{experience} Into the heart of Hope: gin tasting at the distillery

If you’re submerged in the world of gin, the hopes are high that you’ve tasted the craft gins from Hope Distillery before. The Tall Hedonist and I decided to visit the heart of Hope for a gin tasting to see what lies at the very core of their distillery.

Introduction

I know I write a lot about food and wine. But my secret indulgence, and one of my greatest passions, is South African craft gins. I humbly boast with an impressive collection of local gins, each one lovingly purchased and stored in my specially converted gin cupboard. It’s only on a Friday afternoon that I open this magical cupboard and, after much deliberation, pick a gin to help me into the weekend.

I was first introduced to Hope Distillery a few years back with the launch of the Cape Town gin route (click here to read my blog on this event!). I had one of their killer negroni’s that I’ve still not yet managed to top since. That one drink put Hope Distillery squarely onto my radar.

Upon inspection, I recently spotted a Hope Distillery-sized gap in my gin collection, and the team was kind enough to invite The Tall Hedonist and myself for a gin tasting at their new premises in Salt River.

Background

Hope’s approach has always been incredibly hands-on, from its origins as a small-batch distillery started by husband and wife team Leigh Lisk and Lucy Beard, to the fact that the owners live on the premises and oversee the operations closely. Their experiential tasting room offers a real up-close-and-personal taste of the brand.

Located in the industrial Cape Town area of Salt River – a suburb that in the past decade has become a hub for creative enterprises and entrepreneurs – it’s a state-of-the-art facility with homely charm.

It made sense to time the upgrade with the release of Hope’s updated branding – which reflects a crisp and contemporary new aesthetic. The couple was also cognisant of injecting the same entrepreneurial spirit with which they founded their brand into the space via their design choices (press release).

The tasting room

We arrived at their newly refurbished tasting room on a sunny Saturday afternoon. After a quick flight of stairs, the warehouse-inspired space opened up onto the inner workings of a fully operational distillery. To the one side, you could look down on the distillery and it’s army of shiny steel stills, and on the other, a leafy mezzanine level where you could have a relaxed session with friends sipping on the fruits of Hope’s craft.  I absolutely loved the idea of being immersed into the heart of a working distillery, as it offered rare glimpses on what goes on behind the bottle.

I was immediately taken by the aesthetic of the tasting room. A large, airy space with plenty of seating, this was a gorgeously minimalist space with clean lines and an inviting feel. An informal couch corner offered visitors a cosy space to enjoy a G&T, whilst a handful of scattered tables caters for intimate and larger groups, with views all around. We immediately felt at home in this green and leafy retreat, and it seemed a great place to while away a few hours on the weekend.

Why gin tasting?

I’m a great fan of tastings. This way you get to sample the full range, with minimal commitment. It allows you to experience something new in a fun, yet educational way, and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends or family, or get to know a new city and it’s offerings.  In most cases, you also get the personal attention of and interactions with the people who produce the spirits, which often gives you a sensory insight into the inspirations and ethos behind the craft.

Hope Distillery was no different. The attention to customer satisfaction and the willingness to make this tasting experience something phenomenal was apparent from our first walk-in.  Lucy, Leigh or both are usually on hand to greet guests, and answer questions, but they’ve also developed a team that is well versed and able to guide guests through tastings.

Setting the scene

Visitors can choose between a three- or four-gin tasting, which highlights the attributes of each of the distillery’s core products. They include their three primary gins, and then a limited release edition, whatever they’re working on at that time – which allows them to offer something unique to visitors to the tasting room.

Of course we had to opt for the four-gin tasting. Soon, a duo of quaint little wooden boards with tiny corked bottles arrived, along with a garnished glass and a couple of bottles of tonic. 

The idea is to experience each of their recommended pairings, and then you are free to mix and match garnishes and gins. I would strongly recommend trying the gin on ice first, and then adding your desired amount of tonic afterwards. I found Hope’s gins to be incredibly smooth and drinkable when neat, so please do yourself the favour and experience it the way it was intented!

It was great to be given some space in which we could play, experiment and experience their gins at our own pace, but I loved that there was always someone on hand to answer questions, make suggestions or just replenish the glasses and garnishes.

The gins

We tried their London Dry gin, the Mediterranean Gin and the African Botanical gin. Our limited release gin was an aged orange gin, which was filled with deliciously decadent caramel notes and reminders of Christmas.

I honestly can’t choose a favourite gin. Although, I must admit – I’m a classic kind of girl, so I was immediately drawn to their juniper-forward London Dry gin. It’s smooth and citrussy, with a classic South African twist with the addition of lemon pelargonium.

The Mediterranean gin was incredibly complex and captivating – I could most certainly sip this savoury beauty all summer long! Infused with twelve botanicals, including olives, cardamom and fresh herbs, it’s surprisingly well-balanced and boasts with a gorgeous flavour profile which will add that certain je ne sais quoi to your sundowners.

The gin that made it to my coveted gin cupboard in The Little House, was the African Botanical gin. Proudly South African through and through, I am always biased to local gins who favour our natural flora. Infused with kapokbos and buchu, this is a gorgeously herby, woody gin, with  a strong juniper nose and a surprisingly sweet and floral after-linger.

While the focus is on the gins, you can also try some of Hope’s other specialist products, including vodka.

In conclusion

A gin experience that I would happily recommend to anyone. Hope Distillery really produces some of Cape Town’s best gin (in my very humble gin-pinion) and they have created a space that showcases the very best of their distillery and passion.

Thank you, team Hope, for allowing us to enjoy a great afternoon in your company and for introducing us to your stunning range of craft gins!

Fine print

Cheese and charcuterie platters are available to enjoy with your tasting should you wish to spend a little longer savouring the flavours. While walk-ins are more than welcome, booking is recommended during the busier season or for larger groups.

The Tasting Room is open for tastings and bottle sales on Saturdays from 12 to 5pm (the distillery is also open for bottle sales from Monday to Friday).

The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity as The Little Hedonist. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.

The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.

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