Johannesburg, xx September 2018:  The Sunday Times Lifestyle Gin Awards in partnership with Makro and Fitch & Leedes is proud to celebrate the creators and retailers of locally and internationally crafted gins and variants, with the top 4 local, and top 4 international finalists having been announced.   Blind-tasting opportunities around the country will allowing South Africans to taste and vote for their favourites.

The 8 finalists were decided from 74 local and international entries, by a panel including South Africa comedian Lihle Msimang, performer Thami Shobede, sommelier Higgo Jacobs, founder of The Gin Box Jean Buckham, and Aspasia Karras, magazine supplement publisher at Tiso Blackstar Group.

Finalists in the Local Gin category are:

  • Ginologist Floral Gin (Craft Link Distillery)
  • Monks Mary Jane (MONKS Distillery (Pty) Ltd)
  • Orient (Pienaar & Son Distilling Co.
  • Westcliff Copper Distilled (Angel Heart Distillery)

Finalists in the International Gin category are:

  • Gin Mare (Global Premium Brands)
  • Gordon’s London Dry Gin (Alexander Gordon & Co.)
  • Hendricks Gin
  • Tanqueray (The Cameronbridge Distillery)

Gin lovers are invited to visit the following Makro stores on 22 September, between 11h00-14h00 to taste and judge which gins they believe to be the best.

  • Woodmead, Johannesburg
  • SilverLakes, Pretoria
  • Springfield, Durban
  • Montague Gardens, CapeTown

Votes can also be cast online by visiting

Be sure to watch the video of the preliminary panel judging sessions:

Winners will be announced at the Sunday Times Lifestyle Gin Awards on the 19th of October 2018.


Notes to Editor:

About the Judges…

Lihle Msimang, winner of the 2011 Nandos Comedy Showdown, is a young female comedian and actress. She has featured in various prestigious stand-up comedy events and DVDs. Attractive, vibrant and energetic, Lihle is a guaranteed laugh out loud and a fine talent in the growing industry in South Africa. She has unique, clean approach, which saw her become a guest feature in Parable Magazine’s Lord, Make Me Laugh.

Thami Shobede is a KZN-born musician. He entered SA Idols in 2015 and again in 2016 where he made it to the Top 2 Idols. For a few years now, Thami has been a full-time entertainer who pursues singing as well as acting. During the 2016 Idols competition, he performed at the DSTV Delicious Festival along with his fellow Top 9 contestants. He has featured on Channel O adverts and is mentored by well-known industry professionals. Thami has written several of his own songs which he likes to perform at his gigs. His afro pop single, Sthandwa, made it to number 1 on the iTunes Charts and was well received by viewers when he performed it for the first time. Since leaving the competition, Thami has been hot on Gallo Entertainments books, performing at several public and private events.

Higgo Jacobs is Certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Higgo consults to various establishments; judges on wine competitions and publications locally and abroad, and tries his hand occasionally at writing.

Jean Buckham is the founder of The Gin Box, SA’s premier craft gin club. Jean has been a well-informed gin enthusiast for a number of years and this passion led her to launch The Gin Box in May 2017. Prior to launching The Gin Box, Jean had a strong entrepreneurial background in rooibos tea exports and a direct mail business. Jean believes that SA is producing innovative quality gins due to our diverse flora and unique botanicals accessible to us. This, together with a local appetite for entrepreneurship has seen many distilleries popping up, crafting often adventurous, small batch gins to satisfy any palate.

Aspasia Karras is the Publisher of lifestyle supplements in the Sunday Times, Business Day and the Sowetan. She has always loved the media, writing and fashion and was the Editor of Marie Claire magazine, and Features editor on Elle and The Times. She has a column on Times Select called Fear and Clothing and has an abiding love for a run, a swim, and a tall cool drink on a summer afternoon followed by a dance. 

About Tiso Blackstar Events

Tiso Blackstar Events draws on the editorial expertise and media-powerhouse advantage of the Tiso Blackstar Group to deliver stimulating and engaging encounters that encourage excellence across South Africa’s various industries. Aligned to the thought-leadership of Tiso Blackstar’s prominent platforms like the Sunday Times, Financial Mail, Business Day, Sowetan, Business Day TV, The Home Channel and Ignition TV, we are committed to facilitating events that nurture the socio-economic success of our country. Leading industry events successfully executed by the team include the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies, Business Day TV SME Summit, Sunday Times Top Brands, FM Adfocus Awards, Sunday Times Generation Next Awards and Conference, Business Day Supplier Development Awards, Sunday Times The Directors Event, FM Top Analyst Awards, Sunday Times Literary Awards, and a host of bespoke events to name a few.

For media requests, please contact Samantha Pugh.

Issued by:                    Samantha Pugh, Pugh Public Relations & Corporate Communications

e:   c:  071 874 5460

On behalf of:               Taryn Westoby, Head of Tiso Blackstar Events

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