A stand-out performer so far this year is Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky and its founder distiller Andy Watts.
The single grain whisky has been awarded the title World’s Best Grain Whisky by the UK’s Whisky Magazine, and Watts is the global Icon of Whisky Master Distiller/Master Blender for 2018.
Watts is proud because SA is being elevated to new heights.“We have overcome the odds against the perception that only traditional whisky-producing countries can be taken seriously.
“Our industry in SA is only 40 years old and although we’ve had many hurdles, we have become innovative in our approach to manage our unique warmer climate, found creative ways to use home-grown raw materials to our best advantage, and constantly strive for crafting exceptional whiskies.”
Award-winning SA whisky is the exception in the catalogue of spirits South Africa produces - it took Watts 10 years to develop Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky before it was released in 2009.
It was named World’s Best Grain Whisky in 2013 and has received gold and double gold at all the major international whisky competitions.
Gin is also a notable success story, with SA having all the homegrown botanicals to create a distinctively flavourful spirit.
Last month KWV’s Cruxland Gin scooped the Best South African London Dry Gin title at the World Gin Awards.
Similar to Bain’s, Cruxland’s winning formula is its uniquely South African flavours which judges appreciate.
KWV master blender, Ilse du Toit says: “Cruxland Gin is the world’s first craft-style gin to be infused with nine exotic signature botanicals and rare Kalahari N’abbas - or ‘Kalahari truffles’.”
She adds: “The Kalahari truffles grow in the Kalahari after the first rains for a short time, and only a very experienced truffle hunter can spot where to start digging. It is not something consumers will find in any other drink anywhere in the world - and this drink has proved to be extremely popular in South Africa and the world.”
Du Toit says the craft gin category has grown exponentially in SA and globally.
Spirits and wine are big business, and the branding of both is crucial. Which is why it’s notable that once again, Nederburg has been featured in the World’s Most Admired Wine Brands’ top 50 list by Drinks International.
The UK-based publication placed Nederburg 41st overall.
Last year, Nederburg was the only South African winery to appear in this globally-recognised ranking; and in 2016, the first time the winery was featured, it shared the honour with one other South African wine brand.
Robyn Bradshaw, global marketing spokesperson for the brand, says they have worked hard to make an impact overseas.
“We are especially proud of our viticulture and wine-making teams, who work tirelessly to satisfy a worldwide demand for Nederburg’s delicious wines.
“They are all united in their passion, patience and precision to maintain Nederburg’s name as the byword in South African wine excellence,” she says.
SA spirits can take heart from this achievement, because the next award-winning goal should be to solidify their brands in the hearts and minds of markets outside South Africa that are already showing an appreciation for what we are producing.