Rum Guide to South Africa 2024

Rum Guide to South Africa 2024

 

The Ultimate Rainbow Nation Rum Tour

Reading time: 12 minutes 

South Africa has breathtaking landscapes from mountains to deserts and wide beaches. Twice the size of France, South Africa’s contrasts range from elevated plateaus called the highveld, to the Great Escarpment mountainous divide between the interior and the coastal plains. Perched at the southwestern tip of this is the iconic Table Mountain and its surrounding mild maritime climate.

Famous for the Cape Winelands, the Garden Route, and nature reserves to see the big 5 up close. But there are also the Sugar Belt cane fields, where rum begins.
Sugar production goes as far back as colonial times, but South African rum is not centuries old, Mainstay cane spirit was first launched in 1954. Today there are 14 sugar mills, one main refinery, and over 30 rum brands and distilleries.

The sugar belt stretches from the Eastern Cape through KwaZulu-Natal to Mpumalanga, with year-round growing across 14 cane-producing areas. Despite this abundance, low sugar prices have forced many farmers to seek alternative uses for their harvest. Producing rum emerged as a solution for some, and rural distillers have even made their own stills.

South Africa’s craft rum scene emerged around 2013, with many distilleries, particularly those near major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, opting for fresh sugarcane juice over molasses. The trend reflects a commitment to quality and the unique South African terroir. While a few brands haven’t weathered the conditions, this list shows the exciting options available in 2024.

african safari

Whether you visit a wildlife safari, stay at a game reserve, or just want to enjoy a sundowner in Cape Town, rum the natural spirit of this land. Rum is sometimes overlooked by whisky, gin, or brandy but this guide shines a spotlight on which craft distillers focus on rum, and those who present rum as part of a range of spirits to give you the full picture.

camps bay

Western Cape

Cape Town is known as the ‘mother’ of South Africa, or in the old days the Tavern of the Seas by sailors because of its many pubs. The Cape of Good Hope was a strategic waypoint on Europe-Asia trade routes, and evolved over 300 years into a diverse “Tavern of the Seas” serving sailors worldwide. Nowadays, there are a dozen rum brands based in and around Cape Town. Some have tasting rooms downtown for a rum-tasting experience. Here’s a few options

Hope Distillery

Hope Distillery opened in 2014 as the first licensed small-batch distillery in Cape Town. They make a range of gin, vodka, agave spirit, and rum. The rum is made from fresh cane juice that is pressed on-site, fermented, and distilled on a hybrid copper still and is called Hope Rhum Agricole. Book ahead for the tasting experience overlooking the distillery is open Wednesday to Saturday. The StrangeLove Cocktail Lounge has a cocktail and a food pairing menu, a cool spot to check out while in town.

Sidecar Caffè Distillery

Sidecar Caffè Distillery opened in 2020 and is unique in its a family micro-distillery and tasting room in Cape Town, and they offer vintage motorbikes with sidecar excursions. Classic Sidecar Rum – Batten Down The Hatches! The rum is distilled on hand-made copper stills. Their tasting sessions can be booked in advance.

Deep South Distillery

Established in 2014, Deep South Distillery is the southernmost distillery on the Cape Peninsula. They specialise in handcrafted, small-batch spirits, including a premium white rum. Made with molasses and double-distilled in a traditional pot still, Deep South Premium White Rum, and their ‎Amber Rum is aged for 4-6 months in new American oak. Visit their distillery just outside Cape Town’s beach town of Kommetjie, but call ahead to book a tasting; they’re open Monday to Saturday.

Unit43 Distilling Co. in Epping Cape Town was founded in 2018 and makes Forty-Three Stripes Dark Rum.

cape town waterfront
Cape of Storms Distillery

Cape of Storms Distillery is a family-run small rum distillery and the tasting room is in the Spice Yard in Salt River, Cape Town. They exclusively focus on craft rum production and make rum with African blackstrap molasses. The Meiring family makes award-winning rum that is double-distilled and bottled on-site. The guided tour and tasting are entertaining and informative. You can try their Great White Rum, Botanical Rum, and Oak Infused Rum. They recommend to book a tasting at least a day in advance.

