CHEERS | spirits


Everyone’s favourite brilliant scientist Albert Einstein said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Einstein is renowned as one of the most influential and recognised theoretical physicists the world has seen to date. His thinking was leaps and bounds ahead of its time. He’s a man who knew about looking at things differently. Usually change makes people uncomfortable. Folks are happy in their little bubbles – and when something new comes along to challenge that little bubble of contentment, there’s resistance.

Mankind, however, evolves. Business is the same. The liquor company formerly known as Distell – now Heineken – has released a new product onto the South African market which may well change the landscape.

The product in question is Klipdrift Copper Royale, a lower alcohol brandy which is flavoured. As the website states: “Klipdrift Copper Royale is a 23% liqueur spirit made from real pot still brandy infused with blood orange, melon, and peach flavours.”

Is this product going to change the brandy landscape? Heineken's Head of Spirits, Walters Uys, believes this could be the start of something beautiful. Brandy has a long and proud history in South Africa. Every year local distillers return from international competitions and have to go through the red channel at international arrivals to declare their haul of gold medals!

Uys said South African brandy quality has never been in question – but the market or consumers fell out of love with it slightly. “It was booming in the 1990s and early 2000s,” he said. Sadly, in pursuit of the next big thing consumers caught the whisky wave – and more recently, the gin wave. Brandy was left floundering somewhat. “I’m positive about brandy’s future,” Uys said, acknowledging that the sales graph was no longer just heading southwards.

Heineken’s head: Intrinsic Research, Dr Mare-Lou Prinsloo said her work on international trends over the years has shown that time and again South Africa follows the curve. “We’re a little bit behind the United States and Europe, but we get there.” And right now the curve or trend is towards lower alcohol products, across the board – so that’s beer, cider, wine and spirits.

The buzz nowadays seems to be moving towards responsibility as well as lower alcohol, more sessionability or the ability to have the party continue longer and also appealing to a different – new – market, one which values these characteristics over higher/harder “pure” spirits.

CHEERS has reported on other segments of the spirit category introducing new products. Tanqueray gin for example, is seeing good numbers supporting its tasty Flor de Sevilla which is fantastic on its own over ice – or with a tonic in a highball glass. It’s not a blood orange gin but a spirit liqueur. Then there’s Three Ships which switched things up a bit when they launched Mash Tun a year ago. Look closely and you’ll notice it’s not a whisky but a whisky-based spirit aperitif.

Like Three Ships Mash Tun, at 35% Tanqueray’s Flor de Sevilla is lower in alcohol than its green-bottled London Dry counterpart at the South African standard alcohol by volume bottling of 43%.

“There’s a big drive from our side to play a role in healthier or more responsible alcohol consumption,” Dr Prinsloo said. It also means the new product appeals to a totally different market which is younger, more dynamic and aware of health and responsibility and it mixes the demographic up quite substantially.

“There’s never been much appreciation for the buying power that women have,” she said. Again referring to global trends, Dr Prinsloo said more women these days are breadwinners. “It’s never been acknowledged that they have buying power as well as decision making power.”

Klipdrift holds a special place in South African popular culture. After all, the adverts about “Met eish, ja!” cut across a host of demographics and have universal appeal. People talk about Klippies and Coke … but Uys said the idea was to extend the range and make it more inclusive for a larger group of consumers.

“It’s all about innovation,” he said. The new Klipdrift Copper Royale is something new to test the waters with. It’s lower alcohol at 23%, the flavours of orange, peach and melon have broad appeal and the lower price has its own attraction in these tough economic times.

It’s still early days for Copper Royale having only been released in May but early indications are that it is finding traction. “All our product testing showed good responses,” Uys said. Since so much of what people like and ultimately buy comes down to flavour or taste, the question was put to Uys about what the other flavour options were during the testing phase.

“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” he said. “There were a variety of different options and while the orange, peach and melon became Klipdrift Copper Royale, we haven’t ruled out future flavour extensions.”

Klipdrift Brand Manager, Nadia Anthony, described Copper Royale as a game changer. “We’re thrilled. A sweeter and smoother offering, with bold flavour infusions, made to mix, at an affordable price point with the most boujee packaging – what more could you ask for?”

As the website states: “It’s made for existing and drinkers new to brandy, to vibe together with something different from the ordinary. Something ironically South African, but versatile in that it can be enjoyed by all in their own way. It’s that perfect ‘Golden Hour’ drink suited for sundowners and ‘afternoon chill’ vibes when friends come together for what promises to be a fun-filled day.”