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.
Sumire Miyanohara from Japan won the audience choice award, a new addition to the competition, which has been running for six years.
The event took place in a nightclub called Escape in Amsterdam. 12 competitors from Poland, Macau, UK, Hungary, New Zealand, Belgium, US, Japan, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Argentina and Colombia made it to the final from 1500 initial entries. The competition was judged by Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry, Japanese bartending supremo Hidetsugu Ueno and cocktail experts Jared Brown and Anastasia Miller. The panel was chaired by Bols international brand ambassador Rob Rademaker.
The competitors spent four days in Amsterdam, soaking up the culture and taking advice from the Bols Bartending Academy team. They were tasked with creating a food and drink pairings, inspired by Amsterdam, as part of the competition. The winner is to receive a global tour of five or six cities, where they will have the opportunity to work in top bars.
Bols CEO Huub van Doorne was quick to establish the cocktail competition after he lead the acquisition of the company from Remy Cointreau, where he sat on the board, in 2006.
He said: “We wanted to establish the cocktail competition – it was a choice we made to bring the brand back to cocktail culture.”
In 2011, 5,500 people passed through the Amsterdam-based Bartending Academy and van Doorne thinks the Academy has potential for growth.
“It’s a small percentage of the business but it’s an enabler and it serves as inspiration.
“We could train 7,500 people a year.”
Bols took the day of the competition as an opportunity to announce the roll-out of its Natural Yoghurt liqueur to the UK market.
The brand is already present in several global markets including China, Russia, Ireland and Bulgaria. It is to retail for £10.95 in the off-trade and it will be available in the on-trade.
UK marketing controller for specialities Johna Penman from distributor Maxxium UK said: "Lucas Bols is the first and only company in the world to launch a 100% natural yoghurt liqueur. The launch provides a fresh and natural alternative to traditional cream liqueurs..."
The company has also launched a barrel-aged genever in the US. The liquid is aged for two years and it is priced around $45.
Van Doorne said the company sold approximately three million cases in 2011, with annual revenue at €100 million.