Shining the Spotlight on L-Gin From The Elgin Valley
L-Gin handcrafted gin started in July 2018 by three good friends who live in Elgin and love gin. They were inspired by the sumptuous fruit growing in the Elgin valley and the abundance of oak trees that line many farm roads. To celebrate the valley, they wanted to create artisanal spirits that “distil” the essence of the Elgin valley into unique gin. They produce small batches of craft gin, using the locally grown fruit and locally grown juniper. The water used in the production process is collected from a natural spring in the beautiful Elgin valley.
L-Gin was started because of a mutual love for gin and the area of Elgin among three friends. Can you tell us how your friendship came about and how did that lead to making a gin together?
We have been friends for the past 11 years, we love gin and were usually surrounded by mainly wine-drinking friends. We felt that our Elgin valley had so much to offer with beautiful fresh produce and this inspired us to research the process of making our own gin, starting with our first flavour using Granny Smith apples and local juniper.
One night after many gins, we came up with our name L-Gin from Elgin. We completed distillation courses in Johannesburg and Stellenbosch and were fortunate to have guidance from master distillers.
How has your friendship benefited the making of these gins?
We have come to know each other incredibly well, this process has highlighted each one’s strengths and weaknesses. We have realised how these characteristics complement our business. Sometimes we get frustrated, but most of the time we enjoy every minute and laugh at ourselves and each other. We feel incredibly privileged to have a partnership based on trust, hard work and most of all, friendship.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the conception of L-Gin?
Our name, L-Gin from Elgin was one of the first steps. This motivated us to get our first gin, an apple distilled gin using Granny Smith apples from our farms. We felt strongly about producing a quality craft gin that made us proud. All the work is done by the 3 of us, from picking the fruit, the preparation and distilling process, as well as the bottling and labelling, all done by hand.
In June 2018 the Elgin railway market opened its doors and it offered us the perfect platform to launch our gin. Our L-Gin craft gin bar has become one of the favourites with the many visitors to the market. We are very conscious of being as environmentally friendly as we can, starting at the production process to serving the beautiful cocktails to our customers.
We love the fact that we can offer local young people the opportunity to work on weekends at our gin bar, enabling them to earn an income, gain experience and build confidence.
As we know, the juniper that is used is locally grown in Elgin, can you tell us more about that as well as the other botanicals used?
During a mountain bike cycle in the Elgin valley, we came across locally grown junipers on one of the farms. Much to our excitement, the owner gave us harvesting rights. This allows us to use fresh juniper as part of our botanicals, which give our gin a distinct profile. We employ a wonderful team of local women during the harvesting time.
Each of the 3 flavours has locally grown juniper as the main ingredient but also has its own botanicals that work together to form the profile for each flavour.
Can you tell us about the distillation process?
We start our preparation with the fresh fruit a week before the actual distillation. We use a 200 litre still and a typical day of distilling will start at 5h00 and end around 18h00 the same day. Our heat source is gas, so we are not affected by load shedding. Record keeping during distillation is crucial and our record-keeping is meticulous. Lots of coffee in between the process of collecting, tasting, smelling and judging the distillate, keep us going till the end of the distillation process.
Can you take us through the L-Gin range and tell us your suggested way to enjoy each one?
Our first gin was L-Gin Lush, a crisp, refreshing juniper-forward gin using our locally grown juniper and tart Granny Smith apples, with lemon peel, coriander, angelica root and fresh ginger. Best served with a slice of granny smith apple & sprig of fresh mint.
Our 2nd gin was L-Gin Crush, created when locally grown juniper meets locally grown blueberries, with juniper taking the flavour lead. Indigenous salvia, coriander, lemon peel, angelica root and African striped pepper adds to the flavour. Best served with fresh blueberries and a sprig of fresh mint.
Our 3rd gin L-Gin Plush is our Elgin twist on an African dry with our locally grown juniper & lemon peel, coriander and angelica root. After distillation Plush is matured with oak to create this smooth balanced flavour. Elgin has many oak trees lining its farm roads, and this inspired us to create Plush. Best served with orange zest and rosemary.
The South African craft gin market has grown exponentially as more craft gins enter the market; how does L-Gin stand out from the bunch?
We felt strongly about our motto “Inspired by Elgin…. made in Elgin” and using the locally grown fruit and juniper, adding to this water from a natural spring in Elgin, gave us the opportunity to create a gin with strong links to our Elgin valley.
Many visitors to our valley are looking for locally produced products, and our quality craft gin gives them what they want.
The antioxidants in juniper, blueberries, and cell repairing agents of apples, make us believe that never before has drinking gin been more anti-aGINg. What more can a girl want!
What have been the biggest achievements for L-Gin so far?
What has humbled us is the incredible pride our local community has shown in our products , and the support we have gained from them. They are our best honest critics and we have been blown away by their encouragement. We entered the SA craft gin awards in 2019 and we received gold for which we are feeling very proud. We are available in a few selected stores in the Western Cape, and planning to expand to other provinces soon.
Have there been any big challenges or obstacles you have had to face?
The red tape and work involved in getting a micro-manufacturing liquor licence was a challenging and very time-consuming process. To get to the point of being happy with our recipes after many months of trials and testing, and the challenge of perfecting our recipes was hard work and many hours of test distilling batches.
As with so many other businesses in the world, the effect of Covid-19 on our business, with alcohol sales not allowed for a long period, and our biggest platform, the Elgin Railway Market that had to close for the time being.
In one sentence, how would you perfectly describe L-Gin?
A versatile, high-quality range of juniper-forward craft gin “Inspired by Elgin…. Made in Elgin” , distilled in small batches.
What’s next for L-Gin? Should we expect more variations in the future?
As you would expect from three girls, our ideas never seem to stop. We are currently in the process of two new products. So, watch this space.
Hungry for more? Subscribe to our Newsletter