Give us a brief history about your brand and how you got started
The inspiration for Flowstone is rooted in the incredible landscape of The Cradle of Humankind an internationally proclaimed World Heritage Site. This spectacular area, where man’s early ancestors roamed is our home.
Its very name coming from the rock formations that define the area. Drawing its flavours from the rich palette of indigenous bushveld botanicals Flowstone’s unique gins were crafted to capture the essence of this African wilderness.
Flowstone is a family owned and operated passion project that aims to showcase the stunning biodiversity of the Cradle of Humankind and support those who are working tirelessly to protect it. All our wild botanicals are sustainably harvested from within the domestic areas of the Malmani nature reserve by members of the local community.
How is your brand and product different to the vast competition out there?
While there are a huge number of amazing gins produced throughout South Africa, we here at flowstone set out to make a gin that is deeply and intrinsically African. The core flavours of each of our gins were inspired by and made from the incredible biodiversity of the cradle of humankind. Ours isn’t just a South African Gin, this is Africa… Distilled.
What inspired your logo?
Our name comes from the amazing almost liquid looking rock formations that define the area, the water from our gins is drawn from an aquifer 150 meters under the Cradle of humankind, untouched for millennia. The stunning artwork that defines our brand was actually done by one of our neighbours, a world-renowned botanical artist. Not only did she produce our stunning label paintings, but she was also the expert who helped us find and distil the palette different bushveld botanical flavours that eventually became the Flowstone range.
What made you want to start distilling and was gin your initial focus?
In 2012 we had an American professor of planetology staying at the house while he excavated a local fossil site, towards the end of his stay he brough a case of Hendriks gin as a thank-you for his time there. It was a beautiful highveld summers day and while the gin and the tonic was amazing it just needed a garnish. Both then remembered the wild cucumbers that were just coming into season around the house. The resulting GnT turned out so well that someone made one of those throw away comments that someone should make a gin out of it. 6 months later the idea was still floating around Glyn’s head, so she bought a small 5l still and began experimenting. A few short years later and flowstone was born.
What are 5 words that describe you?
Adventurous, friendly, proud, passionate & driven.
Is this your main source of work or do you have another job as well and if so, what do you do?
Gin 24/7 although we were lucky enough to get into hand sanitizer to keep things going during lockdown.
Which other distillers do you admire?
The lovely ladies from Tygerkloof Distillery down in Cape Town. Not only are their Ginsmith gins incredible, but such lovely ladies who run it too.
What kind of personality would you say you have (Rebel / Jester / Outdoorsie / Bold / Optimist / Peace-lover)?
Definitely out-doorsie, when we can drag ourselves away from the distillery, you’ll find us up in the Okavango delta where a friend owns a camp.
What is one of the best stories you can share about your experience in this industry?
Think this would have to be how our Collector’s Edition snuffbox gin came about: The snuffbox tree, Oncoba spinosa, gets its name from its hard-shelled fruit which, for thousands of years have been hollowed out to store snuff in. the dark fruit itself has an intoxicatingly complex smell that includes notes of cacao, burnt caramel and dessert wine intertwined with warm almost fruity notes.
This tree has been growing just meters from the distillery door for years and to be honest, we used to just pick them up and throw them into the bushes because they damaged the lawn mower until one day we picked one up and actually smelled it. It’s dark, rich and warm flavours were crying out to be made into a gin. Just one month later Flowstone Snuffbox gin was born going on to win a Double-Gold medal before it was even released.
What is one of the worst stories you can share about your experience in this industry?
The distribution industry can be a cut-throat game in South Africa and we have had a couple of setbacks from trusting the wrong people. Having said that we are now working with fantastic operations team. The name of the game is trust but verify.
If your company could drive, what would be its vehicle of choice?
Haha, we have an ancient old Toyota Hilux which has been the workhorse of the distillery since we started, she has just racked up her 450 thousandth km (the distance to the moon and more than halfway back) and is still going strong.
How do you reach your customers and how do you interact with them?
We have always had huge success with word-of-mouth introductions particularly at events, it is always so lovely to introduce people to our gins as well as have our regulars return. While we tend to limit the number of distillery tours we offer it is also always great to have really passionate fans stop by for a quick tour of the distillery and to join us in enjoying a GnT by the pool and looking out over the Cradle of Humankind.
What is your definition of a Craft Spirit and how many brands do you feel achieves this?
Hmm, now that is a bit of a tricky one. There are not really any formal rules on this front (well there are but there are so many loopholes that there may as well not be) and there are a couple of the larger brands that maintain their original premises just for tours and the ‘craft’ name but do all their actual distilling in huge factories in town centres. Personally, I don’t think that is a huge issue as long as the heart and passion are still there.
For me the key is in the word craft itself. If the passion and the drive are there, and possibly most importantly the pride, then I think that is all that you need to consider something craft. If it is the personal passion project of one or two people who have the drive and live the brand that is when you get something special. I think to number and quality of the SA gin brands we are seeing now shows through in that idea.
What is your vision for the Gin category in South Africa as well as your brand?
On this one there is a bit of a harsh reality, there is, or at least was before the COVID lockdowns, something of a bubble in the SA craft gin market. In late 2019 there were over 450 craft gin distilleries across the country and unfortunately that is just not a sustainable number. I think we will, and already are, seeing some of the smaller and newest brands getting pushed out of the market. This is a huge pity as there are some truly amazing things happing to gin in SA now and a lot of the really special stuff and unique ideas are being driven by the smaller distillers who have the passion and the pallet but maybe just not the capital to push the launch to the point where it becomes self-sustaining.
We here at Flowstone have been lucky on that front, we started early enough to establish ourselves and our intrinsically African identity has helped us in securing some great orders on the export market which allowed us to weather the COVID storm. It is going to be an interesting few years for the craft spirits market across the board but I think the drive and passion of our distillers will shine through.