5 minutes with Mirari Gin distiller Shanna-Rae Wilby
She is the brains behind the Mirari Pink, Mirari Blue and Mirari Amber which form part of the Johannesburg-based Time Anchor Distillery.
JOHANNESBURG - As South Africa celebrates gin more and more with the various festivals, EWN Lifestyle had a moment with co-founder and head distiller at Time Anchor Distillery, Shanna-Rae Wilby, to better understand gin and the tantalising Mirari range.
Wilby’s alchemy journey started in a rose garden. As a child, she would accompany her grandmother into her garden, picking roses to infuse into medical grade ethanol and learning to create basic perfumes. This was the inadvertent starting point for her vocation as the chief alchemist at Three Anchor Distillery.
She is the brains behind the Mirari Pink, Mirari Blue and Mirari Amber; all three form part of the Johannesburg-based distillery and in the little time we spent with her.
Q: How did the idea of the Mirari range come about?
A: After having been in the industry for a while and having been able to build up our brand, I realised that I wanted to branch out and create a product that is a bit more of myself and feminine. It started with me wanting to create a blue gin that changes colour. It's not a unique thing because there are about 13 distillers that do that in the world but the taste itself is unique.
Q: How long did it take to make that dream a reality?
A: It took me 14 months to get it developed and ready; it's a really long process. So, what happens when you add tonic is that you're changing the pH of the gin and tonic to something acidic and then people marvel at that and that's what is amazing. That's how the name actually came about. Mirari is an old Latin word meaning to marvel and then it's the root word for mirror and mirage and so it was very fitting to this colour change that we did.
Q: Tell us more about the uniqueness of the Mirari range.
A: Our blue gin is the spice gin and I wanted a complementing floral gin and we set about creating it, which took about 12 months to create. Our gins are very natural, we don’t use enhancers or flavourings, it’s 100% natural because I didn’t want to make something and then all of a sudden it loses its taste. One other thing that was really important was the packaging and the design, it doesn’t scream ‘alcoholic beverage’. It’s very soft and feminine. I created it because I wanted something that would reflect my input in the distillery a little bit more.
Q: Tell us an interesting fact about some of your ingredients.
A: We wanted to make sure that we use the most top-quality ingredients that we can, ones that another top gin makers around the world use. The one that stands out for us is the honeybush (crop) that we use to infuse the gin which gives it its amazing amber colour is actually an endangered species. So, we have that specially grown for us.
Q: What are some of the best garnishes for Mirari gins?
A: The flavours are really amazing so your garnishes can either enhance or hide the flavour depending on what they are. For our Mirari Blue in Summer, for example, blueberries and mint are amazing for garnishing. Then in Winter, you can add cinnamon. It takes a bit of experimenting as garnishes work differently for different people. Our Mirari Pink goes well with pink peppercorns as it balances the floral flavour excellently. Then for the Mirari Amber pairs very well with oranges.
But generally speaking, rosemary for a gin and tonic is great. Coriander is the second most used botanical in a gin, so if you add lemon, which shares a chemical component with coriander, it would be just as great.
Q: Any more amazing gins you’re working on at the moment?
A: There’s another brand that we’re creating under Time Anchor Distillery, that will be a more clear, London dry gin so yeah… just be on the lookout for it.