Local Gin Awards Shine Light On SA Entrepreneurial Spirit

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.

Co-hosting with the very warm, very fun Premier Alan Winde (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

Co-hosting with the very warm, very fun Premier Alan Winde (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

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.

Phew. We don’t envy the judges - what a tough job. Or is it? Or do we? (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

Phew. We don’t envy the judges - what a tough job. Or is it? Or do we? (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

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.

You can feel the mutual respect all over this image. (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

You can feel the mutual respect all over this image. (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

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

  • Nuy Legacy

  • Nuy Mastery

  • 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.

Yay to to Checkers LiquorShop for making it all happen! (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

Yay to to Checkers LiquorShop for making it all happen! (Photo Credit: Tasmin Weir)

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.