Cape Town Master Distiller launches MAHALA BOTANICAL

Danielle Schoeman

An exciting new addition to the dynamic No & Low movement – Mahala Botanical is crafted from nine botanicals and each bottle is hand produced at Dona Distillery; from farm to glass. And what is ‘No & Low’ you may ask? It’s an exceptionally fast-growing segment of the global drinks industry. The pandemic accelerated an already popular health and wellness trend and sober-curiosity is on the increase with a growing audience of moderate drinkers or complete abstainers.

Driving the No & Low trend are discerning consumers who are looking for an upmarket drink that contains no alcohol, sugar or other additives. They are prepared to pay more for a drink that is an experience, has a story and, like fine wines, a hand-crafted aspect. In response to this growing demand, Mahala Botanical was developed in 2020. A locally produced, non-alcoholic, triple-distilled spirit imbued with the flavours of Cape fynbos, Mahala Botanical is the brainchild of Capetonian Danielle Schoeman, one of the few female Master Distillers in South Africa, and is produced at her craft distillery in Cape Town.

“Mahala Botanical was created to provide those who don’t want to consume alcohol with a sophisticated alternative that has all the nuances and flavours of an alcoholic drink,” Danielle explains. And they have certainly succeeded, having won the Best Low/No-Alcohol Spirit award at the prestigious Michelangelo International Wines & Spirits Awards in the same year the product was launched. Mahala has also received favourable reviews from leaders in the food and drinks industry here in South Africa and abroad. Inspired by the Cape fynbos, Danielle created Mahala with nine botanicals some of which are indigenous to the Cape. “These include buchu which adds subtle floral notes and honeybush which contributes a soft sweetness,” says Danielle. The resulting clear spirit is complex and layered with aromas of spices and subtle florals with a herbaceous and long citrus finish.

“I only came up with the name after I had developed the product,” she reveals. “I was walking on the beach and I thought Mahala, a Zulu word meaning free, says it all – free from alcohol, sugar, colourants and additives.” Mahala Botanical is also gluten-free and suitable for vegans. The beautiful bottle featuring exquisite botanicals enhances its natural appeal. It’s a true farm to glass process with Danielle and her team involved in every step. Ethically sourced plants, some from Danielle’s family farm, are first macerated in a high-proof spirit to extract the flavours. Water is added and the alcohol removed before further distillation in Dona’s custom-made stainless-steel vacuum stills. “We own the entire process from foraging the botanicals to distilling and bottling and we hand label every bottle,” says Danielle. Her team of four consists of herself, Stefan Vermaak the production manager and Laston Samuwi the production assistant who is also completing his Masters at Stellenbosch University.

Their eagle eye and bottle labeller is Pulani Mphumela who personally checks every bottle before it leaves the distillery.

UK based Co-founder and Director of Mahala Botanical, Paul Scanlon, who has extensive experience in the international drinks industry says, “The No & Low sector has enjoyed exponential growth, fuelled by an increase in more moderate, healthy drinking habits amongst consumers. Not only does Mahala provide an exceptional quality and depth of taste, but we also own the complete ‘farm to glass’ process, affording us an incredible opportunity to ensure incomparable quality at every step of the process.” The Global No/Low category was worth $10b in 2021 and forecast to grow +14% between 2021-2025. There are now numerous dedicated No/Low bars and stores across US, UK and Ireland stocking only Non-Alcoholic brands. Mahala will also be launched in the dynamic UK market in late March 2022 at an iconic London venue with Trade and lifestyle press in attendance. Mahala Botanical is distributed in South Africa by premium liquor merchants Truman & Orange. Founder Rowan Leibbrandt comments, “No & Low is becoming the cool choice.

There’s a definite move towards being more health conscious. Although people are not necessarily giving up alcohol completely, they often want an alternative, a drink that is sophisticated and celebratory, a reward at the end of the day. And this is what a premium zero-alcohol spirit like Mahala Botanical provides.”

Danielle Schoeman

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