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Rowan Leibbrandt reveals the top tipples for 2021…

Rowan Leibbrandt, founding owner of Truman & Orange, premium drinks company

This is always the time of year when I am asked to write about drinks trends, which is really helpful, as it is also that time of the year when I often have a drink in my hand. Something changes in December, people seem to start thinking about booze, and we start getting calls to write about what’s hot and what’s not in the world of drinks.

It’s either because South Africans are such urbane, sophisticated folk that keeping up with what people are drinking internationally, interests the connoisseur in all of us.  Or, our committed journalists start attending even longer lunches than they do at other times of the year, and desperately flail around for some industry nerd to write something entertaining that they can show their editors, while they’re sipping year-end Appletinis and smoking Gauloise Blondes.  In any event here we are.

You may quite reasonably ask: who am I that I might get a call like this, and what the hell do I know about this incredibly important topic?  When I tell people I work for a business that sells drinks, most expect a sort of Hunter S. Thompson type with a PowerPoint, which is not very accurate, as I’m awful with PowerPoint.  I work for a company called Truman & Orange, and we sell a range of drinks that I used to describe as ‘’for the discerning individual”, until I actually met some of the people who drank our products.  But to cut a long story short, we tour the world looking for interesting drinks which we think South Africans will enjoy. (Yes, this is a real job.  No, we’re not hiring.  I’m really sorry it’s still no, I don’t even know what we would do with your second kidney).

In keeping with the theme of this much anticipated “People of the Year” edition of The Daily Maverick, I thought we’d make some nominations for this year’s winning drinks.  Bannerman’s Scotch Whisky is named after the title given to the king’s standard bearer (Banner-Man…get it?) who led the charge into battle.  Given how frequently the Scots clans used to beat each other up, he would have been an incredibly fit individual, not to mention crazy brave.  This was a hereditary title passed down from father to son, which I suspect happened every two weeks.  Running at the head of the army, carrying your side’s flag into a medieval milieu, deserves a special mention in the annals of People of the Year, and we thought we’d offer up a Bannermans to those drinks that have accomplished something this last year.  So here goes:

“Tipple of the Year” has to go to Gin.  This steam train of a category has leapt from your grandmother’s handbag, where boiled sweets welded themselves to half-filled nips of Gordon’s, onto the shelves of smart Capetonian bars and served to you by men with impressive man buns.  Not even Covid slowed Gin’s explosion down. Surprisingly, we discovered that people locked away for weeks on end, with their delightful kids and wonderful partners, seem to develop a strong drive to drink G&T by the bucket load.  If Gin was able to be nominated for an award, it would probably win first, second and third place.

“Promising Newcomer” would need to go to Prosecco.  Sweet and Italian was always going to get a mention, and this relatively newly-arrived product seems to be creating some buzz amongst people who create buzzes.  I have read the fine print several times and it doesn’t seem to prohibit editorial contributors from plugging Prosecco brands that their company might import, so I appear quite within my rights to tell you with the utmost confidence that Mionetto Prosecco is the best damn Prosecco around, and I highly recommend filling a bath with the stuff and lowering yourself in.

And then ladies and gentlemen, then there is Rum.  Rum continues to win the “Next Big Thing award” which it has now impressively held for the last ten years.  Far-sighted drinks commentators have been confidently proclaiming Rum to be the next big thing since David Hasselhoff actually was the big thing.  This wonderfully versatile, flavoursome spirit is one of my favourites, and I can confidently tell you 2022 promises to be Rum’s most exciting year yet.

A special mention would need to be given to Non-Alcoholic Spirits, which have burst responsibly, (probably wearing a high vis jacket and checking for open plug points while holding the handrail) onto the scene.  This drink, which is confusing to many (possibly because they’ve had too much of the other type of drink) is proving increasingly popular amongst young good looking drinkers like myself, and Non-Alcoholic Spirits are taking the world by storm.  After much debate amongst our office editorial team, we have decided they appear already to be a “thing”, and possibly have the potential to be an even bigger “thing”.

And finally, Vermouth.  This promising wine-spirit is creating some noise internationally, although getting very little attention in sunny-SA.  If Vermouth was a movie, it would be a foreign language film with a lot of nudity, and win the “Best Film No One Saw and Which Lost a Lot of Money” award at some indie film festival.  It currently holds a similar position in the SA drinks landscape, although lacks the appeal of nude French actors – so while the rest of the world raves about Vermouth, most South Africans couldn’t tell an Ambrato from a Bianco (one begins with an A and the other with a B, in case you’re wondering).  I’ve heard Vermouth described as a wine best laid down and left alone, and for my part, I think that sounds sensible.

And that’s it, folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed the Truman & Orange team’s suggestions for “Drinks of the Year” in this special last edition of The Daily Maverick.  And if you’re able to stomach a little of my shameless self-promotion, please join me in raising a glass of Bannermans for the glasses of all the other brave and bold stuff that has made its mark this year.  Cheers to a safe and happy festive season! DM

This article was written by Rowan Leibbrandt,  founding partner at Truman & Orange Fine Liquor Merchants

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