IWSC 2024 Spirits Judging in South Africa: judges' deliberations

Spirit news

Thu 27 Jun 2024

By Ciaran Griffiths

For the first time in the IWSC history, we have judged South African spirits in situ, bringing together an expert panel of international and local judges. Our panel of industry decision makers was overseen by Ivan Dixon who has been judging with the IWSC for over 17 years.

After the tasting we caught up with our judges to hear which styles of South African spirits stood out. Overall our judges were pleased with the quality of spirits stating, "generally it was a very high standard of entry, proving SA has a lot to offer on the global stage which has an exciting drinks industry outside of the thriving wine scene."

Brandy was one of the standout categories for our judges. "South African Brandy is on a world class scale and is underrepresented across the globe. It's a category that has been produced in South Africa for hundreds of years and has a real point of difference stylistically against other countries," said Ivan Dixon. Brandys were awarded several strong gold medals and an impressive 3 gold outstanding medals. The judges admired one of the gold outstanding medal winners for its "sweet and luscious fruit on the palate with great depth and complexity, followed by a long and refined finish".

South African traditional/classic gin also performed admirably, with the panel awarding several silver medals and 1 gold medal for a gin that was praised for its "bright and expressive nose".

Contemporary gin was another high scoring category as a whole. The judges shared, "we found that the contemporary gin, using local, indigenous botanicals, caused discussion and had a real point of difference against other examples from around the world." Many silvers were awarded to the category and 1 gold for a gin that the judges highlighted for its "lively palate with spicy top notes".

The quality of vodka from South Africa was also high. The gold medal winning vodka stood being "clean, crisp and balanced".

South African whisky received a significant amount of attention from our judges. ’"I really loved a couple of the whiskys, which were fantastic," shared the IWSC South African Spirits Ambassador and judge Leah van Deventer. One particularly impressive single grain whisky was awarded a gold outstanding medal due to it’s "attractive nose and layers of dried fruit with a refined and soft finish".

Overall the judges were pleased with the spirits they tasted and were optimistic about the future. "We will be excited to watch the progress of South African spirits, and believe that there will be lots more excitement to emerge in the forthcoming years," shared Ivan Dixon.

Full medal results of South African Spirits Judging will be announced on 1 July.