We love exploring and celebrating new spirits so, on Wednesday, July 31 we attended the awards ceremony for the inaugural Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show.

Held in Sandton, Johannesburg, the show provided a sumptuous affirmation of the quality and diversity of the spirits available in South Africa. With an entry of over 200 products, it was clear that the competition had been embraced by producers and importers alike. 

Lamacheri, Mpumi and Boipelo, at the Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show

Expectations were high that the country’s distillers would be able to match the performance of their colleagues and competitors from as far afield as the Scottish Highlands, Scandinavia, Kentucky, Mexico, Cognac and the Caribbean. The outcome – in terms of trophy winners for Best-in Class entries – was as broad in its representation of the various origins of the products as the initial submissions. 

While classes such as gin saw an unsurprisingly strong local contingent, the presence of entries from eight other countries is an indication of the range and choice in the local market, as well as the response of importers and their principals to the opportunities presented by the show. A strong whisky class – with submissions from five countries – and a broad range of vodkas and rums (four countries each) illustrates the very international nature of the show’s entries. Within the categories there was also a great breadth of styles and methods of production: pure pot-still brandies, whiskies and rums competed against blends; products with declared ages (eight, 12, 15 and 20 years, for example) were lined up against carefully assembled brands where bright fresh spirits had been woven into mature brandies and whiskies assembled from ancient casks. 

“We are delighted to have taken the last 19 years of success of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show to another level with this exciting new sponsorship and spirits competition. With the outstanding level of entries received and the results of the judging, we are certain that this is once again a truly shared value based partnership that provides an important platform of recognition for those that strive to be their exceptional best,” stated Thobile Tshabalala, Head of Brand at Old Mutual. 

Some of the winners of the evening with Thobile Tshabalala, Head of Brand at Old Mutual.

What the judges said: 

Jerome Royer, President of the French Brandy Federation, said that the judging affirmed his impression of the extraordinary standard of the Cape brandy industry. “South Africa,” he said, “produces some of the world’s best brandies, with a range of styles, and clear evidence of very well managed maturation procedures, from the youngest products up to the very oldest examples.”David Boyd, the retired former head of the Chivas Regal production team and the international whisky judge was delighted that the line-up made no distinction as to place of production. “The sample should always be judged on its merits, as opposed to its origin,” he affirmed. Andy Watts, another of the whisky panellists, described the judging as “one of, if not the best organised whisky tasting I have been part of.”  The UK’s David T. Smith, panel chairman and one of the most published and widely recognised authorities on gin in the world, felt that the South African craft gin industry competed comfortably in terms the expertise and range of styles with anything found elsewhere in the world. He added “you’ve got such a rich range of flora and flavours to embrace and a lot of that really comes through in the gins.”

All the Trophy Winners

Trophy for Best Brandy of Show, Old Mutual Trophy for Best Cognac

Martell VSOP Cognac Aged in Red Barrels

Trophy for Best Pot-distilled Brandy

KWV XO Twenty Year Old Potstill Brandy

Old Mutual Trophy for Best London Gin, RIEDEL Trophy for Best Gin of Show

Inverroche Classic Gin

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Distilled Gin

Pimville Gin

Trophy for Best Whisky of Show, Trophy for Best Single Malt Whisky

The Glenlivet Code Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Blended Whisky

Ballantine’s 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

Trophy for Best Pot Still Whisk(e)y

Redbreast 21 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Tequila of Show

Leonista Honey Reposado Karoo Agave Spirit

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Rum of Show

Whistler African Style Dark Rum

Old Mutual Trophy for Best Liqueur of Show

Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis

Gold Medal Winners

Aberlour Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky 18 Years

anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky 2005 – WhiskyBrother Exclusive

Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky

Bayede! XO Royal Cape Brandy

Bisquit Cognac XO

Boschendal Potstill Brandy XO

Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

Flivver Rooibos Citrus Gin

Ginologist Small Batch Gin Recipe 01 : Floral

Ginologist Small Batch Gin Recipe 02 : Citrus

Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky 12 Year Old – WhiskyBrother Exclusive

Jin Gin: Olive and Honey

Leonista Blanco Karoo Agave Spirit

Master’s London Dry Gin

Private Barrel Co. James Sedgwick Single Malt South African Whisky 6 Years

Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Unit 43 The Prospector Gin

Van Ryn’s Single Potstill Brandy Aged 15 years

Van Ryn’s Single Potstill Brandy Aged 20 years

Viceroy Vintage Brandy Aged 10 years

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