1000 Hills Distillery offered a me free tour in exchange for this review.
I like booze, and I really like finding interesting things to do in Kigali. So I have no idea how on earth it took me so long to get my ass in gear to finally come on a 1000 Hills Distillery tour. They’ve been in operation and since 2014 and started selling product and running tours in 2016, so I really have no excuse. Bad me.
I finally make the journey to 1000 Hills Distillery and now I really do feel lame for leaving it for so long. The purpose-built distillery is in a beautiful location and they’ve really done a lot to make an awesome space both for taking a tour and also for relaxing afterward with a cocktail or for dinner.
1000 Hills is East Africa’s first craft small batch distillery and they produce triple-distilled, hand crafted spirits. They make gin, whiskey, vodka, rum, and a rum-based coffee liqueur and you can learn all about the distillery and the process on one of their tours.
The tours are given by Daniel Hogan, a Texan with a background in distilling and a broad range of businesses who is also one of the founders of 1000 Hills Distillery. Daniel gives a great overview of the distilling process for each of their spirits, walking us through the journey from grain to booze. The tour starts with an overview of how the idea for 1000 Hills Distillery was born, some of the background of doing business in Rwanda, and then he dives right in to the nitty gritty giving some info on the machinery involved and the distilling process.
He really does a good job of conveying his love for the process and the way he explains things made me interested in what actually goes into the creation of a glorious glass of whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum. I knew approximately zero about how spirits are made and I feel like a learned some new things while getting a sneak peek behind the scenes at an interesting Rwandan business.
You can book tours online or by calling or emailing them. On the website, tours are listed in US dollars just because that’s what the booking software requires. There are two options: the tour and tasting along with a cocktail and a meal of tacos for Rwf 34,500 ($40), or just the tour and tasting for Rwf 21,500 ($25). The tour and tasting last about an hour.
My friend and I decided that we needed tacos and cocktails in our life, so we went for the more expensive option and we were so impressed that we ordered two more cocktails each. Their cocktail menu is very large and every cocktail we had was excellent. I’ve lived in Kigali since 2010 and have consumed an unholy number of cocktails that were expensive and mediocre at best. All of the cocktails at 1000 Hills Distillery are a steal at Rwf 5,000 and they’re huge, perfectly strong, and very tasty.
Even if you’re not so interested in taking a tour, I can completely recommend 1000 Hills as a wonderful destination for a cocktail night with friends. They have all of the classics, some in-house cocktail creations of their own, and the bar/restaurant at the distillery has a beautiful view and a great atmosphere.
The tacos were a very pleasant surprise! I have to admit that I was a bit dubious after seeing a bunch of cabbage piled on top of the tacos. I like things saucy and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But, alas, I was a fool to be anti-cabbage. The tacos were amazing and the cabbage gave them a great crunchiness. My friend and I got chicken and beef and swapped and we couldn’t decide which we liked best. The beef was super tender (which makes me very excited to try one of their steaks) and the chicken was very nicely spiced. Daniel checked in on us a couple of times and even offered a hotter option for the pili pili in case people like things super spicy. The mild option was perfect for me, but it’s always great to have sauce choice!
If tacos aren’t your thing you can take the cheaper tour and then order food and drinks for their restaurant menu. Options include the tacos (including a vegetarian option), beef filet steak, or chicken, beef, or mushroom satay. Besides the great range of cocktails, you can also order wine, beer, shots, and juice, all at a reasonable price.
I was so impressed with this place. The tour was interesting and I also really enjoyed speaking to Daniel about doing business in Rwanda. The cocktails really were some of the best in Kigali, especially for the price and the size, and the food was excellent. The 1000 Hills Distillery is a beautiful space and sitting around the fireplace with a cocktail in hand and enjoying a good conversation with Daniel and the other guests was a real highlight of the whole evening.
I really did have a wonderful time on this tour and afterward eating good food and sipping great cocktails. I love finding new things to recommend to visitors to Kigali (and residents!) and the 1000 Hills Distillery tour really is a place that needs to go on everyone’s to do list. Well, everyone who drinks.