By VIANCA GAMBOA
Images by NOEL PABALETE
In the world of bartending, mixing spirits and textures with different “noses” and “finish” is an art concept.
It isn’t just about liquors—it has evolved into a culture.
The best cocktail combinations are probably the most experimental ones, those that sound like a mix of monsters and sprinkles and odd spirits all together, giving glory to an otherwise local dingy pub that houses it, because it’s imbued with the bartender’s creativity in concocting poisons.
One of the most sought-after alcohol great for mixing is Scotch
whisky, or “dram,” known for its contrasting oak flavors that range from subtle and sweet to fruity yet distinguished, with the Glenfiddich brand having the most prominent taste notes. Glenfiddich pioneered the single malt Scotch whisky with the oldest age statement of 55 years, from the oak barrel to its bottle. But its 12- year-old is a favorite among bartenders for its taste notes that make for the oddest yet rewarding serves.
This is the reason behind Glenfiddich’s Experimental Whisky Bartender, a global on-trade competition that began in 2016, which innovates the drinking game by challenging bartenders and non-industry mavericks like designers, tattoo artists, chefs, and even professional groomers to take the famous single malt Scotch whisky beyond the cocktail and bartending norms.
On its second year, The Glenfiddich World’s Most Experimental
Bartender Fair went to Whitespace Makati, and we witnessed an eclectic mix of professional bartenders and discerning nonconformists hailing from different underground scenes, with the fresh and fruity aroma of the Glenfiddich 12-year-old in the air. The nine unlikely pairs were selected after a careful deliberation by the brand, but only three of them can advance to the national finals happening on Aug. 27 through a show off competition before an esteemed panel of judges. Only one pair will get the coveted chance to represent the Philippines in the global stage in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
We’ve had a few tipples of each unconventional serve paraded in the contenders’ respective cross of hipster and edgy booths, which were all designed to look like small pubs, with live bartenders and their collaborator’s stunts—from milk tea whisky, an “inked” drink with charcoal, to a grooming experience and a photography gimmick to go with the experience. But nothing stood out quite like the three finalists’
The first pair to garner a place in the finals were Cove Manila‘s Faye Fernando and Beverage R&D specialist James Llamera with their “fermented” drinks of taho, mango kombucha, and coffee kombucha. It could have tasted like a usual milk tea with 70 percent sugar but Glenfeddich 12 balanced the sweet, fruity
notes of their drinks.
The second finalists were OTO’s head bartender Kate Osmillo and Lampara’s pastry chef Fonso Sotero with their Glenfiddich 12-infused three-tier dessert—the Roasted Malt Ball, made from puri stuffed with barley, cashew, and soft tofu, cocoa nibs, Campari, Amaro, and orange bitters; the Soaked Munchkin Ball filled with raspberry sauce and drizzled with orange marmalade; and its version of on-the-rocks drink, the freeze-dried Highball Rock. It tasted like a coffee crumble ice cream with orange notes, allowing the signature mellow finish of the Glenfiddich 12 to cap off the experience.
Run Rabbit Run’s Enzo Luna and pastry chef Don Carpio also made it on the finalists’ list with their highball rendition of a Filipino breakfast combination of pan de sal and batirol. Their Malted Barley Sourdough Pan de Sal, Whisky Butter, and Apple Whisky Jam with the Hot Cocktail with a hint of chocolate was
a combination that felt homier than it was heady, and hot without an after-burn.