Innocent Spirits Distillery

Innocent Spirits Distillery was created in 2016 to be a part of the South African craft rum scene, and celebrate Cape Town’s diverse culture in their spirits of rum and gin. The rum uses A-grade molasses and is pot distilled and aged in a variety of barrels from ex-Bourbon barrel American oak, and Muscat French oak finished with Spanish Sherry oak.
The Pure Single Rum range includes; Amber Barrel Rum, Navy Strength Rum62, Melodramático Aged Rum, and Cold Brew Coffee Rum. The Bourbon-Barrel Coffee Rum is their latest expression.

stellenbosch

Kinship Spirits Co.

Kinship Spirits Co. brand house in Stellenbosch about 50km east of Cape Town was established in 2018. They make gin, vodka, brandy, and rum. The signature rum is a small-batch South African craft rum called Elephantom African Dark Rum. It’s distilled from pure cane molasses on a copper pot still. They receive visitors by appointment only Monday to Friday. Stellenbosch is famous for its wine; it’s reddish soil terroir and the town was known as the City of Oaks for its trees. The tasting room is a cool oasis to sip a rum cocktail.

Wilderer Distillery was founded by Helmut Wilderer, a German restaurateur in 1995, which makes it South Africa’s first craft distillery. Near Paarl in the Winelands beyond Stellenbosch this craft distillery is a foodie destination stop as it is a pizza place with Italian and German food with outdoor seating. They make gin, grappa, eau de vie, vodka, and rum. Their rum is called Rogue Fynbos Spiced Rum. They have two locations, and run tours Monday to Sunday, with tastings focussed on their gin but you can try the rum.

Inverroche Distillery

Inverroche Distillery in Still Bay or Stilbaai has been making rum since 2007. They use African blackstrap molasses, column distill, and then age in a variety of barrels. The latest release is Blackstrap cask strength aged rum at 100 proof which is exclusively available at the distillery. They mainly focus on a gin range, but release limited edition rums. So, if you visit, and book a tasting session you might get the chance to pick up something special. Inverroche is on The Garden Route, or Cape Floral Region, a protected biodiverse area, and a 4-hour drive from Cape Town. It’s worth a stop if you’re on that road trip.

Graaff-Reinet

Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape is best known for its miles of beaches, cliffs, and arid upland plateau area called the “Great Karoo.”
Home to incredible sights in the Camdeboo National Park semi-desert with Great Escarpment, and now some must-visit modern rum producers. If you haven’t been here in a while, Port Elizabeth has been renamed to Gqeberha.

Ferreira Post Distilleries

Ferreira Post Distilleries founded in 2021 is an hour west of Gqeberha. Named after the local post service set up by the ancestors of the owner, this craft rum distillery is in the centre of the popular surf town, Jeffreys Bay. The distillery makes a range of marks starting with Kouga Reserve, and the Ferreira Range aged in second-fill bourbon casks. The Surfers Rum is White rum, Dark rum, Gold rum, and Flavoured rum. Sharkbite is their overproof rum.

Afrikanis Rum

Afrikanis Rum has been going since 2020 and has a Tasting Room in Graaff-Reinet. Graaff-Reinet (pictured above) the fourth oldest town in South Africa is a craft rum producer and makes an eight botanical-infused rum that has been aged in Bourbon barrels. The tasting room is a must-visit while in this part of the world.

golden gate national park
Free State

High on vast, fertile plains, the Free State forms the agricultural heartlands and is therefore nicknamed the “breadbasket” of South Africa. The eastern border of the province rises towards the Maloti Mountains, and the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a big draw for visitors to see the region’s dramatic sandstone formations.

whistler rum
Whistler Rum

Whistler Rum Distillery started in 2017. They make rum from molasses on a hybrid Pot/Column Still. Their range includes aged rum, and flavoured rum, like Whistler Spiced Rum, and the flagship Whistler African Style Dark Rum, which undergoes Solera ageing for a complex and deep flavour profile. The Whistler Master Solera, their most premium rum, is matured in a unique combination of seven different barrels, including white wine, red wine, bourbon, whiskey, brandy, port, and another secret type. Whistler Rum describes itself as South Africa’s largest rum distillery.

