The water of life plays Hyde and chic

Stepping into WhiskyBrother, one of South Africa's only specialised whisky stores, is like crossing into a Scottish maturation house. The temperature drops, it's darker than the hyper-polished, shiny-white Hyde Park Corner it's nestled in, and it's quiet. The hundreds of shelved bottles have a presence of their own, a heavy dark consciousness that permeates the air. Nothing in here should be mixed with a Coke.

Marc Pendlebury (32) started the niche store 15 months ago. "I was unhappy at work and, instead of finding a new job in corporate, I decided to follow my dream," he says. "I was spending a fair amount of my salary on whisky and knew a few guys doing the same, and we were all feeling miserable together at the current offering of what's locally available."

And so, four years after Pendlebury started his blog WhiskyBrother, the store was born.

It shelves Scottish whiskies (a South African favourite) but also bottles from Ireland, the United States and Japan. It was designed to mimic a maturation warehouse. Says Pendlebury: "I wanted to keep it a bit colder with a stone floor, and I included a lot of the materials used in making whisky, like copper, oak and casks."

The whisky tastings Pendlebury offers some evenings are booked out weeks in advance, an indication of the rising popularity of the drink and the need many South Africans feel not only to imbibe the good stuff, but also to understand the history and know what's in each bottle. And it's pricey: compared with a R20 wine tasting at Fairview Wine Farm, WhiskyBrother sells a ticket for six whiskies at R250.


And people are willing to pay – globally more whisky is being consumed now than ever before, says Pendlebury. "With the emerging middle class in South Africa and the world we're seeing an emphasis on craft, on quality and on niche products. There's a certain discernment and an appreciation of quality. People don't want to settle for what's generic and what's high volume anymore."

That is certainly the case with the so-called "water of life". Pendlebury has sold a handful of whiskies in the R50 000 range, and has himself drunk from a R260 000 bottle.

The price is based on a number of factors, but the most pertinent one is rarity. Some only release a handful of bottles globally – below 100 – and people will buy them for reasons ranging from ego to the sheer joy of the drink.

"Whisky should be judged on your enjoyment of it, and the flavours you get," says Pendlebury, "but if you abstract slightly more, whisky is also about how it got in your bottle, how long did it take, who was involved. When it comes to tasting notes even the type of oak used to make the barrel becomes a factor."

Some whiskies take 30 years to mature, and it's astonishing to think that "the whisky has been just quietly sitting there maturing while the rest of the word changes and wars get waged and the cycle of life continues," Pendlebury muses. "There's a magic there."

Marc Pendlebury: 011 325 6261, [email protected]

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Samantha Steele
Samantha Steele works from Johannesburg, South Africa. Body positive columnist. Devourer of words. By-line in @ellesouthafrica, @Forbes, @forbeswomanafri, @mailandguardian & more Samantha Steele has over 612 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Click here. Actually, no, don’t

'Sometimes I think South African retail websites don’t actually want to sell anything'

Under Armour under fire for racial profiling

​Less than a year after arriving on South African shores, American sports brand Under Armour is embroiled in an alleged racial profiling incident

R2m bottle of whisky ‘is overpriced’

The world's second most expensive bottle of scotch is in South Africa, but even connoisseurs are wincing at the price tag.

The magnificent march of SA’s malls

The emerging middle class and urbanisation are driving the growth of new retail shopping centres in the country.

Win with Chivas Regal and the M&G

The Mail & Guardian in association with Chivas Regal is giving readers the chance to win a bottle of limited edition 12-year-old Chivas Regal.

Is racism Jay Z’s 99th problem?

After two black Barneys shoppers were accused of credit card fraud, the rapper's fans are petitioning for him to cut ties with the New York store.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Inside the illicit trade in West Africa’s oldest artworks

Nok terracottas are proof that an ancient civilisation once existed in Nigeria. Now they are at the centre of a multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning underground industry — and once again, Nigeria is losing out

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday