Glenfiddich crowns World’s Most Experimental Bartender

8th November, 2018 by Amy Hopkins

Speyside distillery Glenfiddich has named bartender Johnny Tsai and chef Yu Lee from Taiwan as the victors in its World’s Most Experimental Bartender competition.

Taiwan’s Johnny Tsai and Yu Lee triumphed in the competition

The competition tasked bartenders from around the world to team with artisans outside of the whisky industry and co-create drinks experiences highlighting Glenfiddich.

Following a series of regional heats, the final took place at Glenfiddich’s Dufftown home and saw nine bartenders collaborate with musicians, baristas, ice sculptures, butchers and chocolatiers.

Tsai, of Bar TCRC, and Lee, of Ninao Gelato, impressed with their creation, Xiao Long Fiddich, which combined Taiwanese bao buns with Glenfiddich. The pair froze the buns using dry ice before filling them with Glenfiddich-infused raisins, wax gourd candy, homemade maple syrup bacon and cashew nuts.

“This is such an incredible award,” said Tsai. “Our creation was a long considered one. When Yu and I came together as a team, we asked ourselves – what does the wider world see when it comes to oriental culture and specifically Taiwanese? Our aim was to invent an ‘east meets west’ culinary cocktail experience. Not just a fusion of flavours but also a marriage of two traditions and cultures.”

During the immersive final, each bartender and their creative partner took part in a series of whisky-based challenges before travelling to Glasgow to create their experimental cocktail concept.

The judging panel consisted of: Glenfiddich malt master Brian Kinsman; Glenfiddich global brand ambassador Struan Grant Ralph; 2016 winner and head bartender of New York’s NoMad Hotel, Nathan O’Neill; Crucible owner Stuart Bale; and Gentleman’s Journal’s Jordan Murphy Diodge.

“We’ve been absolutely astounded by the level of innovation and imagination in this year’s competition,” said Grant Ralph. “The brief was slightly different in that we asked entrants to use one of our signature liquids, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, to invent experimental new serves that could have an enduring popularity. And we were not disappointed.

“Each pair not only pushed the boundaries in mixology, showcasing new and never-seen-before methods, but also took us on rich sensorial journeys featuring nuances from their individual cultures – making each entry truly unique in their own right.”

The winning duo will take their concept to the Tokyo Bar Show and BCB Brooklyn, while Tsai will return as a judge for the 2019 World’s Most Experimental Bartender competition.

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