Gin is all grown up and we’ve made it our own. What started out as cheap-and-not-so-cheerful backstreet spirits on the streets of London has gone on to become synonymous with sophisticated society as an all-rounder spirit for cocktails, with tonic or even in its most recent guise – straight, on the rocks, allowing for an appreciation of its unique mix of botanicals.
South Africa has seen exponential growth in local distilleries, set up to craft gins with local flavours, and the explosion of innovation is only just beginning.
So too is South Africans’ interest in gin. The spirit is following the same route of discovery that opened up new worlds for coffee, wine and beer among local drinkers. It’s time to appreciate new experiences that will revitalise our appreciation of gin.
Judges on the panel for the South African craft gin awards will include experts with a formal background in the industry, as well as celebrities and South African personalities who love their gin. The Sunday Times Lifestyle section will also dedicate corresponding and complementary travel cooking and other content to bolster interest and information around the craft gin awards in that week.
Where to Vote
Our panel of expert and celebrity judges have picked the top 4 local and top 4 international gins and we want you to choose the winners.
Visit one of the below Makro stores on the 22 September, between 11h00-14h00, to taste and judge who you think is the best gin.
Woodmead, Johannesburg – Directions
Silver Lakes, Pretoria – Directions
Springfield, Durban – Directions
Montague Gardens, Cape Town – Directions
MONKS MARY JANE
Behold MONKS Mary Jane. South Africa’s first ever hemp-infused gin – that is, until the authorities decided to prohibit us from adding Hemp to the botanicals as it is supposedly a prohibited substance. Not to be put off, we added Wild Dagga (or Lion’s Tail) to it instead. Shrouded in secrecy, enrobed in the ethereal and blended with a potion of slangbos and renosterbos, it’s a taste of the decidedly divine. Like its predecessors, this third child Mary Jane is a juniper forward London Dry. Due to the nature of the terpene profiles in the citrus we use as well as the Lion’s Tail (or wild dagga), Limonene in particular, her aromatic nature is citrus dominant. The added notes of star anise and cardamom perfectly balance this gin and the Renosterbos and Slangbos add a full bodied botanical flavour. It lends itself to pairing with a variety of mixes and garnishes particularly grapefruit or lime rind.
WESTCLIFF COPPER DISTILLED
The Gin is inspired by the Johannesburg Gold rush of 1884 bringing Gin from England to South Africa. This gold rush meant an influx of people and the two areas that developed from this was Parktown and Westcliff. The taste profile of the Gin is inspired by the man-made forest starting on the Westcliff hill and flowing down over Northern Johannesburg. Keeping to the local inspiration we source botanicals from the Faraday Muthi market, and combine these with traditional Gin botanicals. This Gin is loaded with 14 botanicals, but its smooth, soft and floral. The Gin is very well balanced between floral, citrus and complexity. We pay particular attention to distilling techniques, making sure the cuts are pure, making this an ideal sipping Gin.
A unique gin made from neutral grain spirit, infused with botanicals that have been carefully selected to pay homage to the Eastern spice trade that influenced Cape Town culture and cuisine alike. A refreshing, uninhibited gin packed with spice and citrus. Sweet vanilla and mandarin orange notes complement the fiery Cassia, Ginger and Allspice in this truly bold and inspired gin.
GINOLOGIST FLORAL GIN
At Ginologist we believe in one philosophy above all others: Better taste through science. All three of our bespoke gins were crafted through a number of experimental batches, each of which adhered to sound scientific method to design perfectly balanced recipes that are both complex enough to appease any connoisseur, and smooth enough to appeal to any gin lover. Our Floral gin was developed to be the perfect gin to experiment with, so it is a versatile, easy to enjoy gin that is comfortable adapting to most recipe.
Gin Mare is the product of a new generation of a family with a long history distilling the finest spirits in the very heart of the Mediterranean. Located in Spain, the distillery site is a 19th Century chapel built in a small fishing village between the beautiful Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, south of Barcelona.
Gin Mare establishes a new benchmark for innovation in the super premium gin category, taking as its inspiration the different cultures and finest natural botanicals of the Mediterranean region. Sun drenched citrus fruits, Arbequina olives, thyme, basil and rosemary give this exceptional gin genuine warmth and depth of character. The conspicuously savory character of Gin Mare’s botanical blend begs for cocktail experimentation, though will impress in classics: as superlative in a Southside as a Red Snapper, a Dirty Martini as a Negroni. A Gin Mare and tonic will be lifted with complimentary garnishing, such as basil or rosemary to accentuate the botanical notes.
We’ve been here since 1830, Bloomsbury-born, at the heart of the explosive London gin scene. When Charles Tanqueray first pursued the definitive London Dry gin, he experimented with 300 recipes to arrive at one. The one. Made with just 4 botanicals. No more, no less. A perfect balance of its 4 botanicals: refreshing juniper, peppery coriander, aromatic angelica and sweet liquorice. Tanqueray London Dry is distilled four times to remove any unwanted traces of neutral grain spirit and allow the flavours from botanicals to shine. His vision has become a legacy.
