Talisker’s inaugural Race to Skye competition has wrapped up with Andrew Lennie of The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen in Edinburgh claiming the crown, beating bartenders from across the UK.
The six finalists were whisked up to Skye, the home of Talisker, to compete in four different challenges for the opportunity to work as a brand ambassador for Talisker for the next year.
The first challenge took place on the way there, at Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry. The finalists were tasked with creating a whisky highball using Talisker, with huge differences in the entries.
David Ali of the Finnieston in Glasgow created an unusual highball flip, mixing Talisker Skye with a pear and walnut puree and tamarind soda, while Dan Bovey from Be at One Bristol combined Talisker storm with a greengage ferment and spiced pear shrub, soda water and hopped grapefruit bitters.
With a tip of the hat to Japan, Mike Pendergast of the East London Liquor Company mixed Talisker Storm with yuzu and a cherry tincture, resulting in a bright, citrusy drink with sweet notes from the Talisker and a touch of salt too.
Lennie, meanwhile, created a real flavour journey with his drink, mixing Talisker 10yo with lime juice, a smoked rhubarb syrup and ginger beer.
Round two was held on the coach journey between Blair Athol and Skye, and was a whisky-based Mastermind-style quiz. Surprisingly, no one got what ‘Talisker’ actually means (it means ‘sloping rock’, pop pickers).
Finally on Syke
A visit to the beautiful Talisker distillery on the bank of Loch Harport on day two of the competition included a tasting round, where the competitors had to blind taste six Talisker whiskies, guess which ones they were, and place them on a flavour map.
Finally, the finalists got to judge each other in the hip flask round, having created a drink using Talisker that could be enjoyed from the flask.
Rebecca Bevvy of the Laundrette Group in Manchester created a fruity number, infusing Talisker Skye and 10yo with dehydrated raspberries and blackberries and mixing it with ruby port, rhubarb bitters and honey.
The most unique entry came from Charles Roche of Scout, who recreated the smell and taste of wet rock and moss with his unusual combination of rock, oak, pine, lavender, rock and rain, and Talisker 10yo.
Lennie used the power of storytelling, having written a story about a walking experience from the perspective of his Uncle Joe to bring his mix of Talisker 57 North, plum sake, Campari, peach bitters and jasmine tea to life.
The finalists had to sit through an agonising (yet delicious) dinner before finding out who had triumphed, and when Lennie was finally announced, he was clearly overwhelmed.
‘I’m really surprised and obviously very pleased,’ he told Imbibe. ‘August has been a busy month with Edinburgh Fringe, but I put so much work into the competition – once I started I couldn’t stop.
‘It’s pretty overwhelming, the way we were treated and looked after on this trip was incredible. I think the most important thing I took from the competition was that sense of place that Talisker has, and the feeling of adventure. It certainly didn’t disappoint!’
Lennie has won the opportunity to work as a brand ambassador for Talisker over the next year.
‘Whisky might be part of Andrew’s repertoire as a bartender, but it’s also personal passion; he brought Talisker to life in unique ways,’ said Diageo Reserve whisky ambassador David Sinclair. ‘He’s a natural story teller. I’m excited to be working with him over the coming year, to continue his personal legacy with Talisker and the Race to Skye competition.
‘I think any opportunity to take bartenders to the Isle of Skye, to the home of Talisker, really brings it home what a unique spirit Talisker is. What backdrop could give more inspiration than having the Cuillin Mountains on one side and Loch Harport on the other? Whisky experiences don’t get much better.’