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The Paarl-based drinks company, which was founded in 2016 by oenology doctorate Hanneli van der Merwe and Chris Wium, has grown into one of South Africa’s success stories in the mixed-drinks market. A strong local customer base is complemented by markets for its range of tonic waters in 13 countries worldwide.

The Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards is Africa’s largest drinks competition which attracted over 2 200 entries last year. It is also the only local wine and spirits show to be judged by panels comprising a majority of experts based in foreign countries, allowing entrants to be assessed by international critics. As of 2019 Barker and Quin will sponsor the Michelangelo Gin Trophy.

Since the explosion in the popularity of gins in the global marketplace, as well as the dynamic increase in South African-based distilleries, this has become one of Michelangelo’s most exciting categories, with a total of 70 gins entered in 2018.

Chris Wium, Hanneli van der Merwe and Lorraine Immelman

“Barker and Quin finds the Michelangelo Awards the ideal partner for its range of premium tonic waters made from natural products,” says Hanneli.

“Chris and I have both worked closely with the wine and spirits industries in our previous professional lives and recognise the increased demand for premium products driven by strong brands,” she says. “Barker and Quin’s ethos of quality, a product based on natural ingredients and an engaging and exciting brand fits perfectly with that of the reputation and image of Michelangelo.”

Since its first bottling in 2016 Barker and Quin has used water from the icy streams carving through the Boland mountains as well as natural and sustainability sourced quinine and spices. The popularity of the brand among consumers has led it to expand the offering to flavoured tonic, including hibiscus, honeybush-orange and marula offerings.

Wium says the strength of the Barker and Quin brand together with its status as the only naturally produced local tonic water has allowed it to find a gap in the market.

“Due to the diversity of products in the spirits sector, modern consumers have become more selective,” he says. “Barker and Quin’s image of being premium and natural has managed to garner a loyal following among consumers who are looking for a product that is not part of the mainstream in terms of brand positioning and flavour profile. The uptake from the market has allowed us to grow sales and expand our range of flavours. The association with Michelangelo, its international judges and the spirits entries which the competition attracts, is a great opportunity to elevate our profile and to be noticed as a leading South Africa tonic water brand.”

Lorraine Immelman, founder and CEO of the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards, says Barker and Quin is an ideal mix for the competition.

“It is the go-to brand of tonic water for many of our gin and other spirits entrants due to its superb quality, and the packaging and name is the kind of fashionable proposition that will truly benefit the status of the Michelangelo,” she says.

“As a true South African success story we also look forward to introducing Barker and Quin to our foreign judges with a gin and tonic, the latter being Barker and Quin, of course.”