Platter’s 5 Star Brandy Shootout

Every year our wine sense are guided by a delightful little book called Platter’s Wine Guide.  It is a collection of most of the wines available in South Africa and they do the tough job of grading these wines as well to help you discern between the mediocre, great and amazing.

For the past few years Platter’s Guide has included brandy in their reviews, not only introducing the South African wine consumer to brandy, but introducing some lesser known (and available) brandies to us.

This year no less than 8 brandies were awarded the top marks of a Platter 5 Star award!  A true distinction of quality, superior taste and value of the craft.  We here at Brandy & Ginger however wanted to take it one step further… How do these 5 Star accolades compare to each other, hence the Platter’s 5 Star Brandy Shootout.

platters 5 star

Star studded line up for the Platter’s 5 star brandy shoot out


This was a tremendous task to distinguish and separate such highly awarded and quality brandies from each other. We are aware that there is copious amounts of information to give through when comparatively tasting all these brandies against each other, so for ease of access we will start this review off with a summary of our findings followed by the more detailed tasting notes and scores.

(A little side note; We did not include the Van Ryn’s Au.Ra 30YO in this review due to the significance, availability and price of this brandy. Yep folks, there is no more left! We also did a review of it recently with the last little available stock – check that out here)

The Results:

  1. KWV 15 Year Old Alambic
  2. Boplaas 20 Year Old
  3. KWV 20 Year Old & Van Ryn’s 20 Year Old Collectors Reserve


Some additional comments:

It is hard to compare the KWV 12 and the Van Ryn’s 12 seeing as they are two totally different brandies regardless of the same age!  The KWV 12 scored better on this tasting and will always be a bargain at the current price tag, but don’t let my rating of the Van Ryn’s 12 deter you from this great brandy with complexity that rightfully comes with the price.  It might be a bit pricey, but every drop is worth every penny.

The three 20YO’s scored so very close and the Boplaas narrowly came out on top between the 20YO’s.  All three of them are amazing in their own right at it is very difficult to hand out accolades. Each one of these brandies could have won on any given day, and all three undoubtedly deserves their 5 stars.

The KWV 15 was stand out yet again! It has been some time since it was last tasted, but the recollections were confirmed and it was the definite favourite today.  Considering the price of a bottle it is definitely 1st place material all the way.

(Strong) Personal opinions aside, Platter has done an excellent job in handing out their stars and in no way can their ourtcomes be criticized. Job well done…  Each one of these brandies deserve a tip of the hat from a country that is undeniably the best brandy producer in the world, and you shouldn’t dare to say no to anyone of them!

Enjoy and pleasant drinking

KWV 12

Average Price:  R260 – R320

What Platter says;

On its first outing this potstill grabbed the World Brandy Award at the IWSC 2014.  Rich, robust with caramelized nuts, sun-dried peaches, peardrop on the nose.  The palate is that & more.  Layers of cashew nut flavour melt in the mouth, honey, dark chocolate & fine sprinkling of spice. A triumph.

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose:  Sweet, elegant and flowery.  Doesn’t overpower the senses and entices with hints of caramel and a little bit of a Muscat undertone. 8/10
Palate: Nutty and smooth, with a sweet spice finish.  Ever so slight volatility, could easily be broken with a dash of water or block of ice.  None the less a wonderful and easy drinking brandy.  8/10
Finish:  Leaves a pleasant nutty yet floral flavour. 3/5

I will be the first to admit that when initially tasted upon release, I wasn’t overly impressed.  I will be the first to admit I was a little surprised when it took 1st place at the IWSC 2014. And I will be the first to admit that this brandy has grown significantly on me.  For the price tag it is a steal!  Great flavour, awesome nose and enjoyable easy drinking.  Perfect with a block of ice.

Total Score:  19/25

Van Ryn’s 12

Average Price:  R540 – R580

What Platter says;

100% Potstill brandy.  Deep colour, with mahogany gleam.  Fragrant, delicate aromas of fruit, herbs, flowers lead to full, richly powerful but gentle palate, then a long, sustained finish. Complete, balanced, triumphant.

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose:   Wild flowers and fruitcake.  Much more darker and oakey notes on the nose, held  together by a woody caramel. 7.5/10
Palate: Strong, woody and full of flavour with nuts & vanilla. 7/10
Finish:  Leaves a long and warm feeling in the mouth. Definitely for serious drinkers. 3.5/5

One of the most awarded brandies in the world.  Even though my palate has reluctantly grown distant with this brandy the past few years, I would still recommend it any day to anyone who enjoys a great spirits. Strong, rich and serious.  And I will still never say no when offered one…

Total Score:  18/25

KWV 15

Average Price:  R590 – R640

What Platter says;

Attractive honey, soft spice & dried fruit with floral backing & some fine oak.  Smooth, fine textured & good balance; great complexity from a range of citrus & rich fruitcake flavours.  Mellow & mature, with everlasting finish.

