There’s something about the combination of botanicals in gin with the ever-so-potent juniper that drives some people to seek out milder spirits like vodka, mezcal, and tequila.
It can even pose as an obstacle for distillers who craft gin as it became one of the biggest challenges Janneman and Kobá Solms, creators of Muti Gin, faced.
Inspired by their South African roots and ancient medicine, Muti Gin began as a creative project for the husband-and-wife duo to bond over in their free time when their children were asleep. Just like any passion project, they put their heart, soul, and energy into producing something that felt authentically indigenous and could be enjoyed anywhere in the world. To kick things off, they began with the distillation process.
“Juniper distilled by itself tastes awful,” says Jan. “We tried everything to balance it out, from crushing the berries for different amounts of time to playing with the number of grams per liter, even leaving the blend to settle for two weeks.”
At one point, they almost ended up with a lemon liqueur instead of gin because they opted not to use juniper at all. Luckily, through experimentation and patience, they were able to formulate the perfect blend of botanicals, crushed juniper included, to create the flavor profile and aroma they envisioned for MUTI—a great accomplishment considering Koba was pregnant at the time and was only able to assist in the process via her keen sense of smell, and of course, the vital knowledge she gained from studying distillation.
“Creating our gin was a passion that leaned towards heavy reading and sharpening up our math skills,” states Jan. “Koba also took a course in distilling at New Harbour Distillery and a detailed course through Distillique, a supplier of the distilling industry in South Africa.”
All the while Koba was honing in on the gin, Jan, as a co-founder of a design studio called Fanaklo, took the reigns on the design front. His main objective was to create the most South African looking gin on a shelf that he could, and with the name already derived from the South African word for medicine, he was well on his way.
Jan kicked things off by determining which bottle they would house the gin in, and after a few back and forths, decided a brown port bottle was the one for two reasons. One, a clear bottle didn’t give off the strong sense of the South African word, and two, it was a fraction of the cost compared to most bottles.
This chunk of savings allowed the Solms to get more creative with the design, which is how they were able to sandblast the logo instead of just slapping on a paper label.
“The sandblast idea came to us when Kobá threw some sea glass in a Gin and Tonic while on a summer holiday in December,” states Jan. “We could not believe that the bubbles from the tonic reacted with the rugged surface of the sea glass pebbles.”
“And BOOM!,” chimes in Kobá. “The sandblasted label jumped in Jan’s mind.”
While the unique idea may have occurred in an instant, producing the sandblasted design on the bottle took a series of trial and error as the intricated details Jan hoped for were not possible.
As a result, they kept it simple and focused on a few key elements. For starters, a mortar and pestle, an ancient tool once used to crush botanicals for medicinal purposes, served as the focal point. Behind this design sits Pieke Mountain, a range that can see from their hometown, and below it, the name of the spirit and illustrations of waves.
“The waves breaking left and right resembles the two coastal Fynbos (small belt of natural shrubland) that we use,” begins Jan. “The Fynbos region stretches all the way from Lambertsbay on the western coast to Mandela on the eastern. The famous breaking wave on the West Coast is called Elands, and the famous right breaking wave is called Jeffreys Bay.”
The last of the sandblasted design are dots that not only showcase the eight botanicals used to create the gin but resemble the sand where two of the botanicals love to grow.
It also helps that it’s an ideal place to enjoy a gin and tonic.
“Moving forward, we want to meet cool people who are passionate about stocking our gin all over the world,” begins Koba. “And to have our Muti used around the world by amazing mixologist that want to craft the perfect cocktail.”