What the 2018 MICHELANGELO AWARDS mean for SA’s gin industry?



We unpack the significance of the 2018 Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards, and list the winning gins.

The 2018 Michelangelo awards were recently held in Gauteng, attracting a record 2 255 wine and spirits entries. This makes it the largest competition of its kind on the African continent and one of the leaders in the southern hemisphere.

The Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards was established in 1997, the competition is unique in that all judges are hand-picked wine experts, representing all 5 continents. Since inception, more than 165 different judges from 43 countries have served on the panels.

For this year’s judging, 30 judges from 16 nationalities were called upon to score the record number of entries. With the judges mostly international, I suppose the intention is to have your wine or spirits judged for potential in the international market.

Although these awards were initially developed for the wine industry, they do judge spirits and liqueurs as well.

Lorraine Immelman, founder and CEO of the Michelangelo Awards says that the judges were unanimous in their view that South Africa was making a diverse and exciting component of top-quality spirits.

As to the increase in entries for gin, convenor of the spirits panel, Winnie Bowman remarked at how amazing it was to see a whopping 81 gins enter this category this year. Unique local infusion with flavours such as fynbos and rooibos caught the attention of the international judges. However, they also noticed that there was a deficit in juniper forward gins.

“Among the entries we saw a tendency where certain gins had little or no juniper influences. And that is one thing producers must remember. For an international panel of judges such as what we are on the Michelangelo Awards, no juniper character means no gin character.”

This is great to hear, however, to our dismay there appears to be no judges with specific expertise in gin itself – a detail we noticed reading through the judge biographies on the awards’ website. UK-based judge Tobias Gorn comes the closest to being a specialist in gin, with his bio stating that he has dedicated his attention over the past decade to whisky, gin and Cuban cigars. Unfortunately, no other judge’s bio mentions gin in particular. So, while we most certainly wouldn’t take away the fact that these judges are themselves experts in wine and spirits, we look forward to 2019 when we might hopefully have a few more judges who have a stronger focus on gin itself.

While 2018 showed a record number of medal winners for the local gin industry, some of the choices did leave us scratching our heads. The choices appear to emphasise originality and innovation, rather than the more traditional gin making methods. However, we are particularly happy with Autograph as the Craft Gin Trophy winner as this is a classic juniper forward gin. Take a look at the list of 2018 gin awards are below.

Congratulations to all award winners!



  • Distillique Most Innovative Craft Spirits trophy winner
    Ginny Fowl Black Sesame & Cacao – Sipping Gin
  • Distillique Craft Gin Trophy Winner
    Autograph Gin – Old Tom Style Gin


  • Rare Moringa Gin – Old Packhouse Distillery
  • Triple Three African Botanicals
  • Musgrave Pink (Rose water pink gin)
  • Ginny Fowl – Resurrection Classic
  • Kaleido – Craft Link Distillery
  • Williams Birne – Triple Three Estate Distillery
  • Old N1 Distillery African Dry Gin – Stofberg Family Vineyards
  • Old N1 Distillery Fijnbos Fields Gin – Stofberg Family Vineyards


  • Musgrave 11 African Botanical – Musgrave
  • A’Mari Atlantic – A’Mari
  • A’Mari Indian – A’Mari
  • Black Meerkat Old Town Gin – Black Meerkat Carft Spirits
  • Black Mountain Karoo Flora – Grundheim Wines
  • Bloedlemoen – Lions Head Beverage Company
  • Clemengold Gin – Zandvliet Estate
  • Flowstone Bush Willow Gin – Flowstone
  • Flowstone Wild Cucumber Gin – Flowstone
  • Ginsmith Gold – Tygerkloof Distillery
  • Ginsmith Navy – Tygerkloof Distillery
  • Ginsmith Pink – Tygerkloof Distillery
  • Kitsugi Gin – KintsugiGin
  • Renosterbos Gin – D’Aria Winery


  • Blossom & Hops – Blockhouse Distillery
  • Boplaas 8 Citrus Gin – Boplaas Family Vineyards
  • Boplaas Cape Pink Gin – Boplaas Family Vineyards
  • Magalies Gin – 25 Degrees South Distillery
  • Pienaar & Son Orient – Pienaar & Son Distilling Company
  • Prestine Gin – Copper Still Craft Distillery