Brandy buddies chase off the chill

2011-05-28 11:37

I hate brandy. There, I said it. I don’t remember any point in my life when I ordered it.

Be that as it may, on Wednesday night when the dreadful cold snap hit, I was the first in line at the bar to “taste” some at the Fine Brandy Festival at the Sandton Convention ­Centre in northern Joburg.

A couple of sips and a fiery chest later, I decided that maybe those who drink brandy with Coke are onto something.

People milled about trying out different kinds of brandy from each bar and, as is often the case with alcoholic beverage festivals, there was a good mix of young and old.

At a brandy fest, one would expect to see refined, older gentlemen in tweed suits and bow ties dangling unlit cigars between their fingers.

But surprisingly, quite a number of women attended, especially young ones who looked like they made a ladies’ night of it.

One of the most interesting characters there was Abie Valentun, who has spent 37 years of his life making barrels by hand.

After a little chat, I found out he’s one of the handful left in the country with that skill (most companies use machine-made barrels).

He spent almost the whole night demonstrating the different stages of barrel-making, which takes about eight hours.

Good thing they were offering people “assisted driving services” because brandy is lethal, ­especially considering that when you “taste”, you have to drink it neat or on the rocks.

The event ended promptly at 9pm, much to the brandy fans’ disappointment.

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