Old Packhouse Distillery: Gin With a Taste of South Africa | iinfo TZANEEN

The Old Packhouse Distillery, hidden behind tall trees on a forest road in what used to be a fruit-packing warehouse, smells positively delicious. Gin is made here, but it’s not just any old gin. The Old Packhouse, which only opened two years ago in May 2017, makes award-winning artisanal gin infused with all the best flavours of South Africa.  
The distillery itself is a particularly pleasing space — large and airy with plenty of seating and a long wooden bar. A collection of colourful impala’s head sculptures, made by the owner’s sister, decorate the wall above the bar, making it irresistibly instagrammable. 
The room next door to the bar is where the real magic happens. I meet gin fundi Emmanuel Mohlalohanyi in the middle of making a batch of Mandarin Gin (his personal favourite), which will eventually be infused with bright orange mandarins for five days until the gin takes on the exact same colour as the fruit itself.  
Emmanuel walks me through each step of the gin-making process, from measuring in the right amount of water, alcohol, and secret spices, to heating the mixture to just the right temperature, to the process of infusing, distilling, bottling, and labelling the gin over the course of a few days. Emmanuel opens the freezer and shows me the bags of frozen mandarins, Valencia oranges, and blueberries that flavour the gin. My mouth waters at the thought. 
Blueberry was the Old Packhouse’s first gin and is still its flagship — the company was once called Blueberry Gin — but the distillery, led by founder Mark Dando, continues to innovate with new and exciting varieties. The Old Packhouse’s Rare Moringa Gin, made with moringa (a medicinal plant native to Asia but also produced throughout Africa) grown in nearby Ofcolaco, was conceived by South African comedian Mashabela Galane and recently won “double gold” at the 2018 Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards. The Old Packhouse also produces its more traditional Crystal Gin, another Gold winner at the Michelangelo Awards, a Pink Moringa Gin, and the double-gold-winning African Wild Dog Rare Gin.
Old Packhouse staff member Ngwako Ramolefo lines up all the gins on the bar in a neat row, and I snap a picture. It does indeed make a perfect Instagram.
In a special tasting room on the other side of the building is a selection of craft rums that the Old Packhouse has also begun producing, as well as some whiskeys and other spirits.
The Old Packhouse Distillery is open during the week for walk-in tastings and also on weekends for group tastings and events with advanced reservation. You can find Old Packhouse Gin at hotels and restaurants all over Limpopo and beyond.
The Old Packhouse Distillery is near the town of Politsi outside of Tzaneen. Call Mark at 071-876-8969 for directions as the surrounding roads are unnamed. Visit theoldpackhouse.co.za for more information or follow the Old Packhouse on Facebook.

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