This post was originally about Tanzania Konyagi and Uganda Waragi, and how I pit these two East African spirits head-to-head in a taste test. Since many of you come to this post looking for information about Konyagi, though, I’ve updated this post with lots of information about that.
F.A.Q. About Konyagi & Other Spirits Produced in Tanzania
Q1. How Strong Is Tanzania Konyagi in Terms of Alcohol Percentage?
A. Konyagi is 35% alcohol by volume.
Q2. What Is the Meaning of the Name Konyagi?
A. To the best of my knowledge, bottled Konyagi was named after, enkonyagi, a delicious(!) banana gin made by the Haya people of northwestern Tanzania. (In case you don’t know, I am Haya…woot woot!!)
Enkonyagi comes from the word “Cognac“.
My father tells me that in the late sixties (or at least when he was at university and he graduated in 1970), Tanzania Distilleries held a competition to name a new spirit that they’d soon be launching.
The late Mr. Leonidas Muhanika (R.I.P.), our neighbour from across the street in Kamachumu Village in Kagera, submitted the entry Konyagi—the Swahili version of enkonyagi—and won.
As they say, the rest is history.
Q3. Is Konyagi a Gin?
Q4. What Is Konyangi?
A. Konyangi is simply a misspelling of Konyagi.
Q5. What Is Konyagi?
Q6. What Is Double Kick, the Alcohol Also Produced in Tanzania?
A. Double Kick is a potable cane spirit blended and packed by Kibo Spirits Tanzania Ltd.
The label on the Double Kick bottle says that it contains fine spirit, pineapple flavor, and de-ionized water.
Double Kick is famous for being the first spirit in Tanzania to be packaged in plastic bottles after the ban on alcohol sold in plastic sachets occurred in 2017.
A 200 ml bottle of Double Kick costs only Tsh. 2,000, which is less than US$1!
Q7. How Strong Is Double Kick in Terms of Alcohol Percentage?
A. Double Kick is 43% alcohol by volume.
Q8. What Type of Alchohol Is Konyagi?
A. Because Konyagi is made of molasses, it is technically a rum.
Q9. What Is the Price of Konyagi in Tanzania?
A. Konyagi comes in bottles of three different sizes: 200 ml (commonly known as kasichana, or ‘little girl’), 500 ml (known commonly as bapa, or ‘blade’), and 750 ml (known commonly as Faru John, or ‘John the Rhino’).
In supermarkets, you can buy the 200 ml bottle for as little as Tsh. 2,800. At local bars, it is more like likely to cost around Tsh. 5,000.
At my local neighborhood kiosk, the 200 ml bottle sells for Tsh. 3,500, the 500 ml bottle sells at Tsh. 7,500, and the 750 ml for Tsh. 10,000.
Q10. What Are the Side Effects of Tanzania Konyagi?
A. I don’t know that Konyagi has particular side effects separate from the general side effects of alcohol and hard liquor in particular. Many Tanzanians believe that long-term drinking of Konyagi causes memory loss.
As a regular Konyagi drinker, I don’t believe this is true.
What I think causes the forgetfulness associated with Konyagi is not so much inherent to the Konyagi itself but rather how much alcohol the average Konyagi drinker consumes.
As I mentioned in my answer to the previous question, the smallest quantity that you can buy Konyagi in is the 200 ml bottle or kasichana, which contains seven standard units of alchol.
Many regular Konyagi drinkers drink more than one kasichana per sitting.
Is it hard to see, therefore, why hardcore Konyagi drinkers tend to suffer the harsher long-term effects of alcohol such as memory loss?
The Inspiration Behind This Post
Although we had never met before, we found that we had a lot in common including that our parents had completed their graduate studies at the same university in the U.S. (at the same time and even knew each other) and that we shared a common friend.
Our first encounter was an interesting one where we shared our life stories and spoke about things we could both relate to, such as the differences and similarities between life in Uganda and Tanzania.
This we discussed at length.
Our discussion went as far as to include the spirits produced in each country.
My new acquaintance and I were both familiar with Uganda Waragi, the Ugandan spirit. She had never tasted Konyagi, Uganda Waragi’s Tanzanian counterpart.
She asked me how I thought the two compared.
That question was the inspiration for this post.
My First Experiences with Tanzania Konyagi and Uganda Waragi
When I think about these two spirits and the role they’ve played in my life, I begin to chuckle.
The first time I ever got tipsy (at a cousin’s wedding function where we, the bridesmaids, were trying to pass for older than we really were), I was drinking Konyagi.
The first time I ever got drunk (forgive the unladylike admission 😉 ) was the summer before I started university after an evening spent sipping Uganda Waragi and Krest Bitter Lemon at ‘Half London’ in Kampala.
Suffice it to say, these drinks and I go way back!
Konyagi & Waragi: The Facts
In case you are not familiar with either of these spirits, let’s start by taking a look at some facts.
What is Konyagi?
