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Jorgensen’s ginny gin gin
This distillery has added a fifth spirit to their range, an artisan gin with an African twist
“I wanted to make a gin good enough to drink on its own, but that could also bring a party to a cocktail,” says Roger Jorgensen emphasising ‘party’ with his hands.
This conversation is taking place at Daddy Cool, the Grand Daddy Hotel’s bar. A rather fitting place, considering Roger is one cool daddy himself; father to four kids, husband to Dawn, as well as being a master artisan distiller.
Jorgensen’s Gin will join the ranks of Primitiv Vodka, Savingnac Potstill Brandy, Field of Dreams Absinthe and Naked Lemon Limoncello. All are craft sprits made either with botanicals grown on the couple’s Wellington property, Versailles Farm, or wild harvested from other sources.
The style of the bottle is called: ‘Little Sumo’. Made from thick, clear glass with a heavy-bottom, the shape is curvaceous, “I designed it so it would fit in your hand,” jokes Roger. The bottle is simply beautiful; with a red wax top and an elegant font across the girth stating its name.
The bar itself is quite glitzy; it has small tiles inlaid with gold glitter, and it all begins to feel very James Bond when there’s talk of making dirty martinis.
First though, we try it neat. “Coriander, citrus, clove...,” muses Roger, waving the glass under his nose.
“I wanted to bring an African twist to one of the world’s most popular drinks,” he says while we taste. “Usually, gin’s made up of three main ingredients; coriander, citrus and juniper berries. Instead of orange, I used organic naartjies, and Cape lemon in place of Spanish lemon
“Grains of paradise from Ghana give the gin top notes of pepper, cardamom, and rose. And my favourite off-scent is the perfume of the ohandua—harvested by women in the Himba tribe in the Kaokoveld, the women grind the berries and blend it with butter fat to perfume and protect their skin.”
Roger continues to wax lyrical about the botanicals he’s used; angelica root, orris root, calamus root, coriander, liquorice root, bitter apricot kernels and African wild ginger. “The ginger is extremely rare,” says Roger, “I have 36 of my own plants.”
I remark to Roger about his encyclopaedic knowledge on, well, everything. How does he know so much?
“From my travels,” is his answer. “My background is farming, but I also worked in the diamond trade, both of these had me travelling a lot. I’m always on the lookout for new shapes, smells, textures; whether it be a glimpse of a diamond in a bucket of pebbles, or an errant fragrance from a hill in a forest.”
Such a poet! Roger laughs when I tease him, “I must be drinking too much of my own Absinthe.”
Some like it dirty
Gin can be drunk in numerous ways, most commonly with tonic, and classically in a martini. Bartender, Temco Dlova has mixed some dirty martinis for us (a gin martini muddled with olives, so that the oils are released).
Over salty sips, we chat about the actual making of the gin. “It took me two years to gather all of the ingredients,” says Roger. “I wanted it to be instantly recognisable as a gin, but multi-layered, like a pinot noir; feminine, sexy.”
“There are visceral things in the gin that you want to have. I challenge anyone to make a gin really sexy. It was the most difficult of all the spirits I've made.
“I was very careful not to make it naff: there’s definitely no cucumber!”
The process starts by soaking ingredients, like juniper and citrus, in a neutral wine spirit for 24 hours. Then the flavoured alcohol is drained off into the still. Above this, Roger hangs all the botanicals, a method called vapour bathing: the steam rises through the plants and condenses.
This creative craftsman has no intention of stopping at five spirits; be on the lookout for a tequila, made with wild blue agave and a Jägermeister inspired digestif called Ten Cape, comprised of ten different species of fynbos.
My views? The gin was a soft, sexy drink on ice, and it really did bring the party to the cocktail.
By Malu Lambert
Versailles Farm | Regent Street | Wellington | +27 21 864 1777
Tastings by appointment only.
We also visited them to taste the Field of Dreams Absinthe.