Mampoer, a white spirit distilled from fermented fruit, is the South African equivalent of moonshine. In the Western Cape it’s commonly known as Witblitz (white lightning), while in the northern provinces it’s called Mampoer. Named for an African chief, and first distilled on the back of an ox-wagon, is it any wonder that thirsty travellers on mampoer tours end up telling tall tales?

Did you know?

Legend says the word 'mampoer' is derived from Mampuru, the name of a Bapedi chief.

Mampoer tours are a fun way of experiencing local culture and the age-old tradition of home-brewed liquor.

Nineteenth-century Cape colonists routinely distilled brandy from the bi-products of their wine industry. When Afrikaner pioneers left the Cape and trekked north they lost their access to grapes but not their desire for a strong drink at the end of a long day.

The pioneers experimented with a variety of regionally available fruits and wild berries, and a powerful alcoholic drink (it seldom has an alcohol content of less than 50%) called 'mampoer' was born. In addition to mampoer’s recreational benefits, its ‘medicinal’ qualities were prized.

Novelist Herman Charles Bosman has forever linked mampoer with the tiny hamlet of Groot Marico in the North West Province, but you’ll find mampoer distilleries to tour from Pretoria to Prieska.

The Marico tourism office runs a tour, which includes up to three farm visits, and mampoer tasting sessions, after which you may never be quite sober again.

In the Magaliesberg, the Monate Sitruskelder (citrus cellar) makes 23 mampoers. Their flagship mampoer is called Adoons (a colloquial term for a baboon), and you can taste fruit liqueurs, brandy and alcoholic fruit beverages. May we suggest a designated driver, or a night in one of the area's guesthouses?

When next you’re in Plettenberg Bay, Nyati Distillery JJJ, based at the Buffalo Hills Private Game Reserve, offers distillery tours and a mampoer called Jack’s Jungle Juice, with a potency-rating (60%) equivalent to a charging nyati (buffalo).

Wherever fruit is grown in South Africa, you’re bound to find a local mampoer distillery to tour. Klerksdorp museum make a karee-berry mampoer; Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum near Cullinan hosts mampoer-making demonstrations and annual Mampoer Festival. Prince Albert in the Swartland, Oudtshoorn, and Philippolis are all-renowned for their mampoer.

Mampoer tours aren’t only about alcohol. The real fun is deciphering the cryptic and crazy local names given to the brews, and participating in off-the-wall activities like bokdrol spoeg - a competition which involves spitting mampoer-soaked kudu droppings as far as you can.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Monate Sitruskelder
Tel: +27 (0)12 258 0712

Marico Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)14 503 9985
Email: info@maricotourism.co.za

Oudtshoorn Tourism Bureau
Tel: +27 (0)44 279 2532
Email: info@oudtshoorn.com

Prince Albert Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)23 541 1366
E-mail: princealberttourism@intekom.co.za

Worcester Tourism
(Kleinplasie Open Air Museum)
Tel: +27(0) 23 342 2225
Email: info@worcestertourism.com

Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum
Tel: +27 (0)12 736 2035/6

Trans-Gariep Museum
Tel: +27 (0)51 773 0052

How to get here

All the areas that produce mampoer are accessible by road. Some are accessible by rail and air.

Best time to visit

Most mampoer distilleries are open year-round with the exception of religious public holidays and New Year. Check with the individual establishment.

Get around

A car is your best option, but given South Africa’s strict drink-driving laws, you may prefer to go with a tour operator or stay overnight at nearby accommodation.

What will it cost

Mampoer tours vary in price depending on the time involved. A half day mampoer tour including tastings and transport will cost approximately R400.

Length of stay

A mampoer tour should only take you half a day or an evening.

What to pack

The majority of mampoer tours are in the North West Province which is very hot. Summer essentials include sunglasses, a sun hat and sunblock. Woolly hats and a jacket for winter.

What to eat

Potjiekos, a stew cooked outdoors over coals in a traditional three-legged cast iron pot, make the perfect accompaniment to a mampoer drinking session.

What's happening

The Cullinan Mampoer Festival in May, the Philippolis Witblits Festival in April.

Best buys

Herman Charles Bosman: Collected Works of Herman Charles Bosman. Southern Book Publishers. 1993