Brandy making in South Africa has a rich and colourful history, that dates back to 1672 when the first ever Cape Wine was distilled into Cape Brandy on board a Dutch ship. Production methods have evolved ever since with the ebb and flow of colonial visitors, the most famous of such being one Renier “René” Van Eibergen Santhagens.
When he first arrived in South Africa, nobody anticipated that René would start a process that would change the history of brandy production altogether. René was the first man in South Africa to have produced brandy according to the old French tradition. His passion for authentic brandy and his influence on the Wine and Spirits Act of 1924, ensures that South Africa continues to be one of the most successful brandy producing countries in the world. His influence and methods are still used today, and he is widely considered the Father of South African Brandy.
René pursued studies in chemical engineering at the University of Brussels. After having completed his studies, he discovered his true passion for brandy and wine making in the famed vineyards of France. A chance meeting with a South African businessman in 1897 led René to the Eerste Fabrieken Distillery in Pretoria, South Africa, where his immense talent started to show with a marked improvement in Gin distillation.
In 1899 production at Eerste Fabrieken came to a standstill with the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. René made the decision to return to the Cognac district of France. During his time in France, he was devoted to improving his methods of brandy distillation.