Meet the woman behind SA's craft gin revolution
In 2012, when Lorna Scott launched Inverroche Gin together with her son Rohan and daughter Lauren in Still Bay (or Stilbaai), in the Western Cape, she had never worked at a distillery before, let alone gained any experience in the liquor industry. But this only served to ignite Lorna's curiosity to learn more about the craft.
'My background includes marketing and sustainable development, the latter in my capacity as Deputy Mayor of the Hessequa Municipality,' she explains. 'I believe that if you have a passion for something, which in my case is telling a story by making gin, then you can achieve anything if you put your mind and hard work into it. And you can have a career change in your mid-50s!'
Lorna was the first to infuse gin with fynbos, creating a new category in the local and international liquor industry. Her passion for sustainability has led to a successful eco-friendly business where 70% of the staff are women employed from the local community, and the entire gin-making process, from distillation to bottling, is symbiotic with the environment.
'From the start it was never just about the gin,' says Lorna. 'I wanted to create a product that would tell a story, and fynbos was the inspiration. Close to our distillery, there are world-renowned archaeological sites with traces of how humans survived on what the ocean and plant life provided hundreds of thousands of years back. Our gins represent the story of sustainability, heritage and humankind that is unique to the southern coastal region and Africa as a continent. For us it’s bringing back the awareness of the responsibility to nurture and respect this wonderful heritage and the environment.'
Using a small 1.7 liter copper pot still christened Mini Meg, Lorna began experimenting in 2007, and distilled her way through various fynbos species to develop her recipes. 'When I discovered the pot still on a trip to Italy, I was immediately drawn to it – distilling is definitely in my blood, even though I'd never planned to make it a career. My mother used to make pineapple beer in her pressure cooker, and the little copper still brought back many fond memories of her,' she says.
Having spent a great deal of time learning to understand fynbos over the years, Lorna narrowed her selection down to about 35 species. 'We soon realised that one gin was not going to be enough to showcase the enormous diversity and richness of this unique biome, which is found nowhere else in the world. And so the three gins were born, each with their own distinctive taste and colour profile,' she explains. Each is infused with a different combination of fynbos: Inverroche Classic uses fynbos harvested from the limestone-rich hills and cliffs, while Inverroche Verdant is made with fynbos selected from the mountainous, rocky terrain. The third gin, Inverroche Amber, is infused with fynbos scattered along the dunes.
Today the gins are distilled in a custom-made, 1 000-litre wood-fired copper pot still named Magnanimous Meg, in fond remembrance of the small copper still that inspired the birth of Inverroche. The spirits are double or triple distilled in small batches and each distillation coaxes the beautiful aromatic oils, aromas and flavours from the flowers, berries, roots and citrus suspended in custom-made baskets beneath the helm of the still. A true labour of love, the gins are all bottled, labelled and numbered by hand.
Inverroche’s commitment to the environment extends to the entire gin-making process: the distillery pumps water from the ground the old-fashioned way; used botanical material is composted; the pot still is fired up using alien vegetation; fynbos is harvested in such a way as to encourage regrowth; and waste-material is used to create bricks.
'Small-batch craft gins represent a return to personal attention, to quality and taste,' says Lorna, who sees her range of gins as a unique opportunity to bring a new dynamic to the liquor industry. 'Craft distilling is about choice and individuality, handmade authenticity, independence and innovation.'
Visit inverroche.co.za for more details.