The Wonders of Whiskey

By Drum Digital
03 November 2010

THE HOT stuff, intsimbi sesikolo, the nectar of the gods, mbaolwa, the amber liquid – whatever you call it, you could only be talking about one thing: whisky, the drink that flows like water whenever the country’s elite gather.

It’s hard to imagine ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema or businessman Kenny Kunene going to one of their lavish events without the world’s most expensive whiskies being served. But it’s not just the rich and famous who are gulping down the golden liquid – industry research shows the average black South African whisky drinker is male, over 30 and takes home anything from R5 000 a month.

He’s also on the rise. Attendance at the annual FNB Whisky Live Festival proves the point: of the 16 000 people who attended last year, 42 per cent were black. And when you consider a ticket to the festival costs R180, it’s clear the people are serious about their whisky.

The growth in the numbers of black people drinking whisky over the past few years has been phenomenal, says renowned whisky expert Mickey Baloyi. “When we became a democracy we were no longer isolated, so global trends such as whisky appreciation filtered into our society,” he explains. “And as the disposable income of black people grew, so did their appreciation of the finer things in life, such as beautiful cars, lavish homes and fine whisky.”

And any barman around town will tell you that aspirational black people are not just ordering any old whisky. Senzo Nene, a barman at a popular Sandton venue, says they spend upwards of R100 a tot – and many even order the Johnny Walker King George, which sells for a whopping R600 a tot.

But for whisky lover Lucky Nzo (32), who was introduced to whisky at a work function with white colleagues, it’s all about the taste.

“I drank mainly beer because I thought whisky was the strong stuff. But one guy said I should mix it with a little water and wow, it made such a difference! You can’t get that kind of experience from any kind of beer.”

As the trend has grown, whisky clubs have sprung up. Tebogo Matlala (37) is a member of one such club. “Every month each member buys a new bottle of whisky. We taste it and whatever is left over is for the host. We’re determined to taste all 16 000 whiskies out there,” he says.

“For me drinking whisky is kind of like saying, ‘I’ve arrived’,” says Lerato Nkomonde (33). “I started tasting it when I went out with my boyfriend and his friends and now I like it too. Drinking whisky makes a certain statement. It says you know what the good things in life are.”

Read the full article in DRUM of 11 November 2010

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