The Trophy Spirits Show

Judges 2022

Michael Fridjhon is the convenor of the Trophy Spirits Show and is responsible for selecting the judges and managing the judging process. All judges are suitable experienced spirits judges, with at least one member of every panel a recognised international authority.

As with The Trophy Wine Show, associate judges are drawn from the local spirits industry, some of whom are graduates of the Spirits Judging Academy launched in 2021. Associate judges participate in the tasting and post-judging discussion, though their scores are not included in the final tally.

This year’s associate judges are: Lisa de Beer, Kudzai Kupeta and Wellington Muromba.

Click images to view biographies.

Show Chairman

Michael Fridjhon

International Judges

Eric Goettelmann (France)
George Harper (Scotland)
David T Smith (UK)

South African Judges

Kobus Gelderblom
Dave Gunns
Kresan Naidu
Neil Paterson
Mare-Loe Prinsloo
Kurt Schlechter
Michael Fridjhon

Michael Fridjhon

Show Chairman

Chairman of the Judges at the Trophy Spirits 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 in Australia (now the Global Fine Wine Challenge), 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). Recipient of the SA Wine Industry Wine Appreciation and Wine Advancement Award (2021).

Eric Goettelmann

Eric Goettelmann (France)

International Judge

Executive Sommelier of the multi-Michelin-starred Relais Bernard Loiseau Group. Holder of an International Master of Wine and Spirits degree. Voted Best Burgundy Sommelier in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and, since 2009, has headed up the cellar at the legendary restaurant in Saulieu founded by the late Bernard Loiseau. In 2007, he and Dominique Loiseau devised a sophisticated wine-by-the-glass service for which they were awarded the Grand Prix of the Wine Press of Burgundy, the Palmes Award of the Leaders Club in 2008. Named Sommelier of the Year in 2006 by Le Chef Magazine and again in 2010 by the Champérard Gastronomic Guide. Received his Gold International Sommelier Association Certification (ASI Gold) in 2018, and in 2019 was named Best Sommelier in France in addition to receiving the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite Agricole (Knight of the National Order of Agricultural Merit). In 2020 he worked as Executive Chef Sommelier at the iconic Paul Bocuse Restaurant in Lyon. He judged at The Trophy Wine Show in 2013 and 2016.

George Harper (Scotland)

International Judge

Whisky specialist at Diageo for the past six years, one of 12 blenders responsible for all of Diageo’s Scotch (and Irish) Whisk(e)y portfolios and Master Blend for Roe & Co. Irish Whiskey. He has studied and worked in the drinks industry since 2006, has a degree in Brewing and Distilling, and before joining Diageo worked as a flavour and sensory coordinator for international brewing company Scottish and Newcastle and as a brewer for an award-winning independent craft brewer in Edinburgh.

David T Smith (UK)

International Judge

An independent spirits writer and consultant who specialises in gin. The author of a variety of books on gin and gin drinks, including Gin Tonica, The Craft of Gin and, most recently, The Gin Dictionary, having reviewed over 400 gins on his website SummerFruitCup.com. Chair judge for a number of international spirits competitions and a consultant for distilleries across six continents. The inaugural winner of the Think Gin Communicator of the Year. Judged at The Trophy Spirits Show in 2019.

Kobus Gelderblom

South African Judge

Mountain Spirit’s owner and brandy master, he crafted what was honoured as the Best Brandy no fewer than six times at the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition, twice at ISC, twice at HKWS and five times in South Africa. Former Chief Brandy Master at KWV and nowadays a consultant for numerous cellars. He has served on various wine and brandy tasting panels, and from 2001 to 2010 was one of only six judges at the International Spirits Challenge in London. Co-founder and trustee of the Cape Brandy Distillers’ Guild, he serves on the SABF board as technical advisor and is chairman of the Winetech Spirits Committee. A Trophy Spirits Show judge since 2020.

Dave Gunns

South African Judge

A trip to Scotland provided the epiphany that set him on course to opening Wild About Whisky in 2006. Located in Dullstroom, the bar has become one of the most famous whisky destinations 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 on spirits. A judge at The Trophy Spirits Show since 2019.

Kresan Naidu

South African Judge

Recently appointed brand manager for Absolut Vodka, based in Stockholm, focusing on education and advocacy, with a global focus. A regular judge at spirit competitions in Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and South Africa, he started his journey in vodka, developing an expert knowledge with first-hand experience of the production process. He has since expanded his expertise across the white spirit category with a strong focus on gin, as well as in the sales and marketing side of the business. A regular host at Masterclass tastings in Europe and South Africa, his subjects relate primarily to white spirits (gin and vodka), although he has also done presentations on the subject of South Africa’s cocktail culture and has spent time with various Master Distillers. A judge at The Trophy Spirits Show since 2019.

Neil Paterson

South African Judge

Co-owner of the international award-winning whisky retailer WhiskyBrother, he has been in the industry for eight years and has been collecting, tasting and appreciating all things whisky for nearly 20. If he is not at home working his way through numerous samples for the next exclusive single-cask release, he can be found at the WhiskyBrother Bar in Sandton, talking and enjoying whisky from one of the 1450-plus malts and blends on offer. First judged at The Trophy Spirits Show in 2021.

Mare-Loe Prinsloo

South African Judge

As Head of Research at Distell, she leads a team of scientists driving research resulting in new products for the company. Holds a Doctorate in Organic Chemistry from the University of Stellenbosch and an LLB degree from UNISA. Switched from the pharmaceutical industry to the wine industry in 2006, the wood specialist at Distell before becoming the technical manager for spirits, part of a team responsible for the sensory approval and quality of raw materials, matured goods and final products. In 2016 she was appointed Head of Brandy and Other Spirits at Distell’s Centre of Excellence, where responsibilities included ensuring the quality and product standardisation for brandy, cream liqueurs and aperitifs. Judge at the International Spirits Challenge (2016 to 2019) and at the South African Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards. Guest lecturer in brandy at the University of Stellenbosch and the Elsenburg Agricultural College. Judge at The Trophy Spirits Show since 2019.

Kurt Schlechter

South African Judge

Voted 46th among the world’s Top 100 most influential people by Drinks International magazine (2020), he has 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. Award-winning bartender and drinks consultant, co-owner and director of the Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen and the Cape Brandy Bar in South Africa – the former currently ranked among the best bars in the world. Completed his Whisky Masters in Scotland, and after winning the first Olmeca Tahona Margarita championship in Mexico, travelled back to the country several times to study agave spirits. His passion for spirits led him full circle back to Cape Town to promote local brandies and gins, completing the Van Ryn advanced brandy course. He is a passionate educator, specialising in developing bartender training programmes for some of the world’s leading liquor brands, training bartenders in the BAR STARS in Africa upliftment programme. Judged at The Trophy Spirits Show for the first time in 2021.