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Meet Durban’s first female gin maker

Breaking the mould

In a culture where women usually shy away from alcohol, Umhlanga’s Sasha Naidoo is breaking the stereotype with her cold distilled gin range. Not only is she Durban’s first female gin maker, but also the world’s first Indian woman to create and own an alcohol brand.

Umhlanga gin maker Sasha Naidoo

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I’ve never been a shoes-and-handbags kind of girl, but my enjoyment of alcohol turned into a love and a collection spanning over six years,” laughs 33-year-old Sasha whose vast collection of gin (and a few select whiskies) could rival any liquor store.

Intrigued by beautifully designed bottles and packaging and the allure of the illicit, Sasha says her interest in alcohol started when she was too young to drink.

“As I grew older, complex flavours and perfectly served cocktails perked up my palate. I was always the one ordering the most unusual drinks wherever I went. But gin was always my go-to drink.”

Growing bored and unimpressed with the variety of gins on the market, Sasha began infusing the more affordable London Dry gin with berries, flavoured teas and spices and her ‘concoctions’ ended up being a hit with her friends and family.

It was while she was embarking on her self-dubbed “ginventure” in Cape Town that Sasha toured a local distillery and really got an in-depth introduction into gin-making.

“It was at that very moment that the seed of creating my own brand was planted. A few weeks later I sent some recipes to the distiller and our experimentation process began. It was so exciting receiving laboratory-labelled bottles via courier and getting everyone to gather around and do tastings of all the different samples and variants. Getting feedback from gin and non-gin drinkers was essential.”

Within a couple of months Sasha finally settled on a cold distilled gin flavoured with fresh pineapples, lime zest, green apple skins and mint and infused with a blend of exotic spices. Sasha produced 870 bottles of her hand-crafted, artisan gin in her first batch, which she called Salacia (named after the Roman goddess of the sea and King Neptune’s wife, Salacia).

“I’m a sucker for a good romance story, and the tale of Neptune and his quest to woo Salacia always tugged at my heart strings. She is perfectly depicted as the sultry gold mermaid on our packaging.”

Sasha spent some time at the distillery during the production process and she got to do all the behind-the-scenes work . . . peeling, chopping, zesting, adding the spices, fruit and juniper berries into the still, cleaning and filling empty bottles, hand-labelling and sealing each bottle and packing them into individual boxes and cartons.

“The flavours and botanicals that I selected leaned more towards the gin being an Old Tom style gin instead of the regular London Dry style, making sweeter and palatable. I wanted this gin to be an easy drinking, pool-side-chilling, party-starting summer drink!”

Sasha personally likes a double tot of Salacia with lots of ice, a few slices of lime and a dash of tonic water. “I feel incredibly proud and overwhelmed knowing that I am Durban’s first female gin maker. Coming from a culture where women usually shy away from alcohol, I have definitely broken that stereotype and forged a way into this industry – and hopefully inspired other women to pursue their passions as well.”

Planning her second batch, as well as another flavour variant, is already in the pipeline for the Salacia brand. “I’m looking forward to another round of gin experiments. We have partnered with one Durban’s most talented mixologists and are in the process of launching a mobile Salacia gin bar that will be serving curated cocktails at weddings and events.”

Salacia gin, as well as their pineapple and lime garnish packs and bespoke gin gift boxes, can be purchased from their online store.

Details: [email protected] | www.salaciagin.co.za

Text: MONIQUE DE VILLIERS-DELPORT

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