The launch yesterday of a Van Ryn super premium brandy called Au.ra (below) at the Michelangelo Towers as a curtain raiser to the annual Fine Brandy Fusion Festival is the most serious attempt thus far to convert brandy from a working class beverage to a luxury good. And it’s desperately needed as today’s Business Day profile of Sishen confirms. Workers have had something of a windfall from Kumba with over 6000 receiving around R500,000 each from a share ownership scheme. The Kathu Spar has seen turnover rocket 58% while the Tops at Spar liquor store shoots out the lights with 64% growth. Manager Rudi Botma says the newly rich miners are blowing their bonanzas on expensive liquor “particularly whiskies. Guys are consuming more. They also bought cars and TVs.”
When the nouveau riche in the Northern Cape are buying expensive Scotch, vindicating Spar’s retired liquor executive Ray Edwards whisky buying spree, the height of the hill brandy has to climb is clear. Au.ra is a first step in appealing to Kumba miners and the R14K price tags will not deter them. The opposite actually as a senior official at the mine is quoted “the employees at this mine are a little windgat now, but how can you not be windgat with all that cash?”
For the very name is geological as Au is the chemical symbol for gold and many iron ore miners have transferred from the gold mines of the Witwatersrand which are on the gentle slope to oblivion. Ra was the Egyptian sun god which introduces an appropriate African motif.
However, an even more appropriate interpretation of the name come from Anthropology with Au.africanus, the father of Homo erectus and thus Big Daddy to us all. From Au.africanus to Au.africanus to Au.ra, an important step in the ascent of man. With the Northern Cape already home to the world’s first restaurant, the contribution of the northwest to SA culinary heritage is confirmed. Perhaps the next Fine Brandy Fusion should be held in Kathu – after all, the first bottle of Au.ra, number zero, was sold earlier this month for 300,000 Kenyan Shillings (about R30K) at a brandy festival in Nairobi.