Recently I decided to run with lions and took the Leonista pride for an adventure in Graaff-Reinet. Filled with 100% pure South African goodness, these agave spirits evoke feelings of wanderlust that simply has to be answered.
Part of my regular road-trip packing routine includes choosing my drinks for sundowner evenings in beautiful locations. I spend much more time selecting my sunset sips than I do my clothes; I pair landscapes with spirits as well as I do food with wine. Certain terrains beg for a certain taste, and the rugged vastness of the Karoo is perfectly paired with the beautifully untamed flavours of the Leonista 100% Karoo Agave range.
As I packed my vellies and field guides, binoculars and cameras, I carefully tucked four bottles of Leonista in my bag, kindly gifted to me by my favourite pride of people. I’m completely hooked on that feeling of pending adventure; the spirit of exploration willing my feet forward.
I was completely and utterly ready for the quiet vistas of the Karoo after the chaos of lock-down; I longed for the dry air and cold mornings. I also couldn’t wait to sit next to a roaring fire at sunset, swirling liquid gold in my glass as I breathed in the scent of camelthorn and sweet honeyed fynbos.
Leonista means “place of the lion” and is the first 100% Karoo agave spirit in South Africa made the traditional way.
The production process follows an age-old recipe used in Mexico to make agave spirits like Mezcal. It requires smoke and fire, hence Leonista’s delicious smokey flavour, similar to that of a Mezcal.
100% agave spirits are the most energy-fueling of all the alcohols if treated with respect (https://www.leonista.co.za/).
The path to craft spirits
I’ve been following the slow turn to craft spirits in South Africa for many years. It started with the gin-revolution a few years ago, resulting in a plethora of craft gin distilleries to bloom on the South African market in all its bright and cheery beauty.
Simmering on the backburner, is the path to craft rum. Not quite as popular yet as gin, craft rum distillers are patiently waiting for the South African palate to allow the deeper, smokier nuances of a good craft rum to permeate their taste-buds. I’m excited about this one. On the side, some dabbles in craft vodkas, but the road to appreciating pure spirits still stretches long and is filled with cocktail mixes.
But now, this. An ode to pure, quality-driven tequila and mescal inspired agave spirits. Forget the lemon and salt, forget throwing back shots of white fire in a dark bar. All grown up and deliciously sophisticated, more and more spirit lovers are becoming curiously thirsty for something different, something unique; something they can write home about.
Enter Leonista 100% Karoo Agave Spirits.
The Leonista pride
One has to take a moment to admire the Leonista branding. The detailed graphic of a lion-esque face on the stout, round-bellied bottles calls for a second and third look. Add touches of gold, silver, blue and black, and they are easily the most photogenic bottles I’ve laid hands on. A statement piece, with as much love and care put into the outside as into the precious contents.
A beautifully diverse range of four exceptional spirits, the Leonista pride caters for all tastes. From their decadently honeyed Reposado, to the crisp, almost-botanical notes of the award-winning Blanco, the range showcases the incredible versatility of the unassuming Karoo Agave.
Perfect for sipping on the rocks, by itself, or as a base for a uniquely local cocktail, Leonista is all about being adventurous. It invites you to explore the various expressions until you find something that makes you purr with pleasure.
Meaning “white” in Spanish, this one is smooth and smokey. It is an un-aged variant in the pride characterized by the smooth but distinctly smokey flavour and is the closest adaptation to an authentic Mezcal.
Meaning “aged” or “rested” is mellow and aged and is our senior member of the pride. It is rested for 3 – 6 months in oak barrels resulting in a smooth, sweeter flavour with hints of smoky finish.
Leonista Honey Reposado
Wild and buzzy – the sweetest lioness of the pride. Infused with wild Cape honey, the honey reposado is subtly sweet with hints of a smokey finish.
Leonista Reposado Black
Mellow and aged. Rested for 6 – 8 months in old brandy, American oak barrels that give it a smooth mouth feel with notes of caramel and chocolate.
As with any quality spirit, I prefer to savour it neat. Although the long, hot Karoo afternoons left me parched and dreaming of something cold and refreshing.
The Lemonista is a gorgeously revitalising drink. Pairing Leonista’s Reposado with Cape Cola‘s Lemi-Lemi Ginger Lemonade results in a delicately spiced but deeply flavourful drink.
Another deliciously complex pairing, is the Leonista Honey Reposado with Fitch & Leedes‘ grapefruit tonic, called the Grapefruit Paloma. Slightly bitter, followed with a smooth finish, it’s the colour of a Karoo sunset. This one also lies very close to my heart, as this is the exact drink that made me fall in love with Leonista in the first place.
Visit the agave farm
If your wandering feet ever lead you to Graaff-Reinet for a reprieve, make sure you visit the home of Leonista’s roots – the incredible working agave farm run by Tim Murray. Tim will walk you into the agave fields to learn more about these ancient plants, followed by a tasting of different agave spirits in the cool embrace of the Roode Bloem guest house.
It’s a sterling opportunity for spirit-lovers to interact with an expert, and to be guided on a journey through the ages as you learn about agave spirit production across the world and in South Africa.
Leonista is best served with side of wild adventure. Feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, the earth under your feet, the sound of a far-away eagle in your ears. Breathe in and taste everything about this diverse country we live in, and rejoice in its produce. Share Leonista with your pack, because a joy shared is a joy doubled. Live a little. Explore more. Run with the lions.
Thank you, Leonista, for creating a brand that resounds with our South African spirit, and with our untamed hearts. Thank you for celebrating everything local, and for filling our adventures with a warmth that is undoubtedly Leonista love.
Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for 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.
Don’t drink and drive. Not for persons under 18.