In 1948 we introduced the iconic cocktail shaker bottle with the gleam of green, style and aspiration. It is our creative catalyst that spoke to our swagger and style. Every bottle from the Tanqueray Distilling Company carries a seal marking Charles Tanqueray’s name, a symbol of quality and over 180 years of distilling excellence. From Tanqueray No. Ten, to our blossoming family of gins, everything we do today lives up to Charles’ founding vision, driving us with the momentum and inimitable spirit that first ignited Tanqueray over 180 years ago.
We are a gin of true substance and style. The definitive gin. The definitive T&T. The No 1 premium gin in South Africa.
GORDON'S LONDON DRY GIN
Distilled and Bottled in South Africa under the Authority of Alexander Gordon & Co., London England
Its exact recipe is a secret but on examining it you will notice the key ingredient of juniper berries on the nose and the palate. Other flavours that reveal themselves include refreshing citrus, peppermint, liquorice, coriander and other spices.
Hendrick’s is a deliciously super premium gin, made with a number of unusual twists to deliver a most curious arrangement. Hendrick’s combines a distinct blend of eleven botanicals, as well as the signature infusions of cucumber and rose petals, producing a wonderfully refreshing gin with a delightfully unique aroma. Hand crafted in the seaside village of Girvan, Scotland in miniscule batches which gives our Master Distiller Lesley Gracie greater control, Hendrick’s is the only gin that uses a marriage of spirits from both a Carter-Head and Copper Pot Still, creating a divinely smooth gin that has both the required character and balance of subtle flavours.
To immerse yourself even further into the wonderfully unusual world of Hendrick’s Gin, please visit www.hendricksgin.com for a most unusual online experience.
Our Panel of Judges
Judges on the panel for the South African gin awards will include experts with a formal background in the industry, as well as celebrities and South African personalities who love their gin.
Our mixologists will create new experiences that will revitalise our guests appreciation of gin.
The only job that Dominic Walsh has ever had has been in the hospitality industry. Over the past 10 years, he has worked his way up from a sculler to a bar owner, adopting bartending as his profession and passion along the way.
He began at the young age of 14, washing dishes at a dive bar. As soon at the opportunity presented itself, Dominic grabbed a position as a training bartender at a mobile bar company and very quickly moved up the ranks to manager. Event bartending allowed for the opportunity to travel the country, serving mostly the Rich and famous. This taught Dom the meaning of service and entertainment by understating that a drink is not only a drink but is a vessel to deliver an experience or an emotion.
From there, Dominic decided to open his own mobile bar company with 3 of his closest friends. They aimed at not only delivering delicious drinks but creating experiences that no one would ever forget. This concept quickly turned into a consulting opportunity resulting in Dom advising on some of the most successful bars and restaurants in South Africa as well as making a name for himself by winning regional cocktail competitions and representing South Africa on a global level (Angostura Cocktail Challenge, Tahona Society and World Class)
Over the coming years Dom travelled South Africa as a consultant as well as a brand Ambassador for Hendricks Gin and Monkey Shoulder Whisky. After seeing the country from hotel rooms and restaurants he decided to travel the entire coast of South Africa using only public transport and surviving off tips that he had made working shifts along the way. This project, which he named PunchBowl Pilgrimage, lasted 30 days around the country during which he worked at 20 different bars.
PunchBowl Pilgrimage sparked his love and passion for South Africa and its vibrant culture. It was from there that he embraced his love for challenging, new ingredients and vowed to use as many from South Africa as possible when creating a menu.
Today Dom runs a bar with 2 like-minded individuals called Mootee bar.
I started bartending in 2008 as a part-time job while I was studying a BCom Marketing Management. This was just a means to have fun and a little extra money on the side. It was here I began my training as a cocktail bartender and started to realise that this was becoming more of a part-time stint to earn cash and that I had developed quite a passion for the industry. So much so that it took me 5 years to get a 3 year degree as I often chose work over lectures – along with a year of backpacking.fter working very closely with the company, I decided to leave and worked in several other fixed bars and mobile bar companies before I took a year off from my degree to travel Europe in 2012. During this period I worked and travelled through 9 countries (Switzerland, England, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands) over a year period. In England (3 months) I started off as a bar back before becoming a bartender in a club in Reading as well as working for a mobile bar company (a branch of the company I worked for in SA) doing events through London as well as working at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland for the Google & Microsoft events. In Portugal I both waitered and bartended for 4 months and spent a month in Italy as part of the Workaway’s program.
On my return to South Africa, I began a company called Molecular Bars with 3 other business partners who too began working with me in 2008. Molecular Bars was officially started and registered in 2011 and was completely fuelled by a passion for our craft. Three of the four bartenders were passionate bartenders and the 4th of us was an avid barista and still is. Molecular Bars was formed at a grass roots level as a mobile bar company and was purely driven by the sweat off our back. It has become what it is today without any capital investment whatsoever and has grown and developed itself, profiting and expanding off the fruits of it’s own labour – it has always been and continues to be a massive pride and joy. At the company’s inception, it began as just the 4 of us tending to all tasks – today we are sitting at 56 employees (both full time and part time).
Our focus has always been on incredible cocktail curation, education of the mass consumer as well having a strong emphasis on skills development within our workforce.