On the weekend of 21 October, the Parc Floral de Vincennes hosted the first Parisian edition of the Gin Addict festival. A perfect opportunity for Amarula to launch its very first Gin.
It’s 5pm on Sunday 23rd October and Astrid Estève is taking stock: “The show is a success, Friday and Saturday were crazy, everyone was overwhelmed”, says the woman who managed the organisation and communication of the event. She continues: “We are already thinking about other cities like Bordeaux or Marseille who have already expressed their interest.
Gin is no longer hidden, it is everywhere. The big supermarkets are rubbing their hands together with results that make you smile. In 2020, the famous grain brandy will see double-digit growth. With more than 25 % of its sales in the big stores, against 4,3 % for the other spirits (source Nielsen, P12 2020 HMSN Proxi drive).
Amarula, South Africa’s signature fruit
Amarula, owned by the South African group Distell (65% of which will be acquired by Heineken in November 2021), is determined to ride the gin wave thanks to a fruit: the Marula, unknown in France, and widely consumed in South Africa (the only country of production).
Nicknamed the African plum tree, the marula is believed to have been discovered by man 9,000 years before Christ. It is a light yellow stone fruit, very rich in vitamin C (4 times more than an orange) and is harvested from February to June.
Its unique flavour takes you on a journey through exotic flavours, between guava and pineapple, all in subtlety. The Amarula brand is widespread throughout the country and was born in 1983, the year the third constitution was voted in. Founded by the Southern Liqueur Company (now part of the Distell Group), Amarula originally offered only a creamy Marula fruit liqueur.
Its gourmet flavour, softened by the freshness of the marula, immediately appealed to the South African people. It has the roundness and sweetness reminiscent of the famous Baileys cream whisky, but with less sugar.
Thanks to this commercial success, the brand will continue to develop other products in which marula remains at the heart of the matter. Still today protected by the South African government, this fruit can only be exploited by local citizens for limited commercial purposes (mainly distilled drinks).
A Baby Elephant as a flag bearer
Launched last September, the gin, which will only be available on the European market, follows the codes of the classic distilled gin. Quality plants (juniper berries, orange peels and flowers, Ghanaian seeds of paradise) are infused for 24 hours in marula alcohol. The result is interesting, but be careful in your choice of tonic.
Choose a drink with little sugar. After several unsuccessful attempts, the Hysope brand, founded by Meriadec Buchmuller, stands out by offering a taste-enhancing tonic. The exotic notes of Marula are reinforced with a remarkable finesse of bubbles.
Since its launch, Amarula has wanted to use the elephant as the brand’s standard. The population of the famous forest animal has fallen by more than 86% over a period of 31 years, while that of African savannah elephants has declined by at least 60% over the last 50 years (according to the IUCN).
A rounded bottle shape, the elephant drawn in the centre and a total commitment to the protection of the species. In 2008, to formalise its stance, the company created Amarula Trust, a collaborative programme that supports researchers and educators with the sole aim of protecting the elephant, a key component of the African ecosystem. The marula-loving animal is willing to travel dozens of kilometres with its tribe to enjoy the delicious fruit.
Thomas Wuyts had the idea to launch his own brand of gin nine years ago after seeing a documentary film of drunken elephants after ingesting marula: “When I saw these scenes of drunkenness, I immediately saw the potential of this fruit with its powerful fermenting power,” recalls the entrepreneur, with a smile. How could the Belgian businessman be allowed to trade in marula and defy local protectionism? Especially since the packaging of his bottles uses the codes of the emblematic Amarula brand! The mystery remains.
A rum with amarula coming soon!
In the ever-dynamic world of spirits, rum is also interested in the properties of this mysterious fruit. Robert Greaves, owner and founder of Mhoba, located in the province of Mpumalanga (near Mozambique), is preparing the imminent release of an agricole white rum with marula: “It’s the rum of nostalgia, when I was a child it was the fruit I consumed at the foot of the tree”, confided Robert at the last Whisky Live (24-26 September 2022), giving a tasting of his latest creation. On the palate, we found these exotic fruit notes, amplified by the pure cane juice. A delight!
With its new launch on the premium gin market (€29.90), Amarula has succeeded in offering a brandy that stands out from its competitors in a market that is always looking for novelties. The strength of Marula, which attracts many curious people, remains the major asset of a brand that is knocking on the doors of the European market.