It’s difficult to understand that elephant dung could be the key ingredient of a fine spirit drink, but it’s a fact. South African gin Indlovu is created with botanicals gathered from the pachyderm poop.
Paula and Les Ansley, both worked as professors in various fields of biology, opted to move from the UK to South Africa post-retirement, and transpired a way to add to conservation efforts in the area and help the local community.
Neither of them had any knowledge that elephant dung would be such a key factor in their plan. It just sorts of took place. Today they have a distillery that utilizes “botanicals foraged by elephants” and gathered from their poop to make Indlovu gin, a premium spirit that doesn’t taste anything as you’d be imagining.
The Ansleys thought of their premium spirit concept a couple of years back while traveling to an animal reserve in South Africa. A game ranger showed to them how elephants are particular about the food they forage but absorb less than half of what they eat, with the other half of their plant diet staying intact in their dung.
Upon knowing this, Les, a gin lover, questioned himself, why not let elephants gather the best natural ingredients and utilize them to flavor a unique gin?
Although none of them had any experience in distilleries, the two formed a plan to source and use elephant dung to make a top-quality spirit, and in 2018 they created Indlovu Gin.
“We spoke with Botlierskop [Game Reserve in the Western Cape], and we asked them, do you think you could transport us some elephant dung?” Les Ansley told CNN. “They answered, yeah sure, no worries, and they sent us some elephant dung, and we began looking at how to prepare it.”
The first step is to let the dung dry and then make it go through a sterilization process. It is then washed and dried repeatedly and eventually infused into the gin. Other than the classic gin ingredients, like juniper and coriander, Indlovu also receives its flavor from extracts of the elephants’ diet of roots, grasses, fruit, and bark, like aloe and acacia.
Each bottle of Indlovu features the GPS coordinates of where the dung was found from, as well as the date it was gathered. “Depending on where we find the botanicals or which elephants we gather botanicals from, the gin flavor is going to shift slightly,” Les Ansley explained.
The initial batch of Indlovu gin was produced in November of 2019, and it has since made its way through various markets, including other African countries and Europe. Its response has been mixed, which the Ansleys agree was expected, given the controversial nature of the main ingredient utilized. However, many of those who have tried it stated themselves to be impressed by its taste.
“It has an earthy, grassy-type flavor,” Les Ansley said. “We were very aware that if we are producing a gin from dung, we have to make a fine gin.”
The Andleys’ distillery donated 15% of its profits to the Africa Foundation to aid elephants’ conservation.