Human Interest

Bottoms up: South Africa gin makers exploit qualities of elephant dung

By Nerea González

Johannesburg, Jun 30 (efe-epa).- Early one morning about two years ago, Paula Ansley woke her husband Les to ask him a rather odd question — “Do you think we could make gin with elephant dung?”

It turned out to be a lightbulb moment that led to the creation of a company that nowadays exports a spirit with a hint of the South African savannah to the likes of Germany and Switzerland.

The couple — Les is South African, Paula is British — is producing about 1,000 bottles of the original Indlovu Gin, which means “elephant” in several local languages, every month.

Their production of the pink variety is almost double that.

The largest market for Indlovu Gin is in South Africa, where gin consumption has witnessed something of a boom in recent years fuelling a rise in the number of artisanal distilleries from just a few dozen, to roughly 60 in a five-year period.

Although its uniqueness means it isn’t to everyone’s taste, Indlovu is already available in European markets such as Belgium, German and Switzerland and, all going well, will soon launch in Japan.

“It’s got a very, very grassy taste, very earthy, and it’s very smooth, almost buttery in your mouth. So it has a lovely texture and when you swallow, there’s no harsh alcohol feeling, there’s no added sugar or anything so you don’t get that sharp burn when you swallowed either,” Les Ansley tells Efe.

The couple says it goes well with coffee or chocolate.

The secret of this pachydermic gin lies in the special diet of the elephants. The giant herbivores spend around 18 hours a day consuming around 300 kilograms of food, selecting a wide variety of different leaves, roots and shrubs.

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