The unique ingredient of the drink is marula, an indigenous African fruit the size of a small plum but oval in shape. The marula fruit cannot be cultivated but only grows wild and sun-ripens to a rich yellow, with a tough outer skin surrounding its fibrous, white flesh.
Amarula Cream is made with sugar, cream and the fruit of what is also locally called the Elephant tree or the Marriage Tree. Elephants enjoy eating the fruit of the marula tree and let locals know when the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked.
Because of the marula tree's association with elephants, producer Distell has made them its symbol and supports elephant conservation efforts, co-funding the Amarula Elephant Research Programme at the University of Natal, Durban.
In 2016 the Amarula Trust formed a partnership with conservation charity Wildlife Direct and its founder, Dr Paula Kahambu, working to protect the less than 400,000 elephants still surviving. The Amarula website contains details on how to help.
Amarula was first marketed in September 1989 and is now the second-largest-selling cream liqueur in the world. Its new-shaped bottle is based on a rescued elephant, Jabulani, who lives at an elephant camp in Hoedspuit, adjacent to the Kruger National Park.
The Amarula Lapa (the Sotho name for a gathering place) is the hospitality centre for the liqueur and is an ideal stop-off for anyone visiting the game parks of the Limpopo Province.
Made from traditional thatch, stone and wood, it offers educational films and lectures, light lunches and tastings of Amarula milkshakes and cocktails, including the Springbok, a popular South African chaser that is a combination of Creme de Menthe and Amarula Cream.
The lapa is just outside the town of Phalaborwa and is close to the processing plant where the fresh marula fruit is brought during the harvesting season, de-stoned and the pulp fermented before being transported to the distillery in Stellenbosch. It spends two years in French oak and has a soft caramel flavour.
Well worth sampling at between $30-35 a bottle.
Amarula Lapa is at 4311 First Avenue, R40, Phalaborwa, 1390, South Africa. It is open 8am-5pm weekdays and 8am-4pm Saturdays and public holidays.
# This is an edited version of a story that appeared in Winestate magazine. The writer was a guest of Amarula.
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