Brandy Tasting at Van Ryn’s Distillery


There’s something about enjoying a tot of Brandy on a cold winters day , and that’s exactly what we did by visiting Van Ryn’s Distillery. My friend being a Brandy enthusiast accompanied me on the visit, eager to learn more about the Van Ryn’s Brandy.

One of the best things about Winter is finding new and creative ways to beat the Winter blues. A comforting tot of brandy on a cold Winter’s day is necessary, especially when its freezing outside. My friend and I recently visited Van Ryn’s Distillery to learn more about the craft and taste their range of brandy.


Van Ryn’s Distillery is situated in Vlottenberg, a mere 30-minute drive from Cape Town International airport and 45 minutes if you’re driving from the Southern Suburbs. The story of Van Ryn’s date back to 1845 with the pioneer Jan Van Ryn’s. He earned the distillery’s first international award in 1884. The Distillery in Van Ryn’s Road was erected in 1905 using rocks from the Eerste River. You can still catch a glimpse of the original rocks from the tasting room.


You can also see the 200-year-old Alambic Cognac Pot in the tasting room

With old staves feeling the fire, the Alambic Cognac Pot can still produce 300 liters of brandy during Winter. Michaela facilitated our tour and told us about the history of Van Ryn’s. Throughout the evolution of the distillery, the brandy making methods and techniques remains authentic to date.




Van Ryn’s Distillery owns a cooperage which is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. This ensures that barrel repairs and charring are carried out in the same standards, making every cask perfect for maturing their potstill brandy.


The most enlightening part of the visit was meeting Uncle Neville who’s been the cooper at Van Ryn’s for over 30 years. Coopers complete a three-year apprenticeship and during this period they are taught the skills of making their own tools. Each cooper is encouraged to make up their own “tune” when the barrel is complete. A barrel takes approximately seven or eight hours to make except on a Friday, when they complete one and half barrels. Each barrel contains approximately 300 to 400 litres of brandy.


Maturation Cellar

Next we made our way to the maturation cellar which can house anything from 2000 to 10 000 barrels of brandy. A brandy lover’s dream! As we entered the cellar, the delightful pungent aroma of brandy maturing in French oak filled the air. About 9 litres of brandy gets lost to evaporation during the 3-year period. It is safe to say we inhaled a fair amount of #AngelsShare – a term used to describe angels sharing the evaporated brandy. (Ps no phones or camera’s were allowed)


Brandy is made from Chenin Blanc and Colombar varietals, although there have been experiments with other varietals. The flavour and gold colour of the brandy comes from the French oak barrels. South African legislation states that the minimum period for maturation of brandy is three years.

Gold Color

Master Blender


One of the people instrumental to the success of Van Ryn’s is master blender Marlene Bester.

Master Blender – Marlene Bester

What is a master blender you may ask? Well it’s one of the most important positions in the success of any distillery. The art of blending is a skill that requires patience, consistency and a very discerning nose as the master blender relies heavily on the smells. Marlene Bester studied winemaking and decided to make brandy after walking into maturation cellar. She was enthralled by the smell!

Marlene’s big break came in 2009 when she was appointed Distillery Manager of Van Ryn’s. “What attracted me to brandy was the combination of art and science that goes into the creation of a fine brandy”, says Marlene.

For Bester the biggest challenge was to be taken seriously in what was traditionally a male-dominated industry. “It has happened a few times that I was perceived as the marketing girl and not the distiller,” she said. “Fortunately, this has changed over the past few years.”

Types of Brandy

Did you know that South African legislation allows for three classes of brandy, that means not all brandy has to burn the back of your throat. There are also brandy cocktails and dishes therefore its important  to know the difference.

Potstill – 100% Potstill brandy.  The minimum alcohol content is 38% ABV.

Vintage  – Potstill brandy blended with matured wine spirit. The minimum alcohol content is 38% ABV.

Blended – Potsill brandy blended with unmatured wine spirit.  The minimum alcohol content is 43% ABV

Source: SA Brandy For more in South African Brandy visit

Brandy and Biscuit Tasting


Today Van Ryn’s is renowned for its growing range of potstill brandy. They’ve earned the “Best Brandy trophy” nine times in the past decade at the International Spirits Challenge and the International Wine and Spirits competition.

Be sure to add Van Ryn’s brandy tour to your list of #ThingsToDo when you visit Stellenbosch.

Visitors to Van Ryn’s can take a tour of the distillery and cellar, enjoy brandy tastings and a selection of brandy pairing experiences, including the popular brandy, coffee and chocolate pairing.


The distillery is open Monday – Friday from 08h00 – 17h00, and on Saturday’s from 09h00 – 14h00. Open on Sundays in season only. Tours are at set hours starting at 10h00. For further information, please visit, or telephone +27 21 881 3875.

Tour, brandy and chocolate pairing: R115

Tour, brandy and decadent delight pairing: R115



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