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The James Sedgwick Distillery was established in 1886 and continues to set the bar for South African whiskies and innovation in the whisky industry.
For the first time in its 130 year history, the distillery is now open to the public for tastings and tours.BOOK A TOUR
In 1977, we set off on a voyage of discovery. That was the year we began making the first commercial whisky in Africa. A great achievement for sure, but not everyone wished us well on the journey – our detractors said there was no way to make a great whisky here, under the African sun. That the only truly great whiskies came from the northern hemisphere, where they’ve been doing it for centuries.
We said, while we respect the traditions and craftsmanship of our friends up north, those whiskies aren’t our whiskies. So, we forged ahead in our own way, developing our own mastery and employing our own techniques. Call us bullheaded, but we had good reason to think we could make a success of it. After all, we only had to reflect on the beginnings of our distillery in Wellington, which can be traced back to the story of James Sedgwick.
Sedgwick was an expert mariner. The lessons he learnt at sea, captaining some of the world’s fastest trading ships through perilous waters, he applied to his new venture. One such lesson he understood, above all others, was that great voyages are seldom accomplished alone. The Captain knew that those who sailed into uncharted waters often did so with three ships – one to navigate and set the pace, one to provide supplies, and one to sail into shallow waters.
And so it was when we decided to make the first commercial whisky in Africa. We’d need three ships of our own – vision, tenacity and bravery. After all, we were starting from scratch, figuring out how to make whisky in a climate that doesn’t lend itself easily to it.
We had to keep the vision that a truly South African whisky was not only possible, but could be world-class. We needed tenacity to figure our way through the technical challenges, and to ignore the naysayers. And it would take bravery to even begin a journey that was suggested by an audacious thought – that we could make a great whisky here.
Today, these three ships have taken us on to greatness, winning us global recognition for our range of modern, pioneering, and truly South African whiskies.