Uganda Waragi Alcohol Percentage
Is Konyagi a Gin?
The Taste Test: Tanzania Konyagi vs. Uganda Waragi
To describe the taste of these two spirits to you, I could rely on memory.
For a more objective analysis, though, I decided to set up a taste test where I could pit these drinks against each other in a more direct way.
To do this, I mixed a cocktail of each spirit and tonic water in a two-to-five ratio (with no lime and no ice cubes), put them in two different glasses, conscripted a volunteer taster who would sample these beverages in a blind taste test, and set out to see how these two spirits truly compared.
As I laid out the cocktails for the taste test, the first thing that my volunteer taster commented on was that the cocktails looked identical (which was to be expected since Uganda Waragi and Konyagi are both clear spirits).
We then began our test by smelling each cocktail.
Glass A, in my opinion had a stronger smell than Glass B, but my volunteer taster did not agree.
Oh well, we agreed to disagree and proceeded to taste each cocktail.
First Impressions: Tanzania Konyagi vs. Uganda Waragi
My volunteer taster picked up Glass A and took a sip.
Immediately, he correctly recognized it as the cocktail containing Uganda Waragi. (I was a bit surprised by this because I was not aware that my volunteer had ever even tasted Uganda Waragi.)
What can I say? Uganda Waragi has a very distinct flavor.
After cleansing his palate, he then took a sip from Glass B, the cocktail made with Konyagi.
He instantly started to accuse me of having made a mistake in my proportions. He was sure that I had put less tonic water in the Waragi cocktail than I had in the Konyagi cocktail. I had not.
The fact is that Uganda Waragi has a higher alcohol content than Konyagi and apparently the volunteer taster could taste this (I had never noticed this before).
I then tasted both cocktails.
When I tasted the Waragi cocktail, I muttered something under my breath about how wonderful Uganda Waragi is (not kidding!).
I then cleansed my palate and tasted the Konyagi cocktail. Involuntarily, I winced.
Now, let’s be clear: I drink Konyagi regularly and I don’t normally wince when I do. But, somehow, after the Uganda Waragi, the Konyagi tasted unpleasant.
**Who says interesting experiences have to happen only when you travel far away from home? Check out some cool experiences you can have somewhere near you now!**
In discussing the two drinks that we had sampled, the volunteer taster and I both concurred that the Konyagi cocktail was sourer (for lack of a better word).
In my opinion, the word ‘sour’ sort of describes this disturbing quality, though not completely.
This quality, to me, is not just about taste, it also has to do with odor.
The odor of Konyagi reminds me somewhat of rubbing alcohol.
The volunteer taster did not concur. He found the Konyagi cocktail a mellower, less alcoholic beverage and though not as exciting as the Waragi cocktail, he found it pleasant enough.
Something that surprised me during the taste test is that, after a short while, the Konyagi cocktail seemed less bubbly than the Uganda Waragi cocktail.
The volunteer taster agreed with this observation.
I can offer no explanation for why this occurred, but it’s something that I had experienced previously while drinking Konyagi.
Konyagi cocktails often seemed flatter to me than expected.
I’m glad that this showed up in the taste test so now I know that whatever the cause, it’s not just my mind playing tricks on me.
Finally, I pressed my volunteer taster to summarize what he thought of the two drinks that we had just drunk.
He said, above all, that he liked both drinks despite their difference.
He found the Konyagi cocktail mellow and less strong, while the Waragi cocktail he found a true delight.
His exact words were that the Waragi cocktail was “exciting"!
Still, he said he would recommend either drink for different moods and situations.
I, on the other hand, greatly preferred the Uganda Waragi cocktail. I preferred the flavor as well as the kick!
But that’s just us.
Maybe you’d like to try each of these drinks and make your mind up for yourself, in case you haven’t already. If so, let me share with you some of the ways that you can drink each of these beverages.
How to Drink Konyagi and Uganda Waragi
From the label on the Konyagi bottle, it is recommended that Konyagi be drunk neat with a wedge of lime and ice cubes (if desired).
Personally, I like my Konyagi in a traditional Cuba Libre.
Many of the Ugandans I know like to mix Uganda Waragi with Krest Bitter Lemon, which is a very tasty combination.
Personally, my current preferred way of drinking Uganda Waragi is with apple juice—not just any apple juice, however, but perfectly chilled Apple Splash. It’s a little strange I know, but I love it!
And now I think I’ve said enough.
It’s time to hear from you.
If you’ve ever had either of these spirits, what is your preferred way of drinking Konyagi and/or Uganda Waragi?
If you’ve had both, which of these spirits do you prefer?
Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
As always, I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Until the next time,
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Photo Credit: ginellerforsvinn, Youtube.com; ODILRAK91, SamuelKattaPhotography, Uganda Waragi, Reddit User Xiwoyok,
DanAlbrecht.com; konyagiblog.wordpress.com; SpiritsReview.com/EABL.com; directory.co.tz, Jon B