It may not be easy to capture the spirit of South Africa in words, but it is a region renowned for its vast, striking landscapes; untouched, diverse nature; and the richness of its culture and history. Most amazing of all is that no matter how knowledgeable you may be about this beautiful destination, there is always something new and uncharted to discover.
A few years ago, the Sugarbird® team created a product that offered a new interpretation of South African spirit, a new taste, and a new lifestyle experience. The brand’s premium craft spirits embody the desire for innovation, creativity, exploration, and harmony.
It has been said that South Africa is a country worth visiting at least once in a lifetime, but Sugarbird® gives you the opportunity to enjoy a taste of the region without even leaving the United Kingdom – an experience that you will definitely want to repeat time and time again. It is this that makes Sugarbird® the deserving winner of the prestigious accolade, ‘Best Craft Spirit Producer – Cape Town’ in the MEA Markets African Excellence Awards 2022.
The history of Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Spirits is inextricably linked to the Cape Floral Kingdom, by far the smallest but easily the richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms in terms of plant, flower (and therefore flavour) diversity. The creators of the Sugarbird line of craft spirits draw their inspiration for the unique flavour profiles for its spirit range from this very place.
The name Sugarbird® is also closely related to the Cape Floral Kingdom. In this diverse ecosystem called “fynbos” lives the Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer). The Cape Sugarbird, a copper-brown songbird with a long tail, is only found in this part of the world. She is a tireless work bird, flitting from one protea flower to another in search of the perfect nectar from the Protea flower (the country’s national flower, also called “Sugarbush”).
In 2017, the Cape Floral Kingdom’s inexhaustible bouquet of flavours inspired a small group of Cape Town-based enthusiasts and innovators to reinvent gin in new ways. Taking their cue from the traditional combination of ingredients from Juniper, Coriander, Grains of Paradise, and Angelica Root, they based the formula for their perfect drink on the ‘fynbos’ found on their very doorstep. The main ingredient in the new gins was Agathosma betulina, a type of ‘fynbos’ long known to locals for its unique aroma and flavour. Diverse Agathosma betulina varieties combined with honey bush, rooibos, pelargonium, and other ‘fynbos’ plants became the main ingredients of the gins. Their subtle combinations provided a unique blend of floral and citrus notes that became the hallmark of Sugarbird®.
The Sugarbird® success story is widely accredited to contributions of scientist and company co-founder Matt Bresler. His great interest in fynbos and numerous experiments with different species of local flora have led to the discovery of a number of ways to apply their unique properties to the creation of gin.
For example, the taste and colour of Sugarbird®’s Juniper Unfiltered gin are the result of the female juniper cone. However, the true secret of its sophistication lies in the combination of different shades of ‘fynbos’. Matt used the local cone shrub Leucadendron, Erika, Cape May, and Cape Chamomile. Juniper Unfiltered turned out so impressive that it became a favorite for many premium gin connoisseurs, and to this day, it is the brand’s highest repeat purchase item.
A few months after the triumphant launch of Sugarbird® Juniper Unfiltered, South Africa’s largest retailer suggested that Sugarbird® develop a pink gin. The result was the introduction of Pino & Pelargonium gin, which became a kind of dedication to the country’s botanical exports. Its floral and citrus notes of aroma and flavour were derived from three species of pelargonium, (known the world over as geranium) and its wonderful colour, the result of using the skins of the Pinotage grape variety cultivated in South Africa in 1925.
Sugarbird®‘s spirit of innovation and bold experimentation has always been evident in the company’s extraordinary decisions and strategies. The brand has developed a wide range of gift products distributed to major liquor retailers in South Africa. In an effort to provide customers with choice, Sugarbird® partnered with other gin manufacturers to introduce a series of multi-brand packs of gin mini bottles, “Sugarbird® and Friends.” Seeing competitors from the same industry enter into such cooperation was a world first, and the resultant success among customers showed the high efficiency of such a concept. The launch of “Sugarbird® and Friends” Brandy Box followed and was the vehicle through which Sugarbird® launched Sugarbird XO brandy, and Sugarbird®‘s entry into the brandy category, in which South Africa is a world leader. The “Sugarbird® and Friends” range has just launched a Multi Spirit 24, a gift collection of 24 mini-bottles of spirits that include fynbos gin, potstill brandy, rum, sipping vodka, local agave, and a unique African whisky.
True to its innovative roots, Sugarbird® continues to delight connoisseurs with new gin varietals from the Cape Floral Kingdom and fynbos’s seemingly endless flavour palette. Recently the brand added a 4th varietal to the signature gin range, Sugarbird® Honeybush and Moringa. A floral-driven gin, infused with sweet wild cape honeybush and delicately balanced by the tart herbaceous characteristics of African moringa from Namibia.
Having started as a producer of premium yet affordable, authentic South African gin, Sugarbird® demonstrates an uncanny ability to evolve in its offerings, and 2021 saw the brand proudly launch Sugarbird® XO Brandy and Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Rum.
The former is created using a pure potstill liquid matured in oak barrels for 14 years and then trickle-filtered through honeybush and other fynbos botanicals. Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Rum is a 4-year-aged Jamaican style dark rum, trickle filtered through fynbos botanicals, including protea flowers for their nectar (sought out by the Sugarbird), – a unique craft rum that proudly captures the true spirit of South Africa.
“We like to believe that our unique products capture for others some of the true spirit of South Africa in all its richness – and specifically showcase the stunning flavour and taste diversity of fynbos and the Cape Floral Kingdom,” says Sugarbird co-founder, Matt Bresler.
The passionate Sugarbird® team began its journey just five years ago, but its achievements and credentials have already given reason to speak of the revolution it has brought to the South African spirits market. However, the brand, with its ambition, has no intention of stopping. Its recent victory in the MEA Markets African Excellence Awards shows that Sugarbird® will expand its geography.
Customers in the United Kingdom can enjoy the South African soul that infuses every drop of the Sugarbird® spirits. From the Sugarbird signature gin range – 50cl bottles of Original Cape Fynbos, Pino & Pelargonium, and Juniper Unfiltered are available for purchase as single bottles as well as selection 6 packs at Sunrange, and can also be purchased on Amazon, and OnBuy.com.
This Festive season – look out for ideal gifting solutions for the gin connoisseur from Sugarbird®! Available to purchase online at Sunrange a Sugarbird® Gift pack of 5 x 5cl Sugarbird minis as well as Sugarbird® Festive gin crackers – a must for every celebratory table! The pack contains the magic of all six variants, the most recent of which is the festive edition, Cape Holly and Wild Plum, with botanicals (berries in this case) from indigenous trees – Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild Plum) and Ilex mitis (Cape Holly).
So, yes, it would take too many words to describe the spirit, the soul, the heart of South Africa. But… perhaps sometimes we should let the senses do the talking. Take a bottle of Sugarbird® gin, pour a measure in a glass. Add a splash of tonic and some fresh garnish to your preference. Appreciate the colour of the liquid. Breathe in its aroma. Take a sip. And embark on a sensory journey through the vastness of Cape Floral Kingdom. It is in your hands. It is in you.
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