The Whisky Whiz On How His Whisky Took Him Far

On a cool April afternoon in Johannesburg, we are at 4th Avenue in Parkhurst – a charming suburb with stylish resto-bars, Afr0-chic boutiques, and eateries spilling onto the streets – for a rather heady experience in the middle of the day. Every tipple, every bit of trivia is crucial for this entrepreneur on the block. At the Bottega Café, which gets full on weekends and most weeknights, owner Saverio Cardillo is always present to offer customers a hands-on experience and bespoke tastings of whisky. He pulls up a chair and gets talking animatedly about the bottles of the fermented beverage that imperviously fill the glass showcases lining all the walls of his café.

For starters, he says there are two ways to spell it – and that could be a conversation starter at any party. The Irish spell it ‘whiskey’ and the Scots ‘whisky’. “I call it the heaven journey. It is a little point that no one knows about. Every single person that walks in here and does not know about it, they walk in and say ‘wow!’ because it is like a little onion, that you can just exfoliate all these layers,” says Cardillo.

FORBES AFRICA: A Scientist With Spirit The restaurant is small and intimate but the umpteen bottles of whisky in every crevice and the cabinets behind you, make it akin to a distillery, minus the bulky barrels.

Cardillo’s love for whisky started only over eight years ago when he was first gifted a Glen Ord by one of his suppliers.

“I tasted it and it was phenomenal. That is how I got into single malts and started dabbling in all the Ireland malts…”

A South African with Italian heritage, Cardillo says he has a palate for Scottish whisky. And for this interview too, whisky-tasting is a prelude. He gets us to taste the Pogues Irish Whiskey, which is very gentle, soft and easy. My colleague tasted the Jameson Distillery Edition with the orange, brown sugar, ginger, peach and salt taste.