Glenfiddich has named Johnny Tsai of Bar TCRC Tiawan and Chef Yu Lee of Ninao Gelato the winners of its annual World’s Most Experimental Bartender competition.
The competition aims to cultivate community, challenging top bartenders around the world to come together with a fellow craftsman or artisan outside the drinks world to co-create fresh, unique experiences for the Glenfiddich brand.
Following six months of regional heats, nine pairs of finalists from France, UK, Taiwan, India, Bulgaria, Israel, Spain, USA and the UAE earned a place at the global final in Scotland.
Before creating their cocktail concepts, the finalists were presented with an immersive Glenfiddich experience which featured a series of whisky-based challenges and craftsmanship classes.
2018’s finalists collaborated with masters in their fields including musicians, coffee baristas, ice sculptors, butchers and chocolatiers.
The judging panel consisted of Glenfiddich’s 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, Cruicible’s Stuart Bale, and Jordan Murphy Diodge from Gentleman’s Journal.
Johnny and Yu’s Xiao Long Fiddich was the most popular creation, presenting a next generation serve that fused one of Taiwan’s most authentic dishes, Xiao Long Bao buns, together with Glenfiddich 12 Year Old.
The pair added an unexpected twist by freezing the buns using dry ice before filling them with an experimental mix of ‘East meets West’ flavours including Glenfiddich-infused raisins, wax gourd candy, homemade maple syrup bacon and cashew nuts.
Johnny and Yu will travel to Tokyo Bar Show and BCB Brooklyn to showcase their experimental ethos. Johnny will also return as a judge for the 2019 competition.
Johnny said: “This is such an incredible award! 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.
“This has been such a brilliant opportunity – I really look forward to the year ahead and to introducing our Glenfiddich drinking experience to the world!”
Glenfiddich global brand ambassador and judge Struan Grant Ralph added: “We’ve been absolutely astounded by the level of innovation and imagination in this year’s competition.
“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!”