Last year, the line-up of judges for the inaugural show read like a who's who of the world of gins, whiskies, brandies, rums and liqueurs. Jerome Royer, President of the French Brandy Federation, David Boyd, formerly responsible for the production of Chivas Regal, Abelour and Edradour and David Smith, chair judge at a number of international spirits competitions and inaugural winner of the ThinkGin Communicator of the Year were joined by several of the country's leading spirits judges – all of whom have had extensive judging experience, mostly abroad.
Chairman of the judges at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. Author, co-author and contributor to a number of wine books including The Oxford Companion to Wine, The Global Wine Encyclopaedia, and Platter’s South African Wine Guide. Recipient of the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite Agricole (France). First international co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge (2007). Visiting Professor of Wine Business at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business and head of the Wine Judging Academy run in association with the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. Winner of the Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year award (2012).
Caroline has judged spirits and wines on several panels including the International Wine and Spirits Competition and the Women Wine and Spirit Awards. Caroline currently leads Group Innovation for Distell. She has held several other positions at Distell – Marketing Director for Southern Africa, Luxury Brands Director, Business Director Spirits as well as Technical Manager for the Spirits Production division. She has also served several terms as Chairman of the South African Brandy Foundation. She has a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Stellenbosch, as well as an MSc and a PhD in Wine Biotechnology. She is also a Chartered Marketer. Caroline obtained her Cape Wine Masters diploma in 2004.
Born in Kenya, schooled in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and completed his education in Sussex, UK. After an eclectic career as a TV cameraman, gold miner and commercial pilot he came to South Africa as a farmer. A trip to Scotland provided the epiphany that set him on course to opening Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom in 2006. Since then the outlet has become the most famous whisky destination in South Africa with over 1600 different malts as well as innumerable other spirits. An educator as well as a specialist retailer, Dave Gunns is widely regarded as one of the country’s foremost authorities in his chosen fields.
Group Sensory Manager at Distell’s Centre of Excellence. She heads up this analytical division responsible for advanced sensory analysis, sensory quality assurance and analytical chemistry research across all spirit categories, as well as wines and ciders. She holds a PhD in Food Science at Stellenbosch University and spent some time as an exchange student at Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands. After a short career as a researcher in Sensory Science, providing valuable insights for the food industry, she joined Distell in 2017 as a sensory analyst within the area of innovation. She is a foodie at heart and is passionate about the science involved in producing food, wine and spirit products of exceptional quality.
Johan is currently Chair Judge at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. Johan retired from Distell after 29 years. Since the early 1980’s he was located at the Oenological Research Institute for Vines & Wines, involved in research relating to wines & spirit products. During that time he was a member of various industry committees and author of numerous scientific articles. Johan joined Distillers Corporation in 1990, in 2009 he became Director of Primary Production. He was responsible for the production of Wines, Ciders and Spirit products, and was the head of the Center of Excellence: Intrinsic when he retired.
Jonathan has worked in the liquor industry for 46 years. A fermentation specialist, he now consults extensively to the liquor and allied industries around the world. His passion for whisky led in 1999 to his founding the Whisky Academy in South Africa which provides tastings and education to the liquor trade and consumers. He was made a Keeper of the Quaich by the Scotch Whisky Industry in 2011 in recognition of his work on Scotch whisky in the many markets he visits every year. Jonathan is currently Chairman of the Keepers of the Quaich, South African Chapter, a position he will hold for two years.
A regular judge at competitions in Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and South Africa, Kresan Naidu is a vodka expert with first-hand experience of the production process, as well as the sales and marketing side of the business. A regular host at Masterclass tastings in Europe and South Africa, his subjects relate primarily to vodka, though he has also done presentations on the subject of South African botanicals. In addition to his specialised knowledge of vodka he has attended gin masterclasses with Beefeater’s Desmond Payne and served a brief apprenticeship in the Cuban rum industry.
Mountain Spirit’s owner and brandy master. He created the Best Brandy worldwide no less than six times at the prestigious IWSC, twice at the ISC, twice at HKWS and 5 times in SA. He also brings home a cache of international accolades. His passion for brandy and expertise garnered over a decade earned him promotion to KWV’s Chief Brandy Master and nowadays consultant for numerous cellars. He has served on various wine and brandy tasting panels and between 2001 – 2010 he served on the International Spirits Challenge in London as one of only 6 judges worldwide.
Head of Brandy and Other Spirits at Distell’s Centre of Excellence since 2016, responsible for quality and product standardisation for Brandy, Cream liqueurs and Aperitifs. Holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Stellenbosch and an LLB degree from UNISA.
After a career start as a researcher the Pharmaceutical Industry Mare-Loe moved to the Wine Industry to work as the Wood Specialist at Distell in 2006, before becoming technical manager for spirits at Distell, part of a team responsible for the sensory approval and quality of raw materials, matured goods and final products. Judge at the International Spirits Challenge from 2016 to 2018, the Vitis Vinifera Awards and the South African Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards. Guest lecturer in brandy at the University of Stellenbosch.
Marlene Bester is the Master Distiller at Van Ryn’s Brandy Cellar. She holds an MSc in Wine Biotechnology from the University of Stellenbosch. Appointed Process Manager at James Sedgwick Distillery in 2001. Nine years later she joined Van Ryn’s where she has been directly involved in distilling, maturation and the blending of world-renowned brandies as well as the opportunity to work in Cognac.
Pieter de Bod
With 25 years’ experience in the spirits business, Pieter de Bod is the General Manager at KWV responsible for the entire supply chain, from distillation to packaging, of all the spirits-based products. He is Chairman of the Brandy Panel at International Spirit Challenge (ISC) and a board member of the South African Brandy Foundation. With a degree in Agriculture and a certificate in wine and spirits judging from the University of Stellenbosch, he has been responsible for the development of the NQF training material in Brandy and Spirit production. Winner of best Brandy Trophy in 2013 (ISC), 2014 (IWSC), 2015 (ISC), 2016 (ISC), 2017(IWSC). Winner of Brandy and Cognac Producer of the Year Trophy in 2015 (ISC), 2016 (ISC), 2017 (IWSC), 2018 (ISC). Winner of Best South African London Dry Gin 2018, 2019 for KWV Cruxland Gin at World Gin Awards, London. Winner of best Gin at World Spirit Competition and also Spirit of the Year for Cruxland Gin.