Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
Jacob Sweetapple from Chambar in Vancouver, Canada, took the plaudits after prevailing from a multiple-round, day-long final at the brand’s London distillery.
It was the third Beefeater 24 cocktail competition but the first to focus on the theme of tea - two of the expression’s 12 botanicals - and to include bartenders from international markets.
Organisers estimated that about 100 contestants had taken part from the beginning to the end of the competition, with the eight finalists emanating from four countries, two from each of Canada, Greece, Italy and the UK.
Brand Ambassador Tim Stones said: “Two of Beefeater 24’s key botanicals are Chinese green tea and Japanese Sencha tea. We chose them [as the theme of the competition] as a way to get people to think about tea and use tea in cocktails.”
The competition comprised a blind tasting of varying spirit macerations, tutored tea and sushi making sessions and two cocktail making rounds – one tea-based and one pre-prepared.
Judges included Beefeater master distiller and International Spirits Challenge gin judge Desmond Payne, tea writer Jane Pettigrew and London's LTD@The Social bartender Dre Masso.
Payne said: “This competition was about much more than simply creating a good cocktail, it was also about the contestants' ability to take on the knowledge they'd been given throughout the day and apply it in a creative way with their cocktails.
“The competition demonstrated the bartenders' understanding of cocktails and the huge potential of tea as an ingredient.”
The prize for Sweetapple is trip to Japan which will include stays in Tokyo, Osaka and a visit to a tea plantation.
Sweetapple's tea-based cockatil, The Tea Keeper, is as follows:
2oz Beefeater 24 gin
0.25oz Homemade vermouth (Beefeater 24 gin, Kuchica tea, fruit infused white tea)
0.25oz Campari (steeped with Lapsang Souchong tea)
Throw the liquid four times between tin and mixing glass. Pour into coupe glasses.