Moving amongst the distillery’s copper, wood and steel, Phetla glides flawlessly from the barrel maturation cellar to fermentation and distillation – bringing to life the fluidity required to make whisky. Envision a whisky that will only be ready in years to come requires a calmness of mind, and Phetla says ballet has helped her to calm herself and deal with the pressures of life.
“Dancing is a beautiful conversation, and while you dance, you expose your inner self. And at the heart of this conversation is the perfection of the art form. It’s theatrical, a magic of the mind, and I judge myself daily in pursuit of perfection. There is no space for mistakes – it changes the entire composition of the performance. Practice is a very humbling experience for me. I am constantly aware of the faults I make, yet it’s an incredible conversation that I have during that time with myself.”
Meryll Stocks Roos, Three Ships Whisky marketing manager, says the series will bring across the essence of the brand’s globally awarded success, coming from a country that in the traditional sense was never deemed able to make whisky.
“The aim is to applaud the South African dreamers, true believers and doers who make the country an extraordinary place to live in with a sense of pride. It’s about being proud of doing things in SA in our own unique way and standing out with our courage and world-class ambition.”
It was not only Phetla’s exceptional success that caught the attention of the brand, but also the way that she deals with obstacles. Launched in 1977, Three Ships Whisky has grown to become an internationally award-winning brand despite having a number of challenges to manage during those first few years of starting up, much like the renowned ballerina.
“My height is both an advantage and disadvantage, yet it sets me apart,” says Phetla. “I have to deal with the struggles of being told that I am too tall to perform a certain sequence, yet I find ways to work around my height to avoid being discouraged. I adapt the movement of my body to overcome this obstacle and turn it into my own unique style without being disrespectful to the art form of ballet.
“Mental preparation is imperative before a performance. And although passion is imperative, you have to be mentally prepared to craft. As a dancer, you are in constant competition with yourself and it’s within this that I find the exceptional by dealing daily with defeat, lifting myself up each time and constantly striving towards perfection.”
Master distiller Andy Watts has created many firsts for the local industry with Three Ships Whisky and defied the belief that making whisky was reserved for a select few countries. At Africa’s only commercial whisky distillery, Watts crafts whiskies that not only make South Africans proud but also steal the spotlight at international whisky competitions.
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