What do you know about South Africa? Well, actually, this beautiful, diverse region always has many amazing stories to tell and special places to show. But this time, let us tell you about specific locations, specific people, and specific products that can give you the true essence of South Africa in all its richness and splendour. Its soul. Its spirit. This is the story of Sugarbird®, a South African brand core to its country’s revolution in craft spirits. A revolution that is not about rebellion but about creativity, innovation, the search for new flavours, the harmony of form and content, and a premium lifestyle that can literally be tasted – here and now.
A story about Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Spirits would not be complete without mentioning a very special place, the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the world’s six outstanding centres of terrestrial biodiversity – the globe’s smallest and easily its richest. The Cape’s plant and floral richness has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the extraordinary and memorable flavour notes of Sugarbird’s craft spirit range.
The brand’s lyrical name is also rooted in the Cape. It is here (and specifically only here within this unique biome known as ‘fynbos’) that the copper-brown long-tailed songbird known as the Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer) can be found. This tireless worker flies from bud to bud in the ‘fynbos’ in search of the perfect nectar from the Protea flower (the country’s national flower, also called “Sugarbush”). Her tireless pursuit of perfection and her affection for the unique flora of the Cape naturally predetermined the name of the brand, which is famous for including (in all of its spirits) unique elements obtained from the Cape’s fynbos biome.
Sugarbird®‘s journey began in 2017. A small team of innovators and enthusiasts in Cape Town, inspired by the diverse flavours of Cape Floral Kingdom, set out to create gin in a new way. They went beyond the usual ingredient set of Juniper, Grains of Paradise, Coriander, and Angelica Root, instead drawing inspiration from the ‘fynbos’ on their doorstep. One of the earliest and most striking ingredients of their new gins was Agathosma betulina, a species of fynbos called ‘buchu’, which has benefitted locals for centuries, not least for its unique taste and flavour profile. In its spirits, the Sugarbird® team has exquisitely combined various ‘buchu’ species, with rooibos, honey bush, several Pelargonium species and other ‘fynbos’ plants to create gins that attain a hard-fought balance between citrus and floral notes, which has become the hallmark of Sugarbird®
But Sugarbird® would not be the phenomenon to which this story is dedicated if it were not for the contributions of co-founder Matt Bresler. Matt is a scientist with an amazing passion for fynbos who has devoted a lot of time to numerous experiments with hundreds of local plant species to find ways of using their unique taste, colour, and other properties. His obsession has yielded several impressive results.
Even in Sugarbird®’s Juniper Unfiltered gin, which celebrates in taste-profile and colour the Juniper cone (berry), it is the Cape’s ‘fynbos’ diversity that makes the liquid truly special. Here Matt uses Erica and Leucadendron (a local conebush) harvested from his garden, which backs onto Table Mountain, but the subtleties of flavour are driven more than anything by a combination of two different “fynbos” species aptly called Cape Chamomile and Cape May. Many a gin lover has converted to its unique taste and “never looked back” and so Juniper Unfiltered enjoys the status of Sugarbird®’s highest repeat purchase item by far.
Diversity of flavours
The triumph of Sugarbird®’s Juniper Unfiltered gin was only a few months old, when the team was asked by the country’s biggest retailer to develop a special pink gin. True to form, Sugarbird®’s Pino & Pelargonium gin is a specific dedication to South Africa’s botanical exports. The magnificent colour of this spirit is provided by grape skins of a wine varietal first cultivated in South Africa in 1925 – Pinotage. The citrus and floral aroma and flavour notes come from leaf and root material of three species of Pelargonium (‘fynbos’, known globally as geranium).
Always true to their innovative spirit, Sugarbird® continued to delight connoisseurs with new flavours, but also with new, often ground-breaking, products. Over the years, the team has developed a wide range of exclusive gift products for major liquor retailers in South Africa. Understanding the needs of consumers and their desire for choice, Sugarbird® partnered with other gin distillers. This collaboration resulted in “Sugarbird® and Friends”, a series of multi-brand packs of gin mini bottles in which Sugarbird® products were juxtaposed with those of competitors – a world first.
These collaborations with competitors to showcase the best of South African craft gins were a huge success – in 2020, the team expanded the concept launching the “Sugarbird® and Friends” Brandy Box, with which Sugarbird® paved its way into the brandy industry (in which South Africa is a world leader). The “Sugarbird® and Friends” range is about to launch a Multi Spirit 24, a gift collection of 24 mini-bottles of spirits that include fynbos gin, potstill brandy, rum, sipping vodka, local agave, and a unique African whisky.
More than gin
Having started as a producer of premium yet affordable authentic South African gin, Sugarbird® has brought the range of flavours of this noble beverage to a dizzying variety (having also recently released a 4th gin varietal.) It didn’t stop there, and in 2021 the company introduced Sugarbird® XO Brandy, which was created using distilled liquid matured in oak barrels. The aged liquid is filtered through honey bush and other ‘fynbos’ botanicals. The result is a pure, golden-coloured brandy with aromas of dried peaches, dates, and raisins. Over time, an aged Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Rum was also introduced, exuding nutty and honey aromas with notes of cocoa, bourbon, and coffee. Once again, the aged liquid is trickle filtered through fynbos botanicals, including protea flowers for their nectar (sought out by the Sugarbird), creating a unique craft rum that proudly captures the true spirit of South Africa.
Sugarbird® in Germany
Sugarbird®‘s fascinating story is far from over. The brand has shown the power of a spirit of innovation and a healthy ambition, which does not prevent cooperation with competitors and leads to a win-win for all parties. This path has led Sugarbird® to its recent achievement when the brand was named the winner of “Best Luxury Spirit Brand in South Africa” by US-based Luxury Lifestyle Awards.
By infusing every drop of spirits with the soul of South Africa, the Sugarbird® team shares a piece of their native land with consumers anywhere in the world. German connoisseurs can either purchase this authentic drink at the “CapeHouse” in the heart of Mainz’s old town or buy it online at https://www.capehouse.eu/sugarbird-distillery/
In addition, you can find Sugarbird® products in the assortment of well-stocked retailers and lifestyle stores, as well as in specialized online stores.
A customer’s desire for choice need not only be met by South African liquor retailers, and so The Cape House will soon be adding the newly released Sugarbird® Honeybush & Moringa Gin varietal, Sugarbird XO Brandy, Sugarbird Cape Fynbos Rum, as well as two of the ingenious Sugarbird bespoke products to its current Sugarbird Gin bottle offering.
Look out for ideal gifting solutions for the gin connoisseur! – “Sugarbird® and Friends” Gin minis sleeve – 5 x 40ml bottles of gin; one Sugarbird gin, juxtaposed with four other South African gin competitor brands, as well as Sugarbird® Festive crackers – a must for every adult Festive Christmas Table! A pack of crackers comprising all 6 of the Sugarbird gin flavours. The signature range – Original Fynbos, Pino & Pelargonium, Juniper Unfiltered, and Honeybush & Moringa, as well as two limited edition varietals, Protea & cucumber and the most recent Festive release, Wild Holly & Cape Plum.
Who knows, maybe this will be the beginning of a new story you’ll live, with a glass of Sugarbird® craft spirits in your hand.