I had the absolute pleasure of hosting the inaugural South African Craft Gin awards along with the Western Cape Premier Alan Winde at the iconic Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in August.
As a storyteller, the craft gin category makes me smile because it lends itself to rich storytelling, where a piece of our African heritage can be communicated through a product that is making its mark on the global economy, with speed. And the makers are pretty eclectic too. Many have no prior background in distilling and some started out in the back shed of a family farm. As any great entrepreneurial story will tell you, beating the odds adds fuel to the fire. This was very evident in the beautiful craftsmanship that is the gin and the creative direction of the brands being judged.
With entries coming in from as far and remote as Modjadjiskloof in Limpopo, the awards offered a unique glimpse into a thriving industry. One thing is for sure - craft gin is infiltrating itself into farm barns and backyard distillers across the country and creating a very welcome pocket of positivity within our economy.
The largest gin competition in the country and the only dedicated competition for craft gin distillers in South Africa, the SA Craft Gin awards received 110 unique entrants from across the country. The gins were blind tasted by an expert panel of six judges with in-depth knowledge of the drinks industry; gin master distiller Roger Jorgensen, food anthropologist and judge Dr. Anna Trapido, mixologist and master gin taster Thierry Lubala, owner of The Gin Box Jean Buckham, oenologist and co-owner of Barker & Quin Hanneli van der Merwe and Tammy Frazer, perfumer and owner of Frazer Parfum.
Commenting on the awards, lead judge Roger Jorgensen said: “South African gin distillers are superb when they ace it as they develop their own style and techniques. Given the plethora of wonderful botanicals here, it is no wonder that the Cape is the new Gin capital of the world.”
On the future of the gin industry in South Africa he added: “The future is bright and SA craft gin can be a global player. It has only just begun.’
In the end though, only 26 of the locally distilled craft gins could receive the highest accolade of Double Gold awards. Twenty-six incredible brands created and run by some of the best creative minds in the game.
The Double Gold award-winning gins are:
A Mari Atlantic Ocean
A Mari Indian Ocean
Copper Republic African Dry
Copper Republic Rooibos & Grapefruit
Die Dröe Rooinek Dry Gin
Flowstone Bushwillow Gin
Geometric Classic Cape Dry Gin
Ginologist Spice Gin, Harmony Aloe Ferox Gin
Indlovu Gin - Elephant Dung Gin
Jin Gin Olive & Honey
Jin Gin Tomato & Sweet Piquante Pepper
Knut Hansen Dry Gin
Lieben Sailor Lemon & Lime Gin
Magalies Lavender Gin
Monks Medella Blueberry Infused
Monks Mary Jane Hemp Infused
Old N1 African Dry
Old N1 Fijnbos Fields
Old Packhouse Moringa Gin
Pienaar & Son Empire
Pienaar & Son Orient
Smiths Elderflower Dry
Smiths Spiced Dry
Wild Rose Fynbos Gin
Why ZA craft gin? From what I gathered from my interviews with some of the winning gin-makers, South Africa offers a wide range of botanicals, a lot wider than our competitors. This gives us a lot more raw materials to play with, heightening the creativity in our product offering.
A good story. A positive story that deserves more attention.
A massive thank you to Spill Brand communications for bubbling this pocket of positivity to the fore; to the wonderful and very warm Premier Alan Winde for stepping out to give it his stamp of approval (let’s hope it’s an annual event!), and to Checkers LiquorShop for making it all happen.
For more info on the winners, look no further than here.