South African whisky cements its world class reputation with top international awards

James Sedgwick Distillery founder, Andy Watts was awarded world whisky brand ambassador of the year at the 2020 Icons of Whisky Awards.
MASTER OF HIS CRAFT: James Sedgwick Distillery founder, Andy Watts was awarded world whisky brand ambassador of the year at the 2020 Icons of Whisky Awards.
Image: SUPPLIED

South African whisky businesses recently took top honours at the international 2020 Icons of Whisky Awards held virtually, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, by London’s Whisky Magazine.

The James Sedgwick Distillery, home of proudly South African Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, and its founder distiller, Andy Watts, took world titles as the sustainable distillery of the year and world whisky brand ambassador of the year respectively.

Meanwhile, WhiskyBrother was named the Whisky Icon in the single outlet retailer of the year category, while retailer Big Five Duty-Free was awarded as the Whisky Icon in the travel retailer of the year category.

Award winners were announced via social media.

The James Sedgwick Distillery situated in Wellington is also currently a source of distilling alcohol to support the country’s fight against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The award-winning James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington. It now distills alcohol for sanitisers in the battle against Covid-19.
VERSATILE: The award-winning James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington. It now distills alcohol for sanitisers in the battle against Covid-19.
Image: SUPPLIED

Watts says innovation had been key in the success of South African whisky.

“Bain’s was launched in 2009, long before single grain whisky became a trend around the globe.

“My vision for this whisky was to offer consumers something truly South African made with 100% South African maize and uniquely double matured for a period of five years in casks previously used for the maturation of bourbon.


“This together with our warm South African climate which accelerates maturation, results in an exceptional smooth whisky with extraordinary flavour, making the whisky truly one of a kind.”

And in its own right, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky has been awarded as the World’s Best Grain Whisky twice — at the 2013 and 2018 World Whiskies Awards — cementing SA’s reputation for making world-class whisky.

The distillery, the only commercial whisky distillery in Africa, has been at the forefront of innovation with state-of-the-art equipment and ingenious sustainability projects.

In addition to the recent Icons of Whisky award, the James Sedgwick Distillery was recognised with the prestigious Green Company of the Year award hosted by the BIG Awards for Business towards the end of 2019.

“Making whisky is not just about the liquid. It’s about finding ways to lessen the impact on the environment,” says Watts.

“Over the years we have implemented a number of initiatives that include recycling spent grains, which are high in protein for animal feed; treating waste water first through an anaerobic digester and then further through a reverse osmosis (RO) plant. The first part of the water treatment recovers methane gas which is brought back into the process to reduce coal usage; the second treatment through the RO plant results in about 35% of the water being reused as process water (cooling and boilers).

“Collecting the CO² emanated during fermentation for use in carbonated drinks is a further initiative,” he says.

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