The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington is the only whisky distillery in South Africa is now open to the public on select days for tours. As a whisky member at The Bascule Bar I’ve spoken with another friend and some of the managers there about going on a tour at the distillery, but up until recently the distillery wasn’t open to the public.
Myself and a few other friends were excited when we heard about the new James Sedgwick Distillery tour, after agreeing on a day we booked our tickets and headed up to Wellington to experience the tour. This would be the first distillery tour for all of us. Each tour is limited to 10 people and booking is essential.
Driving up to the distillery gates on Saturday afternoon, it reminded me of Willy Wonker’s mysterious chocolate factory that gets opened to a select few who can walk around and explore…within reason of course, and with a guide.
We were greeted at the tasting room with cocktails made from 3 Ships Select, ginger ale, a cherry and lots of ice. We were told to make ourselves at home in the tasting room while we waited for the other guests to arrive. The complete range was on display, and there was even an area where you could blend your own whisky by iPad, according to your tastes. You can then take home a small bottle of your personal whisky. The tasting room was an old maturation warehouse which they had converted and it included lots of information on the walls about the history of the distillery and the production of whisky.
After a brief introduction and chat about how whisky is made, we headed off to the distillation warehouse where we got to see the two large copper stills which was great, we also got to the see column stills where Bains is distilled. It fascinating to see the original copper column is still there, and is used from time to time so as to keep it in running condition. Unfortunately no photographs could be taken here, or in the maturation warehouses.
Once we were done in the distillation warehouse, we headed to one of the maturation warehouses. Before entering warehouse Simon told to us to take note of the smell. On entering the warehouse and seeing thousands of barrels of whisky 6 or 7 levels high, slowly maturing you can understand why the smell of was amazing. I had never smelt anything quite like it, such a strong smell! After chatting in the warehouse about maturation and having a look around, it time was time to head back to the tasting room, to begin our tasting.
We were going to taste three whiskies, Bains Cape Mountain Whisky (a single grain whisky), 3 Ships Bourbon Cask and 3 Ships 5 year old. Unfortunately the new 15 year old Pinotage finish wasn’t available for the tasting and no matter how kindly we asked, the answer was still no! My friend Morgan had bought a bottle so we were hoping he would let us have a sip later that evening!
I was pleasantly surprised by the 3 Ships Bourbon Cask whisky…up there with there with 3 Ships 5 year old, but I still preferred the smokiness of the 5 year old. We interesting foods to pair the whiskies with, and Simon said there was no right or wrong option, and it was up to us to experiment with different combinations of smoked apple chips, normal apple chips, blue cheese and fennel, pulled pork, a pumpkin pie, some dark chocolate mouse, and fish. For me combining the blue cheese, with the pulled pork, paired with 3 Ships 5 year old was a winning combination.
While sipping whisky and pairing it with food, we chatted some more to Simon about day-to-day operations at the distillery, the 3 Ships brand and what else might be in the pipeline for the future. Once we were finished we spent some time walking down by the dam and getting a few photos. The distillery really is situated in a beautiful spot and we all agreed we’d have to come again!
For anyone interested in whisky, the James Sedgwick Distillery tour is a must.