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose: Absolutely elegant and balanced. Sweetness of honey, well paired off against light spices and hints of oak.  All carried up into the nose by the soft floral wrapping. 9/10
Palate: Smooth, soft and meticulously balanced. Light citrus & honey sweetness with just the right amount of wood and spice. 9/10
Finish:  Stays there forever, and is more than welcome to do so! Pure drinking pleasure: 4/5

Yes, yes and a lot of yes. That would be the answers to do you love it? Would you recommend it? And would you like some more?  What an absolute pleasure to drink. So soft, so smooth and so much perfectly interwoven flavour.  Considering the price tag? I think I am in love…

Total Score:  22/25

Oude Meester 18

Average Price:  R950 – R1 050

What Platter says;

A fairly recent label & amongst the elite of the Cape’s older potstill brandies – minimum 18 years in oak.  Lightish amber colour to yellow rim.  Thrilling floral & spice notes, more delicate that Reserve (12YO), even more complex.  Not a roughness or jagged edge.  Serene, silken, very long.

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose:  Graceful & soft.  Buttery with light hints of coconut & vanilla.  Sweet spices at the end. Gorgeous. 8.5/10
Palate: The buttery nose translates into a smooth and rich taste.  Spicy but delicious. 8/10
Finish:  Lingering and warm, perfect for the winter. 4/5

Give this to me any time, any place.  Powerful, beautiful and awesome.  Great brandy and a great testimony to the South African craft.

Total Score:  20.5/25

Boplaas 20

Average Price:  R1 500 – R1 800

What Platter says;

Gold coloured with a hint of olive green on the rim.  Fruitcake, dried apricots, marzipan, sweet prune flavours, mingling with smooth vanilla.  Super-complex, elegant & silky palate – both delicate & penetrating – leads to a gorgeous long finish.  Just 500 bottles made.

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose:   Very complex.  Herbaceous yet spicy, vanilla yet sweet & fruity. Changes with every movement of the glass.  Quite interesting. 8/10
Palate: Smooth, sophisticated and intricately flavoursome.  Light spice and vanilla with hints of sweet. 9/10
Finish:  One word, eloquent. You can’t help but reminisce. 4.5/5

My first time tasting this brandy (even though I have owned it for a long time). My built-up expectation wasn’t for nothing and this brandy surpassed any preconceived idea.  Unique, intriguing and a must taste.  Pleasant change of pace and any connoisseur’s compatriot.

Total Score:  21.5/25

KWV 20

Average Price:  R1 050 – R1 150

What Platter says;

Exquisite aromas – sandalwood, apricot, scented flowers, hint of spice & oxidative maturity.  Rich & full, yet super-refined & delicate.  A touch less forceful that 15YO, but more grace.  Beautifully balanced, with supreme oak support.  Long, mellow, mature notes carry to slightly sweet finish.  Thrilling!

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose: Deceptively light for such an old brandy.  Dried apricots and a bit of raisins. Sweet and woody finish, a classic brandy fragrance. 8.5/10
Palate: Agreed, more mellow that the 15YO, but beautifully balanced and smooth. Rich and complex, but a delight in the mouth. 8.5/10
Finish:  Sweet & soft, begging for another sip. 4/5

Good old faithful. Stable and strong and never fails to deliver. A true ‘staatmaker’ when it comes to serious brandies.  A must have in any collection and something to enjoy at any special occasion. #FINISHGREAT

Total Score: 21/25

Van Ryn’s 20

Average Price:  R1 400 – R1 600

What Platter says;

Concentrated nose of dark berries, dried fruit& spice. Spice, especially, repeated on the palate along with apricot & prune amidst the complexity.  Reminiscences of oak but never intrusive.  Mellow, silky & very rich, with forthright finish.

What Brandy & Ginger says;

Nose:   Complex as ever, almost trying to hide what it has to offer.  Oak and lots of spice with a pleasant medicinal undertone. Possibly hiding some fruit, but reluctant to come out of the glass. 8.5/10
Palate: Sweet, silk and richly smooth. Perfectly balanced for such a complex brandy with great support from a tinge of oak. 9/10
Finish:  Finishes just as good as it started, but doesn’t stay nearly as long as I wanted. 3.5/5

My love/hate relationship with this brandy is no secret… Its complexity is comparable with that of a woman’s, but today she loved me back.  What an amazingly complex yet fantastic brandy.  True craftsmanship and the blessing of time.

Total Score: 21/25

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