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Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Mampoer an alcoholic liquor distilled traditionally in South Africa from wildfruit such as maroela's or any other fruit, peaches, etc. If you distil it from grapes its called witblitz, white lightning. In America the name for the same thing is moonshine, in Ireland, poteen. In America it's made of corn and in Ireland from potatoes.

In 1924 the distillation of mampoer was declared illegal unless you purchased a licence at great cost. This was to protect the Cape wine and brandy industry and Government taxes. Stills had to be fixed, and of a certain size. Portable stills became illegal. Every drop of mampoer had to recorded and taxed by the excise man.

Well for the freedom loving Hilly Billy types of the Groot Marico it was tantamount to war. Illegal stills sprang up every where. It was an expression of your democratic rights to have an illegal still hidden away somewhere. A wagon load of peaches transported over long distances brought in a poor return. Those same peaches turned into mampoer, were easy to transport and sell, and brought in a good cash income.

The name mampoer is said to be derived from the Pedi chief, Mampoeroe, or Mampuru, who's tribe brewed liquor from wild maroela fruit.

What got me thinking about mampoer is the short story by Herman Charles Bosman, Mampoer.
Here is a short excerpt.

The berries of the *karee-boom (Oom schalk Lourens said, nodding his head in the direction of the tall tree whose shadows were creeping towards the edge of the stoep) may not make the best kind of mampoer that there is. What I mean is that the karee-brandy is not as potent as the brandy you distil from *moepels or maroelas. Even peach brandy, they say can make you forget the *rust in the corn quicker than the mampoer you make from karee berries.

But karee-mampoer is white and soft to look at, and the smoke that comes from it when you pull the cork out of the bottle is pale and rises up in slow curves. And in time of drought, when you have been standing at the borehole all day, pumping water for the cattle, so that by evening water has got a bitter taste for you, then it is very soothing to sit on the stoep, like now, and to get somebody to pull the cork out of this kind of mampoer. Your hands will be sore and stiff from the pump handle, so if you try and pull it out the cork will seem as deep down in the bottle as the water in the borehole.

Many years ago, when I was a young man, and I sat here, on the front stoep, and I saw the white smoke floating away slowly and gracefully from the mouth of the bottle, and with a far-off fragrance, I used to think that the smoke looked like a young girl walking veiled under the stars. And now that I have grown old, and I look at the smoke, I imagine it is a young girl walking under the stars, and still veiled. I have never found out who she is.

*karee-boom, wild fruit tree.
*moepels and maroelas, wild fruit.
*rust, blight.

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