The Tavern Tatler

News for the liquor trade

Truman & Orange – shaking and stirring the South African liquor industry

Rowan Leibbrandt is the founding owner of Truman & Orange, the national premium drinks company that brought us Malfy Gin, Fortaleza Tequila and Don Papa Aged Rum, to name a few. We spoke to him ahead of its well-timed launch of three more international, disruptive brands for discerning drinkers: Mazzatti Birra Superiore, Mionetto Prosecco and Bannerman’s Fine Scotch Whisky.

What is Truman & Orange doing differently to other liquor distributors in SA? 

We sell brands with real provenance and authenticity, from interesting places that have a long-standing tradition of making high-quality drinks but which are only being discovered now.

We sell brands with real provenance and authenticity, from interesting places that have a long-standing tradition of making high-quality drinks but which are only being discovered now.  That’s what people are interested in nowadays.

How did you get rights to distribute and sell the brands that you’ve secured in South Africa?

Most of them are personal relationships that I have built up in my various international travels. We don’t do business with companies, we do business with people.

How long has it taken to get T&O up and running? 

Three years and counting!

 How did you start your company?

Largely at my dining room table, with a mobile phone, connecting with people who were working on brands that I’d come across while living in Europe - and spending a lot of time in planes, flying to see where these curious brands came from and how they were made.

What is your vision for the company?   

We want to offer South African drinkers choice. We want to help them discover that they needn’t be drinking one mass-produced whisky (or gin, or vodka) but that there is a world of choice out there for curious drinkers looking to experience exceptional products with unique stories and ways of being made. Isn’t that cool?

What are the top two or three learnings you gained from your international experience? 

Packaging matters a lot in the world of drinks and it’s important – but if the liquid doesn’t deliver someone will try the product once and never again, and no amount of marketing will help. What’s in the bottle, and what it tastes like, counts. 

Go and see things for yourself. When we start a relationship with a company, it's done face to face. We spend a lot of time in different parts of the world visiting distilleries and drinks craftsmen. It’s important to connect with people before we work together, and it’s critical we see how they’re doing things so we can be confident what we’re selling is of the quality it claims to be.

About Truman & Orange:

Truman & Orange was founded in 2013 with the single-minded mission of offering increasingly sophisticated South African drinkers alternatives to the mega-brands that have monopolised what we’ve been drinking. The Truman & Orange portfolio consists of high-quality, hand-crafted brands from all over the world which it is proud to offer discerning South African drinkers. This national, premium drinks company prides itself on a collection of brands that include Bannerman’s Scotch Whisky, Grace Du Roi Sparkling Wine, Malfy Italian Gin, Godet Cognac, Fortaleza Tequila, Don Papa Aged Rum, Spytail Black Ginger Rum, Innis & Gunn Beers and others. Truman & Orange is a national business with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town and representation in all the key South African metropoles. For more information visit:

New excise duty hikes could harm brandy

The South African Brandy Foundation has expressed its concern about the recently announced excise duty hikes for brandy, claiming they could pose a major setback for producers and impede recent entrepreneurship, training and job creation initiatives.

Speaking on behalf of the country's brandy industry, the Foundation's director, Christelle Reade-Jahn, said that ironically, the above-inflation hikes had come just as the industry was seeing the first green shoots of recovery after a succession of many lean years.

The excise duty for blended brandy will rise by 8.5%, resulting in an increase from R175.19 per litre to R190.08 per litre.  Potstill and vintage brandies, which have earned widespread international critical acclaim, are to be even harder hit.  The 14.6% excise tariff increase will push the per-litre level from R149.23 to R171.07.

"The granting in 2016 of a 10% lower differential excise tariff for potstill brandy compared with other spirits has given this premium brandy category a much-needed boost," said Reade-Jahn. "Significantly, with the increase in potstill sales, greater awareness and support have begun to develop, generating exciting new opportunities in craft brandy. Now, the reduced differentiation for potstill brandies could dent our initial headway in developing the craft sector and make it more difficult to bring additional craft players on board."

"At the same time, our concern is that the 8.5% excise tax could hurt the nascent recovery of the blended brandy category, which is where the most significant job multiplier economic impact lies, since it accounts for the biggest volume of brandies consumed," she said.

Reade-Jahn said it was important to remember that brandy is a highly labour-intensive industry and a key job generator in the Western Cape. "We need to protect and grow those jobs and encourage South Africans to buy local, knowing that our brandies are internationally regarded as world-class."

She said that government intervention, coupled with the support of the retail and on-premise sectors, as well as active marketing efforts by brandy producers to promote local tourism and boost cellar-door sales, had all been bearing fruit. Buoyed until now by the fledgling recovery, the Foundation had been able to establish an entrepreneurial hub to develop a craft brandy movement. Through its producer network it had also been creating training, mentoring and internship opportunities for new entrants to the industry. 

For more information visit: