This must be the place
Viva la Evolution

Often, when journeying, one ends up in a place that’s just perfect. For the restless wanderer it’s not the destination, but it’s worth a pause, if only to recalibrate, take stock and plan the route ahead.

Yossi Schwartz, founder of Single & Single, is here right now; a vantage point from where he enjoys a crystal glimpse of his brand’s future. A maverick traveller with a vast and varied journey, his vision is clear and certain, even as the industry’s constantly changing status is rendered all the more ambiguous by the cruel pall of this pervasive pandemic.

“Our outlook has to evolve,” he explains with understated conviction. For many, committing to any kind of shift necessitates a change in strategy, but Yossi has always maintained a twist to his tale, an agility that keeps him one step ahead, albeit on uncommon ground. This less-travelled road – peppered with rejection and blessing, mistakes then fewer mistakes, open doors and closed circles, highlands and low points – has turned out to be the ultimate preparation. Its winding, whimsical ways have paved a pertinent prelude to the massive economic and social shifts that are reshaping our most trusted landscapes.

“Anybody who assumes that now it’s business as usual, is making a mistake,” he continues. This might come off as foreboding, an acknowledgement that the horizon is hindered, but Yossi is a diehard lover of life as well as a former ad exec. And so he knows more than most that fluctuating economic stability affects human behaviour, the very same behaviour that drives desire, predilection, taste and ultimately the whisky purchasing decision. And so he has used this shift to redefine Single & Single. It’s strategic, because as a business owner he obviously needs to sell bottles, but it’s also authentic and true to his original vision. And it is all predicated on a single focus. It’s a lot simpler than it may seem, and he sums it up with a heartfelt declaration: “Sherry is my thing.”

The Main Thing

So, it’s about sherry. This is to be Single & Single’s signature; it’s rock and foundation, the true north for the travels to come. It’s nothing new though. Yossi has always been an admirer of this maturation style, but being the curious soul that he is, he allowed himself the freedom to succumb to whisky’s limitless flavours and nuances. And he bottled the ones that really caught his attention. These expressions have enjoyed enormous success, and have each contributed to the brand’s growing reputation for offering something a little different, something other independents wouldn’t think of releasing. But every time Yossi takes a moment to really think about it, to self-examine and rekindle the initial spark that set these wheels in motion, it becomes apparent that sherry has always been the guiding light.

He refers to the 13 Year Old Ledaig that he bottled in 2019 as a flagship for the whiskies he’s after. He describes its unusual fusion of campfire smoke, dried herb and dark chocolate as dramatic and different, whisky that leaves an indelible mark and ticks all of his precise yet anomalous boxes. “If you had to put a gun to my head, this is Single & Single,” he states candidly, and goes on to proclaim that he will do everything he can to live by this mantra, but…

…it’s also not just about sherry. There are always those captivating little curveballs that come along and blow the taste buds away. Yossi is happy to entertain these, but they too must punch above his rigorously high bar. This is not so much an escape clause as it is an embrace of the values upon which Single & Single was founded. His whiskies have, until now, displayed few commonalities when viewed through the classic lenses of flavour, age, region and cask finish, but they are all astonishing and atypical, lesser-known gems found on this lesser-walked journey. They are the bounty of Yossi’s bravery, a permissible detour from his now-fixed path.

It’s a road that mostly leads to the doors of the more reputable distilleries, those celebrated institutions worthy of their universal reputations. By filling his bottles with their liquid – always from a single cask and at cask strength – Yossi is sending out a dual message. He wants the purchaser to trust that Single & Single knows what it’s doing, but also know that the whisky itself is different to any other.

Getting his target market to buy into this unfamiliarity is a balancing act, but he’s also no longer in pursuit of uncertain buyers. Having set his sights on the assured, in-the-know drinker, he’s confident about the spirit he bottles, and wants to connect with consumers who feel the same way. Whilst adventurous, young enthusiasts might well happen upon and indeed enjoy what he has to offer, he seeks neither their business nor their approval. And if they never find him, then it’s no big deal. “To be honest, I’m less concerned if somebody likes it or not,” he smiles.

Single & Single Whisky Office:

iStore Queens Hotel, Cnr Stanley & Dock Road Junction V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001