I suppose good taste (in the aesthetic sense) is not really what cream liqueurs are all about. And for some the same applies to the more directly sensual sense – I’ll never forget Cathy van Zyl’s remark that she wouldn’t drink Amarula Cream even if it were poured over Brad Pitt. So I don’t imagine she would be seduced into lovingly stroking a bottle of Wild Africa Cream with its faux-fur covering, and fondling its dangling pair of “ubuntu beads”.
Because, yes, this bottle is the kitschest thing you’ve ever seen – it makes those bottles in the shape of Table Mountain seem positively tasteful. There’s a bad painting of a leopard’s head on the label, and the bottled is covered with a shiny sheath of leopard-print sub-velveteen fabric. And the beads? “We place ubuntu beads around the neck, because we are proudly South African and hold dear to our heritage”, say the PR people, with cynicism that is as sweetly sickly as the drink itself. But you can imagine the design team leaping around the room in delight when they got this idea of how to make another cream liqueur even more authentically “African” than Amarula, and thus help to make it irresistible to, well, some people passing through airport shops, etc. KWV has recently bought the brand (which has been going since 2002) and says that its attraction lay in “its unique, African appeal”.
They proudly sent round bottles of the stuff to no doubt a host of journalists, which is why I am now staring in horrified fascination at mine. There’s even a gilt pawprint on the top of the screwcap, and leopards leap around the screwcap side.
But I wonder how many of the journalists who got a bottle have actually dared to open it and taste? Well, I have. I confess that, unlike Cathy, I really enjoy a mouthful or two of this ghastly sort of thing – even without a sticky Brad Pitt, or reasonable facsimile, in lieu of stemware. Even though it leaves me feeling a little queasy. Frankly, Wild Africa is not all that different from what I remember of Amarula Cream – because the cream is the important thing, along with a comforting whack of spirits and another of sugar, and toffee-ish, coconutty, caramelish flavours. But I rather think that Amarula is a touch more interesting and vibrantly balanced.
The sales figures of these drinks are quite amazing. I did a bit of googling and found that Wild Africa Cream was launched in Germany in 2008 and sold 220 000 bottles in a year. In June 2009 it was available in 44 countries and production was abound a million litres.
I wonder if it was KWV’s move into the cream liqueur business in a big way which prompted Distell, owners of Amarula, to hand over another pile of money to Fifa to make it an official licensed product for the World Cup (they already have Nederburg doing the wines, though rumour has it that someone had wrongly counted the number of noughts in the figure they had to pay FIFA before signing the contract, causing some later distress – surely not).
So now Amarula is available in a splendid “limited-edition” packaging (limited to just a few million bottles probably – they should indeed become collector’s items). As the promoters say, the smart new livery (compared to Wind Africa Cream, the bottles are marvels of understated elegance) uses “the official World Cup trophy in gold as a centrepiece against a black backdrop to capitalise on the expected increase in the number of visitors to the country before and during the football competition”.
I wonder if it’s enough to make Cathy van Zyl think she might perhaps be willing to contemplate a glass of Amarula Cream if it were poured all over David Beckham.