The Van Ryn Cellar

Certain things we do give value to our lives. Most of the things that makes life special takes time, as well as planning for it to realize. You must be able to sit back, relax and live the moment. Usually it also becomes even better if it is a moment shared with someone special. This is what I call Slow Living.

Life is a race. You owe it to yourself to sometimes sit back and reflect. At these times I think of the Simon and Garfuncel song

“Slow down, you move to fast, you have got to make the moment last….”

One of the aids we have toward slow living is a good glass of brandy, enjoyed in good company.

On Saturday I visited the Van Ryn Distillery and Cellar with my sons. We spent a beautiful morning in the Cellar, doing a cellar tour and brandy tasting.

A visit to the Van Ryn Cellar is an unique experience. Brandy was produced in the Cape since 1672. Thus, brandy is produced for three and a half centuries in South Africa. Today it is an unique product with its own flavors and aromas, that can hold its place next to some of the best French cognacs, as this cellar can attest too by the major international awards won over several years.

The founder, Jan van Ryn, came to the Cape in 1845. He started the cellar shortly after arriving and started to experiment with different styles of brandy making. His belief in perfecting the product by aging it in wooden barrels, is still being used today.

The cellar has an old-world charm. The guide was knowledgeable and could answer questions asked. I was impressed with the beautiful old John Doore and Savalle copper pot stills that is still in use.

Neville, the cooper showed us how the barrels are constructed by demonstrating it to us step by step. He uses his own self built instruments. It is a rare thing to still see a very skilled craftsman at work.

The next stop was the brandy aging cellars. Here, brandy is stored and aged in barrels. The barrels allows a small parentage of evaporation of brandy . On entering these aging cellars one is overwhelmed by the heavenly smell of the evaporated brandy. It is called the Angel’s share. The process is part of the maturation. During maturation the harshness that one can pick up in younger brandies softens and matures into a more complex and rounded taste. Brandy is deemed immature if it is matured for less than 2 years. Here brandy will be matured for up to 20 years and more

The crown on the day was the chocolate and brandy tasting. We tasted the 12, 15 and 20 year old brandies. To my surprise I was bowelled over by the rich but mellow taste of the 15 year old Van Ryn brandy. The rich dark color is complemented by aromas of cigar box, fruitiness and citrus. A smooth rounded taste of dark chocolate and spiciness and a lingering orange peel on the after taste complete a satisfying taste experience. The oak is well balanced.

It was a rewarding experience. Treat yourself and a friend or two to a memorable day.

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