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Oddities

Couple Makes Gin From Elephant Dung

After a holiday to a game reserve in South Africa, Paula Ansley and her husband Les thought it would it be possible to make gin using elephant dung?

Les, a South African, had moved to the UK years earlier, where he met Paula. Both worked as professors in different fields of biology, but after leaving academia they hatched a plan to move to South Africa to start a business that could contribute to conservation and give back to the community.

So after that visit to the game reserve, Paula, a gin lover, reasoned: Why not let elephants do the hard work of collecting a range of natural ingredients for flavoring gin? Neither had any experience distilling, but the pair took a gamble and in 2018 they created Indlovu Gin, infused with “botanicals foraged by elephants” — and sourced from their poop.

“We contacted Botlierskop [Game Reserve in the Western Cape] and we said, do you think you could send us some elephant dung?” explained Les Ansley. “They said, yeah sure, no problem, and they mailed us some elephant dung and we started looking at how to prepare it.”

The dung is dried and goes through a sanitization process, before it is rinsed and dried again says Ansley, making it entirely safe to drink. The final dry product is then infused into the gin.  

But doesn’t the gin taste like … dung? “It’s got an earthy, grassy-type flavor,” said Ansley. “Depending on where we collect the botanicals or which elephants we collect botanicals from, the gin flavor is going to change slightly.”

As well as including classic gin flavorings like juniper and coriander, Indlovu Gin takes its taste from extracts of the elephants’ diet of roots, grasses, fruit and bark – including aloe and acacia.

“We were very aware that if we are making a gin from dung, we have to make a good gin,” said Ansley.

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