And we thought it was from marula fruit.
After carefully nurturing the image of an 'indigenous' cream liqueur that 'is made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea)' (Wikipedia), court papers now show that the brand not only contains cane spirits, but also fortified wine.
In a further blow to the brand's integrity, it turns out that we locals get a different version to the one exported. (Business Day's Michael Bleby reports that 'in a bid to keep the local version classified as a wine-based liqueur, the company reduced the volume of cane spirits from 129,70ml/l to 114,82ml and raised the proportion of fortified wine from 100ml to 171,82ml'.
The information was part of a court case in the North Gauteng high court last week where Distell was challenging rulings by the revenue collector SARS.
It has been one of the most romantically-easy soft sells for Distell that Amarula traces its origins to the seasonal fruit picked by local inhabitants in Limpopo. Wine from this highly-aromatic fruit, cool-trucked down to Stellenbosch, is distilled and aged in oak barrels to form the basis of the cream liqueur. As recently as the last harvest, journalists were shown around the facility in Phalaborwa and the maturation outfit in Stellenbosch.
Of course, this is true and all very interesting, even exciting, given the local empowerment aspect. But given the volumes of Amarula that is sold all over the world, it would have been obvious that one harvest a year up north (even though always abundant) was not going to be quite enough to match the reported sales. It is not that Distell claimed marulas were the only source as such, but the image projected, was certainly that. They didn't want their secret recipe revealed, but now it is all out. Darn!