The winner has been announced in the global final of a competition run by Glenfiddich whisky to find the World’s Most Experimental Bartender.
Spanish bartender David Kandinsky (pictured right) took the title alongside artisan ice cream master Santi Gόmez (left) after they collaborated on developing an inventive drinking experience.
The competition, now in its second year, challenged bartenders to partner pioneering experts in other fields on creating a new way of serving Glenfiddich whisky.
David, from El Pòsit in Alicante, paired three painstakingly produced botanical ice creams with an Old Fashioned made with Glenfiddich 15 Year Old.
Inspired by the shared tradition and craftsmanship of their hometown Jijona in Valencia, famous for its ice cream, and Dufftown, the birthplace of Glenfiddich, David and Santi’s experiment brought the products of two famous valleys together.
Working with locally sourced ingredients including almonds, grown in their region for centuries, and an exotic line-up of cinnamon, prunes, walnuts, bananas and vanilla, the duo created three bespoke bitters designed to enhance the flavours infused into Glenfiddich 15 Year Old by the three casks used in its maturation: virgin American oak, bourbon and sherry.
The three bitters, which were also made with toasted oak to replicate the single malts’ distinct woody flavour, were then incorporated into three ice creams.
When paired with the Glenfiddich 15 Old Fashioned, the whisky’s three notes of orange, ginger and honey were married with and intensified by each bespoke ice cream, creating an intricate dessert that took whisky and food matching to a new level. The influence of each cask was distinctly amplified by its “twin” ice cream.
Glenfiddich global brand ambassador Struan Grant Ralph said: “The level of invention, passion and ambition from this year’s finalists has been an inspiration. Last year, we pushed the boundaries of experimentation, but this year we’ve seen those boundaries extended further with entries that were almost impossible to choose between.
“Whisky and food pairings are an established favourite within our industry, but it was David and Santi’s ability to elevate their creation into a gastronomical wonder that gave them that edge.”
David added: “We’re always trying new techniques to impress people and attract them to the world of whisky. The idea behind this project was to combine mixology and ice cream in order to create an experience where people who don’t usually drink whisky can enjoy Glenfiddich 15 Year Old.
“Santi’s passion and family ties to the ice-cream industry were instantly relatable to mine as a bartender. I was drawn to his ability to craft infusions that celebrate not only flavour, but also hero our strong appreciation for maverick craftsmanship.
“The recognition of this award reaffirms our ability to change opinion through the power of mixology.”
Nine bartenders from countries as far afield as India, South Korea, Bulgaria and the United Arab Emirates took part in this year’s competition, collaborating with partners in specialisms as diverse as carpentry, edible art, cuisine and product design.
The UK was represented by national winners William Hetzel and Charles Roche from Scout in London who drew on William’s interest in perfumery to devise a whisky aroma-inspired concept.
The competitors pitched their experiment to an expert panel including Struan, Glenfiddich’s malt master Brian Kinsman, fifth-generation Grant family member Jonathan Grant, global brand director Enda O’Sullivan, High Snobiety content editor Jack Drummond and the 2016 winner of the competition, Nathan O’Neill of New York’s NoMad Hotel.
The finalists also fought off tough competition in their local markets for the chance to attend the Glenfiddich Experimental Bartender Academy, where they learned first-hand from Glenfiddich’s experts how to make whisky.
For more information on the competition finalists and experimental creations, follow #gfexperiments on social media.