01 December 2010 by Chris Marais

Wild Moonshine Whisky Tales of the Heartland Part I

They say mampoer is one of the signature alcohols of South Africa, the fighting spirit of the Old Transvaal. Theoretically, there should be mampoer bars in all self-respecting, fruit-growing towns north of the Vaal River.

On the other hand, what would be the point? If the patrons actually partook at source, so to speak, they’d be legless within three tots. Who would drive them home?

Mampoer then, is best drunk by brave men in the safety of their homes, with the wife and kids away for the weekend and a sixpack of aspirins to hand.

Some time back, I meet Oom Martiens Krugel of Lydenburg, then 80 years old and walking with the aid of a stick. Oom Martiens has been a ‘stoker’ (moonshiner) for more than a half-century. He’s had a licence to deal since the Democratic Elections of 1994.

As you drive past on the Dullstroom-Lydenburg road, the sign simply reads: Krugel Mampoer. Daar’s ‘n skop in elke dop (There’s a kick in every shot).”

Oom Martiens is a self-taught mampoer stoker, who bought his own ‘kettle’ back in 1948. The revenuers still come looking for the stokers. The business is heavily taxed.

Now anyone will tell you that it’s OK if a fruit worm or two falls into the brew - it simply adds to the character. Oom Martiens is proud of his ‘zero tolerance for worms’ policy. And does he indulge?

“You know, I just don’t like the stuff…”

Category: Culture & History

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