West Coast Distillers won both a Gold and Double award during the 2022 event, and we wanted to see who is behind these brilliant products with the beautiful packaging.
Please tell us your name, a bit about yourself, and your role in the company.
My name is Shane Smith. I am the Director and Head Distiller of West Coast Distillers. I come from a background in the yachting industry and found a passion for distilling along the way.
Please tell us when your company was founded and some of its history.
The company was founded early 2017, however we only received our Manufacturing Liquor License in September 2018.
The idea of West Coast Distillers was born on what has since become known as ‘The Gin Plane’.
Old friends Shane and Shaun were flying from London to Croatia for a working holiday. They may have had different agendas for the trip when they took off in London, but the combination of happy travel vibes and a good few gins and tonics enjoyed thirty thousand feet up in the air made for some lively, open-minded conversation. By the time they landed in Croatia, they were very much on the same first page of an exciting new idea.
South Africa’s craft distilleries were on the rise, and with Shaun’s already successful Cornish Distillery, they had almost all the tools they needed to turn this idea into reality. Just three months later, they were applying for a Micro Manufacturing licence to start a distillery in Shane’s home town of Langebaan on South Africa’s Cape West Coast.
Spirits are currently riding on a huge wave of popularity. What avenues do you think still need to be explored, and what do you predict will happen in the near future?
I just think it is important to explore different flavours, methods and ways of presenting your products, to keep it interesting and unique along the way. Craft Distilling is an art form, and can be expressed in so many ways!
What makes your products unique?
Firstly, our branding and presentation are unique, there are no other brands on the market with the same look and feel. I have to give a lot of credit to our designers, Roots Branding, for this. The guys really know how to capture the essence of what we are doing so passionately.
Each one of our products is completely different from the next, nothing is ‘cut and paste’ and we take pride in this. It’s more fun and challenging to try to keep things unique and interesting at every turn!
Are all your spirits fermented and distilled the same way?
No, some are purely distilled and some have infusions after distillation. The Mutiny Bitters are purely made up of multiple single shot infusions from a couple dozen different botanicals and then blended to flavour respective to the flavour variant. Our Summer Cup Liqueur is actually made from redistilled and ‘cleaned-up’ Heads and Tails from our other products, and then mixed with the hearts of a gin distillation as well as infusions of seasonal fruits, amongst other ingredients – it’s dangerously refreshing! Haha.
What is your philosophy regarding the making of spirits?
Our ethos is simple: to produce good quality, great-tasting spirits with a passion for keeping them unique and interesting at every turn.
What are the different spirits you have currently, and the differences between them?
We have 3 gins; Seekat is a dry ‘sipping gin’, No Frills is a contemporary dry gin and Belladonna Night Shade Gin is a flavoured gin, naturally infused after distillation.
Our 2 Tronkvoël Vodkas are a neutral vodka and a naartjie vodka.
We have a fresh and fruity Summer Cup Liqueur, and a fleet of Cocktail Bitters called Mutiny Bitters.
We also do a couple contract gins, a couple RTD’s and are always experimenting with new spirits!
Do you perhaps have some innovations in the pipeline?
Of course … shhhhhh…. Haha.
A more personal question, recall the most interesting spirits you ever had, the occasion, and the memory.
A real inspiration to me was tasting the different Tequila’s and Mescal’s in Mexico. The smoothness and quality was just incredible! It opened my eyes and changed my views on what was real quality and what was just ‘party poison’.
It is still a goal of ours to produce a top shelf Agave Spirit!