de vry distillery

De Vry Distillery

Situated roughly 50 miles from Johannesburg, De Vry Distillery, established in 2015 by the Du Plooy brothers, brings a farm-to-bottle experience to Oranjeville. Their vision? Crafting a range of 100% farm-grown spirits. Signature expressions include Die Warm Rasta Rum, a Jamaican-style molasses rum, and Xwai Barrel Aged South African Rum, matured and finished in charred barrels for a unique depth of flavour. As a proudly local brand, De Vry Distillery offers unique rum tastings and dining experiences including lunch to private events from Wednesday to Sunday – which need a reservation.

Kwazulu-Natal
Kwazulu-Natal

This province has a subtropical climate and a surfing coastline along the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Inland are the Drakensberg Mountains, and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a protected Nature reserve full of wildlife. Kwazulu-Natal is also South Africa’s sugar capital, producing the majority of the country’s sugarcane. If you’re interested, you can even tour a sugar mill on weekdays at the Sugar Terminal on the western end of Durban Bay.

tapanga
Tapanga Rum

Since 2013, Tapanga Rum has been crafting South Africa’s first Rum Africole on their sugarcane farm in Zululand. This innovative distillery created a custom-made still to transform their harvest into rum. Freshly squeezed cane juice undergoes a 6-day fermentation before ageing in ex-Bourbon casks. Tapanga offers a range of expressions, including Tapanga White, Gold, and a 5-year Premium Rum. They host tastings, and events with their Tapanga Rum Van.

sugar baron distillery

Sugar Baron Craft Distillery

Sugar Baron Craft Distillery in Richmond, KwaZulu Natal was established in 1994 and is a sugarcane farmer. This Single Estate craft rum is produced from fresh sugarcane juice. Fermentation is about one week, distilled on a hybrid pot/column still. It’s rested in glass demijohns, then French & American oak barrels. The range includes Sugar Baron Single Estate Craft White Rum, Sugar Baron Plantation Origin Rum, and Single Estate Barrel-Aged Rum. Bookings are essential for their tasting experiences in the Barrel Room.

In Durban, Distillery 031 currently makes a Cachaça rum.

Gauteng
Gauteng

South Africa’s smallest province, Gauteng, sits on a high-altitude plateau and is home to Johannesburg, the country’s largest city, nicknamed the “City of Gold.” Interestingly, there are some craft rum distilleries in the areas surrounding Pretoria, the administrative capital.

african spirits distillery

 

The African Spirit Distillery

The African Spirit Distillery was created and designed by the Steyn family in Boksburg and opened in 2018. This is a modern distillery set up and one of the best-looking distilleries you’ll visit. The hybrid pot and column stills take centre stage. It’s a pure single rum using molasses and age in ex-Bourbon casks. The range of premium expressions includes African Spirit Classic Rum, the RUM ꓷИA Range of flavoured rums. They have a kitchen, cocktail bar, and a cosy outdoor patio with a garden which lets them host events by reservation.

25 Degrees South Distillery

25 Degrees South Distillery was founded in 2013 in Pretoria. Following on from their Gunpowder Rum, they have created a signature craft rum called Pathfinder Rum uses South African molasses, and is distilled in a traditional pot still. This rum is then matured using a unique Solera-style ageing method in a variety of custom 50L oak casks, including ex-pinotage, ex-bourbon, and ex-port barrels.

