Taiwan crowned Glenfiddich’s World’s Most Experimental Bartender 2018 — and what this means for whisky

From bao buns to drinking your meat, we meet the winners and predict how you’ll be consuming cocktails in 2019

Whisky is changing. As Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich Struan Grant Ralph told us recently: “you no longer have to drink [Scotch whisky] sitting in a leather chair by the fire with your dog. That’s been and gone.”

To get a look at the very cutting edge of mixology we headed to the World’s Most Experimental Bartender Competition 2018 up in Glasgow. This is where the great and good of the whisky world gather, as trend-setting bartenders from around the world face off against each other. It’s also an excellent place to get a sly look at the future trends that will be sweeping this ancient beverage in the coming months and years.

What is the competition?

The World’s Most Experimental Bartender sets bartenders from every corner a simple challenge: to partner with local artisans outside of the whisky industry to create both cocktails and experiences that highlight the versatility of Glenfiddich.

The USA team pour their cocktail

The winners from France compete in the final

The competition is just one example of how Glenfiddich are pushing boundaries, and in doing so fostering new talent that is leading the way in how we take our drinks.

Last week, nine finalists were sent to Scotland to participate, and the winners were…

Taiwan crowned champions with bao buns and whisky-soaked raisins

Bartender Johnny Tsai and chef Yu Lee from Taiwan were named the victors of the 2018 competition. Hailing from Bar TCRC and Ninao Gelato respectively, the duo created ‘Xiao Long Fiddich’, an experience that paired the signature Scottish whisky with Taiwanese bao buns.

“Our creation was a long, considered one,” said Tsai of their bold combination — which consisted of buns frozen with dry ice and filled with Glenfiddich-infused raisins, wax gourd candy, homemade maple syrup bacon and cashew nuts.

“When Yu and I came together as a team,” he continued, “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.”

Taiwan create their bao buns

India opted for a fruitier cocktail

Spain’s David González Manzano

The trends we saw (and tasted) emerging from the competition

With musicians, baristas, ice sculptors, butchers and chocolatiers all heading to Dufftown to compete, there was bound to be some standout entries. But, when Gentleman’s Journal tasted the finalists from the judging panel, we found every finalist to be distinct and memorable.

With that in mind, we picked out some of the whisky trends we think will soon end up in bars across the world.

Coffee: Two of the finalists, Bulgaria and the Philippines, added distinctive caffeinated elements to their drinks. While the Irish Coffee may have been around for decades, it seems it’s due an update, and we foresee a new market emerging for the many complex and convoluted combinations of these two legendary drinks.

Ice: The team representing the UK brought together mixology and the Edinburgh Ice Company, perhaps eschewing an end to the belief that whisky should only ever be drunk neat. New and exciting ways to use sub-zero substances seem to be on the horizon.

Colour: While we’re all familiar with the golden brown hue of our favourite dram, we might well be experiencing whisky in a few different shades in the future. India’s offering used the colour red to symbolise ‘life and love’.

Chocolate: Pairing whisky and chocolate might not seem the most obvious choice, but that didn’t stop the French team from inventing a new chocolate liqueur that was ‘worthy of pairing with Glenfiddich Scotch.’ Expect to see these high-end, decadent mixes on the rise.

Should you ever put ice in a single-malt Scotch? We answer the question once and for all…

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