Dave Acker, brandy master

Date posted:
August 31, 2011

Dave Acker is the creative force behind the small, independent and award-winning distillery Oude Molen in Elgin/Grabouw, home of the country’s largest copper pot still, “Big Bertha” (25 000 litres).


Born in KwaZulu Natal and qualified in biochemistry, microbiology and analytical chemistry, Dave learnt his distilling craft from a London distiller in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and  worked in England, Scotland, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland and the USA.


He has made and always enjoyed drinking “all the jolly juices” (brandy, whisky, gin, rum, wine, beer…) and has been Master Distiller in charge of processing and product research and development at Oude Molen since 1991 (then known as Whitby’s Distillery).


This legendary brandy stalwart plays the role of both composer and conductor, practising his alchemist art to standing ovations: Oude Molen VOV 14 Year Old Brandy twice brought home the IWSC award for Best Brandy in the World (1999, 2001). At the 2011 IWSC, it won gold for Best in Class.


He and wife Jana have two sons, studying marketing/advertising and photography respectively.


Quoting Dave:


On tasting and exploring: For anyone aspiring to the higher echelons of spirits, there’re three musts: education, education and education.’


Inspiration: To see the often idiosyncratic development of each batch of brandy, from what you do to it in year one to how it ends up looking in year four, five; it’s a marvellous process; sometimes it can even make one feel a little like patting oneself on the back…


Favourite surprising statistic: All things being equal, the distillation cost of a premium brandy compared with a malt whisky per litre is R28 vs R16.44.


New brandy developments: The solera method of making brandy and the bottling of single-barrel brandies.


Top reads: Steven Pressfield on mostly military history from ancient and classical times.


Greatest challenge: To make a brandy that subscribes to the “expected taste” of the loyal consumer, but then also to produce something different that will pleasantly surprise.


Why SA brandy is tops: The law, exceptional in the world of brandy, that all our brandies in all three categories (blended, potstill and vintage) contain a minimum of 30% full-bodied pot still.


Hobbies: Tinkering with vintage Mercs; I have about 10, the oldest a 1952 Mercedes Benz 300.


Special dish: Cape brandy date pudding well soaked in a full-bodied brandy.



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2 comments on “Dave Acker, brandy master”

  1. Good Afternoon, I would dearly love to contact Dave as he is an old family friend. I am not sure if he is still alive. Would love to hear from him.
    Regards, Ros Millar (nee Cox)

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