Established in 2013, Time Anchor Distillery became Johannesburg’s first craft distillery. While renowned for their Mirari Gin, they’ve also offered a white rum and currently present a Cocoa Rum Liqueur. After a successful 10-year run in Maboneng, they’ve recently relocated to Kramerville in Sandton.

joburg 1

 

Incendo Distillery

Based in the resort town of Hartbeespoort, Incendo Distillery makes gin and brandy, and award-winning rum. Their unique process starts with four local molasses varieties, fermented with two red wine yeast strains. The rum is then aged in South African wine and ex-port barrels, resulting in their signature ID Golden Rum and ID Spiced Up Rum.
Their tasting room and distillery tour lets you enjoy beautiful views of the Magalies Mountains while you sip on a rum cocktail or savour a rum and chocolate pairing.

Night Jackal Distillery

Night Jackal Distillery is a small family-owned producer founded in 2020. They make Anarchy White Rum Anarchy Dark Rum from molasses that is pot & column distilled.

The Big Wig Rum 

The Bigwig Handcrafted Rum is from Johannesburg and launched in 2022. it’s made from molasses and sugar pot & column Still and aged in oak barrels. 

Still 33

Still 33 is a small batch craft distillery in Kyalami, Johannesburg since 2017. Captain Stone is their Johannesburg Single Barrel Rum. Distilled at high proof from slowly fermented molasses, the rum is aged in once-used bourbon barrels.

earthbound
Earthbound Distillery

Established in 2020, Earthbound Distillery is quickly making a name in craft rum. They make both amber and silver rum expressions using a selection of molasses. For their award-winning Amber Rum, the molasses is fermented, distilled, and then aged in French oak barrels, to create a complex and flavourful profile. Their dedication to quality won them a Gold Medal at the South African Rum Awards.

MOOKA Rum

Created by Lebogang Mooka and launched in August 2022, Mooka Rum has quickly gained international recognition. The rum is made at Earthbound Distillery, and Mooka Rum won Silver at the 2023 London Spirits Competition.

Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga is called the “Place of the Rising Sun,” and home to Kruger National Park. The world-renowned wildlife reserve where visitors flock to see Africa’s Big 5. But, Mpumalanga has some big rums out there too.

Mhoba Rum

On the hills of Mpumalanga’s Onderberg district, lies Mhoba Sugar Estate. Mhoba Rum embodies the essence of “farm-to-bottle.” Founder Robert Greaves, inspired by the local Swahili word for sugarcane – “Mhoba” has turned sugarcane to rum since 2012 at his farm distillery. Near the Kruger National Park and the village of Malalane close to the Mozambique border, provide the backdrop for this now world-renowned Single Estate rum.

They use Nkomazi sugarcane, grown near Malalane, to create their unique fresh cane juice rums. The cane juice is fermented for 7 -21 days and pot distilled for a high-ester rum. The range includes MHOBA Bushfire Rum aged in ex Bourbon, and local sicklebush staves. Mhoba American Oak Aged Rhum, the Strand 101° (58% ABV). Mhoba is probably the most recognisable rum from South Africa because of the vision to create local terroir spirit inspired by high-ester Caribbean rum. 

mhoba

If you find yourself in the highlands of Eswanti, Jackalberry Distillery makes MacForte Rum.

Final thoughts

South African rum-making stretches from the tip of Africa on the Western Cape to the wilds of Mpumalanga, and the sugar capital of KwaZulu-Natal.
The rum scene has evolved so much in recent years and constantly changes. South Africa’s craft rum distillers have navigated choppy waters but continue to make good quality spirit, well worth discovering.

The Rum Geography site is the best place to track the South African rum scene. Craft rum distilling is fragile and needs support for local communities and neighbourhood families to thrive. 

South Africa is the ultimate road trip for rum lovers, there’s so much to see and taste. Start planning your epic South African adventure and taste the spirit grounded in this land.

cape town
Pro Tip: When visiting Cape Town, or Johannesburg there are bars with good selections of local rum if you can’t get to some of the distilleries. Whisky Brother stores in Johannesburg are good places to pick up a bottle or try one in their bar. Cape Town has some cool sundowner spots and ask your friendly bartender on Bree Street or South Africa’s most popular spot, the V&A Waterfront.

You’ll find more on each rum brand on our South Africa Rum Map

For more on general South African Tourism

Image credits to producers, Canva Pro, and user contributions.

south africa road coast

 

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