Behind the scenes | Hope’s immersive tasting room
Hope’s approach has always been incredibly hands-on, from its origins as a small-batch distillery started by husband and wife team Leigh Lisk and Lucy Beard, to the fact that the owners live on the premises and oversee the operations closely. Their experiential tasting room offers a real up-close-and-personal taste of the brand.
Located in the industrial Cape Town area of Salt River – a suburb that in the past decade has become a hub for creative enterprises and entrepreneurs – it’s a state-of-the-art facility with homely charm.
“Initially, our priority was to get the distillery up and running, but once it was well established we were able to turn our attention to the tasting room. We wanted to reflect the spirit of our products and bring a more distinctive yet modern look to the space,” explains Lucy.
It made sense to time the upgrade with the release of Hope’s updated branding – which reflects a crisp and contemporary new aesthetic. The couple was also cognisant of injecting the same entrepreneurial spirit with which they founded their brand into the space via their design choices.
“It’s important to us to support local, and so we sourced from some of our favourite South African designers and artists,” says Lucy. New chairs and bar stools from Houtlander – whose simple and contemporary silhouettes align with Hope’s brand identity – complement existing tables by James Mudge. Cork barstools and lampshades from Laurie Wiid Van Heerden from Wiid Design (who also designed the new botanical table as well as the three bottle cork display units) are offset by a piece by Paul Edmunds, and lighting is from artisanal brand Hoi P’loy – known for its retro aesthetic – while the coffee tables were custom designed by KNUS Home Décor. It’s a harmonious but eclectic mix that shows off some of South Africa’s talent in action and conveys the same cool, unpretentious attitude of the Hope brand itself.
The new and improved tasting room is the public-facing side of what is primarily a functional working distillery, and allows visitors to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of the products, as well as experience a guided tasting of Hope’s portfolio of spirits. Guests can also sample gins made for other brands. The Tasting Room is open for tastings and bottle sales on Saturdays from 12 to 5pm (the distillery is also open for bottle sales from Monday to Friday).
Visiting the Tasting Room makes for a fun and informative social experience – it’s great for tourists getting to know the city, as well as locals looking for a weekend excursion. In a casual but educational format, guests are guided through a three- or four-gin tasting, which highlights the attributes of each of the distillery’s core products. “We include our three primary gins, and then a limited release edition, whatever we’re working on at that time – it allows us to offer something unique to visitors to the tasting room, something that’s not available widely,” says Lucy.
While the focus is on the gins, you can also try some of Hope’s other specialist products. “People are welcome to try our agave and vodka spirits, but we find most people come to enjoy the whole experience that goes hand in hand with gin – the garnishes, the tonic. It’s a ritual, a tradition,” says Lucy.
Aside from an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, the experience will educate people about the complexity of what goes into gin – the process, ingredients, and equipment. The tasting room overlooks the distillery itself, which facilitates a really immersive experience. The couple has also set up a botanicals table filled with samples of ingredients and paraphernalia to show guests exactly what goes into each bottle – a sensory and practical way to demystify the process.
A charming, convivial mezzanine filled with plants and visited by the couple’s resident cats, it’s an informal and charming space in which to try some of the country’s finest artisan liquors, and engage with the people who produce them. Lucy, Leigh or both are usually on hand to greet guests, and answer questions, but they’ve also developed a team that is well versed and able to guide guests through tastings.
Cheese and charcuterie platters are available to enjoy with your tasting should you wish to spend a little longer savouring the flavours. While walk-ins are more than welcome, booking is recommended during the busier season or for larger groups.