Penelope Williams, known fondly by all she meets as Penstar, has created a gin that’s made for good times – and she has big dreams for her passion project.
When Penstar says she was advised (on more than one occasion!) to bottle her personality, it comes as no surprise. Bubbly, positive, and full of energy, she is the brains (and heart) behind Miss Penny gin. Launched just eight months ago, the gin is already making waves in Ballito, featuring on most menus and in all the Tops at Spar stores. The Miss Penny branding is characterised by the distinctive retro pin-up girl, an image that is actually based on Penstar herself. “My face is on the bottle,” she laughs. “So, this company has to work!”
Although the gin is a relative newcomer to an already-trendy scene, Penstar is no stranger to the liquor industry. She has worked in the wine business since she was in her twenties, before taking an interest in distillery. Born and raised in Ladysmith in Northern KZN, Penstar studied in Pretoria before moving to Joburg, where she fell in love with the city’s energy. Seven years ago, she made her way to the North Coast. Penelope describes Ballito as “a little piece of paradise” and loves that the area is growing in new and exciting directions.
She is optimistic about the future, but admits that running a company is not always easy. Her advice to other women who would like to start a business is to never give up. “Hustle all you can,” she says. “I can honestly say that I give myself an A-plus for hustling! I’ve always had a dream, and I’ve managed to make it happen. It doesn’t matter how long it takes – just follow your dream, and stick with it.”
Miss Penny gin is proudly local – all the ingredients, from the water to the raw green sugar cane – are from Ballito and surrounds. It’s made by award-winning distiller Elwin Barnes, and has what Penstar describes as a “unique elegance.”
When the gin was first launched, Penstar wanted it to signify a special event in her life – specifically a celebration of the beginning of her forties. The product holds a very special place in her heart, and she is so grateful that her mom got to see it before she passed away earlier this year. Now, she says, it’s all about having fun. “I’m having the best time looking after my baby,” she laughs. Her dream for the brand is to travel around the world while working. “Imagine walking into a bar in Portugal with a bottle of gin, and making friends,” she smiles. “This baby is going to take me places, and I’m very excited.”
MISS PENNY’S PERFECT SERVE
1. Double tot of Miss Penny gin
2. Plain Indian tonic
3. Pink pepper
4. Fresh sage
Text: Jennifer Campbell Photographs: SAMANTHA COUTTS Makeup: KYLIE P MAKEUP Hair: JAY @ THE HAIR SHACK