Brandy Foundation honours new guild members and call up legendary spirits from the past.

Friday, 26 October, 2012
South African Brandy Foundation
A night of legends with glittering candle lights, modern brandy cocktails, potstill beauties and brandy glitterari dressed to the nines: Franschhoek was ablaze with the spirit of South African brandy when the brandy industry gathered for its annual flagship event in honour of the SA Brandy Guild. Five new members were inaugurated at the gala dinner hosted at the Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa last week.
Themed “Celebrating 340 years of brandy legends” the occasion paid tribute to brandy legends of the past, while also recognising those individuals whose commitment to brandy promote the industry. Dave Acker, Brandy master and distiller extraordinaire; Len Maseko, journalist; Garry Hendry of Makro; Thulani Wiseman Luthuli, trailblazer of the liquor industry in KZN and Proverb, musician and television personality, were inducted as new members of the SA Brandy Guild which was first formed 25 years ago.  

They join a prestigious group of 60 other brandy stalwarts who have been recognised in the past for their stellar contribution to the promotion of South African brandy, including Franklin Sonn, international wine and spirits expert Dave Hughes, Chef Margot Janse, hospitality guru Bill Gallagher, politicians Kgalema Motlanthe and Trevor Manuel, brandy collector Dave Lardner, literary figure Prof Andre P Brink; brandy/wine tourism personality Pietman Retief, Soweto entrepreneur Fanny Mokoena, Cape wine personality Duimpie Bayly, restaurateur and connoisseur Peter Veldsman; Chef Francois Ferreira, businessman Khehla Mthembu and the Klein Karoo distilling legend Danie Grundling.  

“In the international arena of distillation, the story of South African brandy is undoubtedly one of the most gripping and impressive,” says Christelle Reade-Jahn, director of the SA Brandy Foundation. “We can trace its start to the day; we know who first distilled it and can trace the path of the many special people and passionate characters who each provided a link in the 340 year chain that has become our award winning brandy of today.”

She added that the new guild members, each in their own way, contribute to the future of our nation’s most iconic drink by helping the Foundation to grow the awareness of South African brandy as the finest in the world, as well as encourage its responsible enjoyment. 
According to the brandy manifesto the guild members are also dedicated to fostering a sense of pride among all who are involved in the production, distribution and marketing of South African Brandy. They undertake to uphold, and continually endeavour to improve the high quality standards of South African brandy, as an essential part of a proud tradition. 

The glittering event took its inspiration from brandy’s rich heritage, exploring a golden chain throughout its rich past, its many facets and aromas. This was further flavoured by the anecdotes of Master of Ceremony Tumisho Masha, the familiar face of Isidingo and The Wild. Through Masha’s gift for story-telling, guests were introduced to colourful figures that shaped the brandy industry. These included  tycoon Sammy Marks; French-born distiller René Santhagens; Charles Kohler who as first KWV Chairman brought stability to the brandy trade in the early 20th century; William Charles ‘Doc’ Winshaw remembered as a real-life Huckleberry Finn character and founder of SFW (makers of Mellow-Wood, SA’s 2nd oldest brandy). Anton Rupert’s role in founding Distillers Corporation, later to merge with SFW, was highlighted, together with those of Cecil Ntombi, the entrepreneurial genius whose forays into brandy distribution in the townships during the 1970s and ‘80s laid the foundation for many entrepreneurs such as Lucky Nkosi (known as Mr Brandy) to follow. Another enlightened brandy legend Kosie Marais – academic, farmer, amateur architect, visionary politician and crack shot will always be remembered for Klipdrift which first emerged from his potstill. 

Brandy as partner to food was explored with dishes ranging from a salad of cured melon, feta pollen, roasted grapes and almonds – matched with LadiSmith 8 Year – to slow cooked beef fillet with tomato spelt served with Van Ryn’s 12 Year Distillers Reserve and Klipdrift Gold. Coco crusted brandy spheres, smoked chocolate & brandy lollipops and explosive orange &  pollen marshmallows showed how much fun can be had with dessert and brandy. 

Overview of new guild members

Durban-born Dave Acker started out as a young chemistry student, mastering the mysteries of sugar - in all its distilled glory fifty years ago. Since then he has traveled the world garnering an ever-more impressive knowledge of the distiller’s art - from Durban to the then-Rhodesia, the UK and Stellenbosch. 

Dave’s impressive career as master distiller include distilling both malt and grain whiskies in Scotland and Ireland; gin with Booths in London;  then onto Lucas Bols in Amsterdam, schnapps in Switzerland and Germany, as well as Bourbon in Kentucky and even out west in California before returning home.  Dave then joined SFW where he was at the forefront of many innovations and new product developments.  

He is now master distiller at Oude Molen in Elgin– where he stewards their new product development.  His Oude Molen VOV 14 Year Old Brandy twice brought home the IWSC award for Wordwide Best Brandy (1999; 2001).  

