have such a fiery and deep love affair with food like I do, it’s inevitable that you will eventually develop a sophisticated palate for fine liquors. There’s nothing quite as elevating as thinly sliced smoked salmon paired with an exquisite vodka, or a creamy block of fudge paired with a broody Irish whiskey. How about a velvety, smokey Pinotage, paired with delicate morsels of pulled pork. But, the subtle fact that you only learn to appreciate through time and experience, is that the key to unlock these sensational flavour pairings lies in the quality of the liquors. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when I introduce you to Merriment & Co.
Setting the scene
Merriment & Co is an innovative new start-up company in the South African liquor space, and they’ve entered the scene with just a touch of distinction. Merchants, marketeers and manufacturers of fine spirits, wines and champagne, they pride themselves on their uniquely fresh approach that combines extensive experience of the fine beverage market with a creatively entrepreneurial approach.
I was beyond thrilled when I received an exclusive invitation to attend a Merriment & Co media function earlier this month. Managing Director, Dirk J Ullrich, used this opportunity to reveal a selection of top international liquor brands to a small group of Cape Town’s liquor influencers. The event was held at the elegantly understated O on Kloof Boutique Hotel in Sea Point. With panoramic ocean views, a beautiful outside sunset deck and an intimately cozy bar / lounge area, O on Kloof was the perfect venue for a handful of guests to come together to celebrate this occasion. We were greeted with sparkly flutes of Piper-Heidsieck champagne – the exclusive champagne of the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscars. I immediately fell in love with the delicate fragrance and seductive bubbles of their signature champagne, the full-bodied and fruity Cuvée Brut.
At the far end of the lounge, each poised gracefully on its own little table, I could see the shapes of two bottles under dark, velvety cloaks; all dressed up for the “big reveal” later the night. The only clue to what lies under wraps was a small selection of flavour indicators, stylishly displayed at the foot of each bottle. I was even more intrigued by the selection of cinnamon sticks, spicy orange rounds, gorgeous caramel fudge and lashings of honey. I circled the mysterious bottles, desperately trying to get a sneak peak, but I was assured that the reveal would be worth waiting for. And boy, was it ever!
The story behind the stories
After a bit of mingling, snacking and introductions, we were addressed by Dirk, who passionately shared his story with us. And stories there were plenty. What stood out to me most, was the way in which Dirk carefully chose the brands he associates with – there is a tale begging to be told behind every range of imported alcohols. Each brand is not just another alcohol; it’s an experience. This venture is obviously so much more than just a business to him; Merriment & Co has heart and soul, it has substance and it has actual hand-prints of hard work all over it. It’s very clear to me that years of experience and extensive research has gone into the needs of the South African market, and Dirk did not shy away from travelling the world to find the exact products to fill those gaps. And don’t think “fine liquors” are limited to the red carpets of Hollywood; the Merriment & Co ranges were selected specifically to suit the lifestyles, pockets and palates of South Africans.
Innovation excites me. New spins on old ideas excite me. Passion through experience excites me. Affordable quality excites me. Go-getters and entrepreneurs excite me. And that is why I felt so honoured to have been part of this intimate event. As Dirk enthusiastically talked us through the various ranges they import, we received elegant little tasters of their tequila, whiskey and vodka lines. I was in my personal piece of heaven and with every new introduction, my respect grew for the sturdy morals and values that underpin the Merriment & Co foundations. This is a venture born from a casual chat with a handful of investors and entrepreneurs and through hard work, commitment and dedication, turned into the thriving new household name it’s quickly becoming.
The big reveal
After a few more talks (I’d hate to call it speeches, as it was so much more comfortable and enjoyable than that) from other esteemed guests and brand ambassadors, it was time to reveal the stars of the show. By now we were all sitting at the edge of our seats, eagerly awaiting the grand finale.
Firstly, Dirk unveiled the The Dubliner Caramel Irish Whiskey and her slightly manlier brother, The Dubliner Whiskey. What a beauty the Caramel Whiskey is. With creamy undertones of smooth caramel and rich honey, it is the perfect introduction to any aspiring whiskey drinker, as well as a beautiful taste experience for those who don’t like the strength of a normal whiskey. Without giving too much away in this blog in terms of the tasting notes (a full product review to follow shortly) – all I can say is that The Dubliner Caramel Irish Whiskey has made my top list of favourite liquid indulgences. Big brother, The Dubliner Whiskey, is a seamless blend of single malt and grain whiskies, aged in Bourbon casks, resulting in a soothing, warming and ever so rich drinking experience for the more adventurous at heart.
And secondly – the feisty, festive friend everyone wished they had – Sierra Spiced Tequila. Now look. If I wasn’t met with so much resistance from my family, I would’ve changed my first name to Tequila. I’m such a fan of this Mexican tipple, doesn’t matter in which shape or form. My #fangirlmoment was elevated to completely new heights with the introduction of Sierra Spiced that night. Except for the super cool little sombrero hat topper, this bottle packs a punch of orange and cinnamon spice, pleading to look at tequila with fresh eyes. No longer is tequila a shot that you quickly chuck down your throat, followed by a wedge of lemon and a handful of salt. This is tequila, but all grown up. Sophisticated with a colourful nose, which prefers to be sipped rather than shot.
Brands currently available include:
- Sierra Tequila, Europe’s No.1 tequila;
- The classic Dubliner Irish Whiskey and the Dubliner Caramel;
- The Dublin Liberties Irish Whiskey;
- Piper-Heidsieck; the exclusive champagne of the red carpets;
- Japan’s No.1 Choya’s Umeshu Liqueur, the ideal companion to sushi;
- Feeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur;
- Their own exclusive red wine under the Opulence label; and
- The B to B Mixer range for professional barmen and chefs.
It was a night for the books. It was such a refreshing way to interact with a select group of people who were all there for the same reason. I adored the personal interactions, and admired the way Dirk and others availed themselves so freely to anyone who had a question or comment afterwards. It was a relaxed, stylish and very special event. I left feeling invigorated and excited for what the future holds for the dedicated team behind Merriment & Co. This is exactly what South Africa, and especially Cape Town, needs as we head towards summer and long beach days: a hand-selected cocktail of quality drinks to sip at the pool, at a party, whilst watching sport, at a birthday function or during a girl’s night out. For me, the ranges on offer from Merriment & Co encompasses the joyful spirit of Cape Town city vibes whilst exuding unadulterated confidence in its quality. Do yourself a favour and browse their ranges of imported alcohols here for a whole new perspective on what should be in your glass the next time you raise it in celebration.
A special thank you to Lynne, Jessica and the whole Conversations² team for organising this stunning event, and for the lovely goodie bags – just for a few hours, it felt like we were on the red carpet!