While Rolls-Royce Motorcars has a rich history dating back to 1904, it's likely few people know that the Van Ryn's brandy distillery was established in South Africa just a year later.
In the 110-plus years since Rolls-Royce Motorcars and Van Ryn's Distillery were established, a proud history of quality craftsmanship, the finest raw materials and careful attention to the smallest detail has been built and nurtured in the culture of both companies.
While thousands of kilometres separate the Rolls-Royce headquarters in Goodwood, United Kingdom, and the Van Ryn's brandy distillery in Stellenbosch, South Africa, both have achieved global acclaim for their respective products.
Rolls-Royce bespoke designer Alex Innes, from the UK headquarters, and Distell Master Brandy distiller Brink Liebenberg convened in Johannesburg in June to discuss fine craftsmanship from their individual perspectives, unpacking the fastidious processes behind their respective disciplines.
Since the final products are greater than a sum of their individual parts, the base wine which is distilled to make Van Ryn brandy is of exceptional quality, grown and sourced with the end destination in mind. Distillation, done in copper potstills, is an age-old process which has fascinated over centuries, and was once believed to hold the key to the secret formula of life. "Maturation, in French oak barrels, is a natural miracle between brandy, wood and air over time that not even modern science can explain. It is here that the clear grape distillate obtains its characteristic amber colour, as well as spicy complexity from the wood," Liebenberg said.
|Rolls Royce bespoke designer Alex Innes and Van Ryns master distiller Brink Liebenberg|
The Rolls-Royce manufacturing process is done by hand, with only spray painting of vehicles done by machine to ensure even distribution. The design philosophy centres on the principle of simplicity. Shapes are purposeful, lines are considered, with the results elegant and timeless. Liebenberg, an engineer by training, sees the brandy blending process as similar, one of trial and error until the magic happens – when one brandy added to a blend ignites tastes and flavours previously hidden. "South Africa's connoisseur potstill brandies rank on a par with the world's best cognacs and stand way ahead of brandies made elsewhere," Liebenberg said.
Innes, who holds a BA (Hons) in Automotive Design and has created bespoke designs for discerning Rolls-Royce clients for the past five years, collaborates on special collections and works with creative clients on designs which are made a reality by the motor company's skilled craftsmen.
"Rolls-Royce Bespoke Atelier is about fulfilling each owner's wish for exclusivity and creativity. We work under the guiding principle that 'The Only Limit is Your Imagination.' Bespoke allows owners to express themselves and create design to their own unique tastes," said Innes.
Rolls-Royce has set the standard by which all other luxury carmakers are judged. Even unrelated products are lent an aura of prestige when described as the "Rolls-Royce" of their category. Van Ryn's, consistently awarded on the international stage as the world's best brandy, carries this prestige in the drinks category with a growing reputation as South African potstill brandies increase their share of the luxury drinks market.