Dave is married to Jana, has two sons and enjoys tinkering with old Mercedes with the same enthusiasm as distilling. After all these years he still finds himself inspired to see the often idiosyncratic development of each batch of brandy, “from what you do to it in year one to how it ends up looking in year four, five: its a marvelous process – sometimes it can even make one feel a little like patting oneself on the back!” 

A larger than life figure, Len Maseko first cut his journalistic teeth at the Post, before rising through the  ranks of South African journalism. Other positions included Deputy News Editor and News Editor of the Sowetan, as well as Acting Editor for a period. He currently holds the position as Associate Editor of the Sunday World. This influential figure who founded the Soweto Wine Club, co-founded the Black Editors Forum and the SA National Editors Forum, also acted as Trustee on many charitable foundations down the years. 

Len’s love for South African brandy started in 1990 with an invitation to visit the top brandy houses in the Winelands for a week, followed up by several wine courses. He’s been hooked ever since, covering the launch of every significant brandy.  He has hosted exclusive Brandy Evenings in Gauteng and as staunch supporter of the Fine Brandy Festival (now known as Fine Brandy Fusion) has introduced many of his peers as well as Black Diamond VIP guests to the magic of the golden elixir. 
Says Len: “I am very proud of how my appreciation of wine and brandy has opened up the world for me. It has introduced me to very special people and equally interesting places. I have made more than 200 trips to Cape Town since my first visit to the winelands in 1990. One of my most enjoyable moments now is enjoying an early-evening or after-dinner brandy in good company – or in solitude.” 

Garry Hendry has devoted his career to Makro for over 23 years, spending the past seven as their Liquor Director. He was awarded Massmart Retailer of the Year – the company’s most prestigious award - in 2009. “I was first introduced to brandy by my father in law,” he says. 

Passionate about home-grown products, Garry has constantly strived to get our local brandies to offer real competition to the many foreign whiskies on our shelves. He has achieved this, through some inspired strategies:  offering brandy as a gifting option, pushing the need for eye-catching Gift Packs; driving brandy advertising on a larger scale – with a special focus on the super-premium and fine brandies not typically advertised;  continually highlighting to Makro customers that brandies are a real quality alternative to premium whiskies.  Through Garry Makro invested in super premium SA brandies – specifically taking over 85% of Van Ryn’s 20 year old stocks and using these as the advertising vehicle for this super-premium message. And after just two recent ad campaigns, Makro has sold more than in the previous 3 years combined, which stands as a beacon for Garry’s tireless work. 

Although Garry has now been promoted to Food Director at Makro, his passion for brandy will remain: “Brandy is part of our heritage; contributes substantially to the economy of our country and has created opportunities for employment. We make the best brandies in the world, we compete with other brandies or cognac on the world market …. If you haven’t tried it you are missing out.” 

Thulani Luthuli’s Brandy Guild membership recognises his mammoth contribution to the KZN liquor industry. The Luthuli Beverages of today is a far cry from its small beginnings in January 2000 when he started a simple shebeen in a six metre container in Umlazi, KZN. Holding on to his vision of greater things, he quickly grew the business from a regular Tavern to re-distributing to others. 
Today Luthuli Beverages employs 21 people and runs its own fleet of bakkies and trucks distributing liquor, much of it brandy.  

This success story is also testimony to the power of partnership – Distell introduced Thulani to the G12 group of taverners in Umlazi during the days when Mellow-wood Brandy was the top brand in KZN. He needed no further encouragement - growing both his fledgling business and his relationship with the brandy industry from strength to strength.  Luthuli has become a powerful player in the greater Durban urban market, with a particular focus on re-distribution and growing brandies such as Klipdrift, Viceroy, Oude Meester and Flight of the Fish Eagle in the area.  

“I enjoy brandy myself,” says Thulani. “I always tell people brandy is associated with relaxation, enjoying it alongside soft music, contemplating new ideas and being grateful for past achievements.” 

ProVerb is truly representative of the future of brandy in South Africa. Hosting and co-producing Idols, presenting  DSTV’s All Access and being the last man standing on Survivor SA, ProVerb has become a household name, boasting over 40 000 Twitter followers.  A multi-talented musician, his fourth album has just been released. While not directly involved with the brandy industryProVerb has been a great advocate and avid supporter of the spirit for a number of years.  His praise-singing for brandy entered the public arena as host of the 2011 FHM Cocktail of the Year Awards evening and most recently hosting the Fine Brandy Fusion event held in Sandton this year. 

For more information contact the South African Brandy Foundation:
Tel +27 21 887-3157 / or visit  

Twitter:            @BrandyFusion


Len Maseko, ProVerb, Christelle Reade-Jahn, Director SA Brandy Foundation, Garry Hendry, Thulani Lut
Len Maseko, ProVerb, Christelle Reade-Jahn, Director SA Brandy Foundation, Garry Hendry, Thulani Lut

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