The James Sedgwick whisky distillery on the outskirts of Wellington dates from 1886. Today, it is the source of Three Ships Select, a blend of South African and Scotch whisky matured for three years, production amounting to a 1.5 million litres a year. It sells for R79 a bottle and is the seventh largest whisky brand in the country.
There’s also the single-grain Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky (50 000 litres a year and R159 a bottle), Three Ships 5 Year Old (200 000 litres a year and R105 a bottle), Three Ships Bourbon Cask Matured (50 000 litres and around R110 a bottle) and the recently released Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt (8 000 bottles and around R200 a bottle). The 5 Year Old features peated malt and is by far the most interesting; the rest are all clean and technically correct but pretty middle of the road. Lots of sweet undertones to attract the “emerging market”.
Distell are obviously bullish about whisky and an 18-month extension project which saw the construction of a new blending and fermentation cellars as well as a visitors’ centre has just been completed. Length of pipe laid 6.5km (weighing 52 tons); length of electrical cable 25km and length of instrument cable 30km. Distillery general manager Andy Watts won’t be drawn on how big the investment was except to say it was “significant”.