This exotic distillery is bringing the magic of travel to you through taste instead.
Sandy savannahs; powdery golden beaches; star-studded desert skies; towering cliff faces; jagged and lush mountains, rich exotic fauna and national parks overflowing with wildlife – South Africa is a country of astounding diversity.
While international travel is still massively off the cards, you can now get a taste of that African wilderness when you’re feeling the withdrawals of getaways and the relaxing escape of a vacation.
Meet Stoneflow Gin, a unique and distinctively South African gin available right here in Australia for all you aspiring globetrotters.
Crafted in the Cradle of Humankind – one of the world’s most important palaeontological zones – Stoneflow Gin embraces the South African landscape and uses wild-growing African botanicals to create incredibly exclusive and delicious gins to be enjoyed by spirit-lovers around the world.
Like all grand plans, the concept of creating a gin using wild African botanicals was hatched over drinks between two friends who had a knack for experimentation and an eye for unique flavour combinations.
Melbourne-via-Washington palaeontologist Dr Justin Adams was working in South Africa examining the fossil deposits across the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site when he made friends with local Glyn French. Staying with Glyn during their fieldwork, the two began indulging in gin and experimenting with different garnishes and flavour additions unique to the South African landscape.
“We would always have drinks in the evenings after a long day of excavations or being in the museum, and we started getting into higher quality gins. To mix up our evening G&Ts, we started throwing in native botanicals, garnishing with thin slices of kiwanos, also known as wild cucumber, that Glyn had some in her small garden plot,” explains Justin.
“It looked pretty, it looked more exotic and it also imparted this kind of melon, cucumber and kiwi flavour that came out of the fruit. We were really impressed. It went from being a novelty of throwing these fruits in my gin, to Glyn doing a distillation course, and then everything sort of fell into place.”
Armed with a little stove-top still, a whole lot of experimentation and some exquisitely unique flavours bac, it was here that Stoneflow Gin (or Flowstate as it’s known in South Africa) was born.
“We formalised everything on our kitchen table and we started producing our first production runs. We had our friends and family testing and giving us notes, and then the recipes got refined and refined again, we got labels, and then the next thing we know we began to craft our gins into something we could offer the world, honouring the landscape that we’ve been working in professionally for a long time.”
Drawing flavours from the rich palette of indigenous bushveld botanicals, Stoneflow’s core range was truly crafted to capture the essence of the African wilderness.
First, there’s the Wild Cucumber, inspired by the brand’s humble beginnings. The stunning fruit, that grows wild in the Bushveld, delivers wonderful fresh cucumber and lime early in the ripening cycle. As its colours change from speckled green to a distinctive swirling orange, vibrant but subtle flavours of green melon and kiwi emerge. It has a unique flavour profile, but it’s still that classic style of gin, perfect for those who like their gin smooth, fresh and clean.
Next is the Marula. Made from the iconic fruit of Africa, this mysterious gin offers a rare flavour that combines a clear tangy edge with a rick almost sweet citrus. A taste that will be familiar to all South Africans, the gin delivers a luscious Marula bouquet that primes the palate for the soft tang that floods the mouth. If you like passionfruit mingled with lime, this will be your go-to.
Then there’s the Bushwillow. This member of the Bushwillow family produces beautiful winged seed pods, large enough to comfortably fill an adult’s cupped hand. The most striking gin of the range, the Bushwillow is full-flavoured with unusual and seductive woody, earthy notes. Its seed pods impart a robust, rich, nutty, warmth that envelopes the mouth. It is unlike any other gin – anywhere! The taste lingers on the side of the tongue inviting another sip. If you’re into your malt whiskeys, we recommend you give this gin a go.
Lastly, there’s the Snuffbox Gin, a very limited edition that’s released in individually numbered batches of 1000 bottles at the start of each summer as the fruit mature, ensuring they don’t dimmish the availability of the fruit for the animals. Within the gin, the fruit has an intoxicatingly complex smell that includes notes of cacao, burnt caramel and dessert wine intertwined with warm almost fruity notes making it a truly indulgent tipple. A must for every gin lover and a truly special gift for anyone with a taste for the finer things in life – you’ve got to be quick though, Australia will only be getting 250 bottles all up.
Creating an intriguing balance between botanicals not quite yet explored, these gins not only celebrate the richness of the African wilderness but also honours it throughout the entire production process which is all done in the heart of Cradle of Humankind.
“A big part of our model is about having a strong connection to the African bushveld with our botanicals being wild-collected,” Justin explains.
“Most of the ingredients that are involved in what we’re making are from the wilderness. We’re working in partnership with groups that are wild collecting to minimize our footprint and our impact, and we’re encouraging restoration of these areas and making sure we’re not collecting more than we absolutely need. Everything we’re using is a resource; a food resource for a lot of animals.”
Alongside relying on these locally-grown botanicals is what gives Stoneflow Gin its niche – particularly in parts of the world that can’t experience these flavours first-hand – it’s their ethos that distinguishes them from the rest.
“We very much have that craft gin philosophy; we’re a family and friend organisation. Every one of our labels is hand applied, we still write down our lot numbers by hand on each of the bottles. I know exactly who bottled your gins. We don’t work in a big factory or a warehouse; we’re a small distillery set in the countryside where we’ve got to keep the baboons and eland from raiding our supplies. We’ve got to keep the meercats from sneaking into the distillery. It’s all about the small place with an attention to each batch.”
It’s a credit to their passion for the craft to maintain this ethos while producing large volumes of liquor. Despite growing as a company, exporting to different parts of the world and now expanding into Australia thanks to the rising local gin market, Stoneflow still manages to maintain a minimal environmental footprint and balance everything they do with a strong ethic – and they clearly do it well. In 2019 they became the only gin brand to ever score three double golds in the same year at the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Competition (South Africa’s premier wine and spirits awards). Then last year, they made their first submission to the International Wine and Spirits Competition and won three medals, and ended up being the highest points scoring South African gin range in the competition.
Inspired by the brand’s beginnings sourcing ingredients sustainably, Stoneflow is even going above and beyond to reduce their carbon footprint with eco-friendly packaging – just in case you needed another reason to love this brand. The bottles are boxed and packaged with wood wool that is FSC certified and fully compostable, the boxes are recyclable and avoid treatment chemicals, and the packing tape and stickers are all biodegradable.
“We wanted to make sure that, where it was possible to do so, we were minimizing the amount of impact that we have on the environment.”
Starting as just a passion project embracing the South African landscape, to becoming one of the most unique gins on the market, Stoneflow Gin is a brand and small business that’s nothing like we’ve ever seen – or tasted – in the Australian gin market. With a botanical palette that’s just fundamentally different and with international travel off the cards for the foreseeable future, there’s never been a better time to try something new.
You can purchase Stoneflow Gin online here.