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). Judge at numerous competitions including the Australian National Wine Show, the Six Nations Wine Challenge (Australia) as well as benchmark tastings in France, the United States, Chile and South Africa. 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).
On 2 February 2021, Michael Fridjhon was named the recipient of the Wine Appreciation and Wine Advancement Award. The criteria for this award include noticeable contributions towards the image of wine and its responsible use, as well as building the image of the South African wine industry as a whole through their sphere of influence.
Graduated from the Cape Town Hotel School, followed by a five-year stint as manager at the Cape Grace Hotel’s Bascule Bar in the city’s V&A Waterfont where he was responsible for a substantial growth of the whisky offering. For the past seven years he has worked for Diageo SA, previously Brandhouse, and currently holds the title of reserve brand ambassador in the Cape region. He has travelled to Scotland on numerous occasions and has been involved in championing the mixability of spirits – and whisky in particular – through a programme called World Class, considered by many to be the best and most celebrated cocktail competition of its kind. Having attended four global finals hosted in various countries, he has witnessed what he describes as a “spirit revolution”. First-time judge at the Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show in 2021.
Has judged spirits and wines on several panels including the International Wine & Spirit Competition and the Women Wine and Spirit Awards. Currently heads up Group Innovation for Distell and has held several other positions at the company – Marketing Director for Southern Africa, Luxury Brands Director, Business Director Spirits as well as Technical Manager for the Spirits Production division – and 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, and is also a Chartered Marketer. Obtained her Cape Wine Masters diploma in 2004. An Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show judge since 2020.
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, he is widely regarded as one of the country’s foremost authorities in his chosen fields. Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show judge since 2019.
Mountain Spirit’s owner and brandy master. He crafted the Best Brandy worldwide no fewer than six times at the prestigious IWSC, twice at the ISC, twice at HKWS and five times in South Africa. 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 and 2010 he served on the International Spirits Challenge in London as one of only six judges worldwide. He is the co-founder and trustee of the Cape Brandy Distillers’ Guild, serves on the SABF Board as technical advisor and is chairman of the Winetech Spirits Committee. An Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show judge since 2020.
Voted 46th among the world’s Top 100 most influential people in 2020 by Drinks International magazine, he has 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. An award-winning bartender and drinks consultant, he is a co-owner and director of the Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen and the Cape Brandy Bar in South Africa – Cause Effect currently ranked 76th among the best bars in the world. He completed his whisky masters in Scotland, and after winning the first Olmeca Tahona Margarita championship in Mexico he travelled back to the country several times to study agave spirits. His passion for spirits has led him full circle back to Cape Town to promote local brandies and gins. He has also completed the Van Ryn advanced brandy course and wants to tell the world about Cape brandy and African flavours. As a passionate educator, his speciality is developing bartender training programmes for some of the world’s leading liquor brands and during the last five years he has trained bartenders in the BAR STARS in Africa upliftment programme. First-time judge at the Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show in 2021.
A young South African mixologist who has represented South Africa in numerous cocktail competitions nationally and internationally, and has even won a few. Some of the countries include Cuba, Mexico, Sweden, France and China. Julian cut his teeth in the industry by working at several cocktails bar in and around Johannesburg, before finally purchasing Sin+Tax cocktail bar. Julian has an extensive knowledge of and deep passion for spirits and mixology. A first-time judge at the Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show in 2021.
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. In 2006, after a career start as a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry, she switched to the wine industry as the wood specialist at Distell before becoming the company’s technical manager for spirits, 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 2019 and at the South African Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards. Guest lecturer in brandy at the University of Stellenbosch. Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show judge since 2019.
Co-owner of international award-winning whisky retailer, WhiskyBrother, Neil Paterson has been in the industry for eight years and has been collecting, tasting and appreciating all things whisky for nearly 20 years. If he is not at home working his way through the numerous samples for the next WhiskyBrother single cask exclusive release, he can be found at the WhiskyBrother Bar in Sandton, talking and enjoying whisky from one of the 1450-plus whiskies on offer. He believes whisky should be paired with one’s mood, company and place. First-time judge at the Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show in 2021.
Pieter de Bod
With 27 years’ experience in the spirits business, he is the General Manager Spirits at KWV, responsible for the entire production supply chain involving the distillation, maturation and blending of spirit-based products. Chairman of the brandy panel at the International Spirit Challenge (ISC) and a board member of the South African Brandy Foundation, he has a degree in Agriculture, a certificate in wine and spirits judging from the University of Stellenbosch and has been responsible for the development of the NQF training material in brandy and spirit production. Winner of the Best Brandy trophy in 2013 (ISC), 2014 (IWSC), 2015 (ISC), 2016 (ISC), 2017 (IWSC) and 2019 (ISC). Winner of the World’s Best Brandy and Cognac Producer of the Year trophy in 2015 (ISC), 2016 (ISC), 2017 (IWSC), 2018 (ISC) and 2019 (ISC). Winner of Best South African London Dry Gin award in 2018 and 2019 and the World’s Best London Dry Gin award in 2020 for KWV Cruxland Gin at the World Gin Awards in London. Also winner of the Best Gin award and Spirit of the Year at the World Spirit Competition for Cruxland Gin. Old Mutual Trophy Spirits Show judge since 2019.