Talisker Race to Sky
In September, our Assistant General Manager Andrew Lennie became the winner of the very first Talkisker Race to Sky competition.
Six bartenders from across the UK went head-to-head over four rounds: a highball challenge, a whisky knowledge quiz, a blind tasting of the Talisker range, and a hip flask challenge (where each competitor needed to create a Talisker-based cocktail that could be enjoyed from the hip flask).
So, why did he decide to enter? “I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of having the chance to work with some of the most well-respected whisky experts in the industry” said Andy. “I also thought the original brief tasking us to play on the brand’s campaign ‘Made by the Sea’ was perfect for me. My Grandad Tom was a naval cadet during the Second World War and his stories have stayed with me growing up. I see him as a spirit ‘made by the sea’ and my love for him and his stories, combined with my interest for whisky inspired me to present a drink that was special to me but also that celebrated the unique characteristics of Talisker.”
Whisky highballs are also something that are catching on, “there are so many interesting flavour profiles in soda now to accompany your dram. We recently put a Glenkinchie 12-year-old and rose lemonade on our cocktail menu and it’s been hugely successful. Sometimes the simplest serves prove the most popular.”
Andy’s hip flask challenge was based around his uncle Joe, who liked to go walking, “I enjoy visiting my hometown of Newburgh, Fife whenever I get a chance” said Andy. “I was lucky to be surrounded by lots of family when I was growing up there. It’s not until you get a bit older that you realise the importance of the older generations of your family and how fascinating their stories are. When I’m walking back home the memories and history of the town are so obviously present. My Uncle Joe passed away before I got a chance to really get to know him, but the photos of him hill walking and exploring the borders of Newburgh are a great reminder of the man he was. I thought I would use this challenge as a chance to celebrate Uncle Joe’s love of the outdoors and it gave me a chance to create a drink with a narrative of the things he may have thought, seen, smelt and tasted on his adventures.”
Naturally, being in Scotland whisky is an important part of any bar, and Andy has plenty of experience, “Whisky is really important to me. I was the general manager at Whiski Rooms in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and it was the first time I really had a chance to delve deeper into the category. I particularly love the history and the folklore of the spirit, and of course the taste too. I think working at Whiski Rooms was the moment I realised that working in the drinks industry was a career for me and not just a job. Growing up, my Uncle Ali was a big whisky fan and I remember asking him how anyone could ever start to like the taste of whisky. He always told me to sip it slowly and treat it as a friend. Sadly, Ali passed away before my real involvement with whisky began and I’d love to have the opportunity to share a dram or two with him now. So cheers to Ali!”
But when it comes down to drink, Andy prefers to drink it neat, usually with a half pint of something on the side. “I always recommend guests at our bar to try it on its own at least for a couple of sips to get a feel for its true flavour. If a whisky isn’t to a customer’s taste, that’s when the real challenge of bartending begins. It’s our job to experiment with different ingredients and flavours that are complementary to the liquid’s profile to bring out its characteristics and create some really great serves, but I’m also a huge advocate of offering single malts as the base for classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned, Whisky Sours or Rob Roys.”
As well as winning the trophy, he’ll also be working as a Talisker brand ambassador for the next year, “I just want to keep working hard and learning as much as I possibly can about Talisker and Scotch whisky. I’m also excited to start sharing what I’ve learnt with customers, both those who are already whisky drinkers as well as those who may be new to the category. It’s such a huge opportunity for me to work with some of the industry’s most influential whisky experts and I cannot wait to get involved. Just a huge thank you to everyone who looked after us during the entire Talisker Race to Skye experience. It’s been truly unforgettable.”
You can find the recipes for Andy’s cocktails below:
Would you go to the sea bed with me?
50ml Talisker 10-year-old
30ml smoked rhubarb syrup
15ml fresh lime juice
2 dashes Bittered Sling Moondog Bitters
Shake the whisky, syrup and lime juice and double strain.
Top with ginger beer over cubed ice.
Add the Moondog bitters.
Garnish with smoked rhubarb water over hot stones.
100ml Talisker 57° North
100ml jasmine tea with fresh blackberry
40ml Akashi Tai plum sake
4 dashes peach bitters
All ingredients added to a mixing glass and stir.
Strain into hip flask.