8 things we learnt at Tales on Tour 2017

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

18 April 2017

The dust has settled on the Edinburgh edition of Tales on Tour, and after a couple of weeks allowing the information and excellent drinks to percolate, here are a few of the key information nuggets we took away from the event.

  1. Tunnel vision isn’t always the route to success

At the 'Going Back to Your Roots to Find Success' seminar, a top panel of speakers (Ryan Chetiyawardana of Mr Lyan, PDT’s Jim Meehan, The Dead Rabbit’s Jillian Vose and Bacardi USA’s Ian McLaren) relived the paths that led to their careers as bartenders.

Meehan shared how he initially dreamt of being a doctor, while all the panel spoke of their experiences in further education. 'There’s about 12 attempted degrees among the panel, and only a few qualifications to show for it,' said McLaren, but all agreed that their experiences had fed into their bar careers.

'It’s important to go to university to help you transition to the real world,' declared Vose.

  1. Even run-off juice from cut tomatoes can be used

The discussion about waste and how it can be used in drinks was taken to a whole other level by the team from Tjoget in Sweden, who teamed up with Edinburgh’s The Voyage of Buck and Patron for an inspiring Dynamic Duo event. The stand-out drink on the menu was a twist on a Clover Club that utilised the leftover chopping board juice from cut tomatoes. Raspberries and tomatoes complement each other; who knew?!

  1. Rancio character includes tropical fruit notes

During their Whisky Heretics Part IV seminar, Ryan Chetiyawardana (seriously, he was everywhere), Dave Broom and Arielle Johnson delved into what rancio is, and whether it manifests in whisky.

We had always assumed rancio was all leather notes and woody characters, but Broom went further than that, repeatedly talking about amplified tropical fruit notes, alongside beeswax, ambergris, blue cheese, musk, mushrooms and damp.

There are a few key production factors that apparently result in rancio: long fermentation, with the length of time going into triple digits; reflux in distillation and directly fired stills; and knackered casks. 'Wood is a very minor player in the development of this flavour,' explained Broom.

  1. Our new favourite (old) drink is the Queen’s Park Swizzle

Served during the Just Swizzle It seminar, this drink was our favourite of the entire Tales on Tour. Dating back to the 1920s, this simple mix of Angostura 7yo rum, demerara syrup, lime juice, mint leaves with an Angostura Bitters float was sublime. We’re ashamed to say that this was our first exposure to it, but it certainly won’t be our last…

  1. Scotch whisky is underutilised in cocktails

The best seminar of Tales on Tour was Drambusters, examining scotch whisky’s place in mixed drinks and how the category is not being used to its full potential. There was so much material here that we gave it a separate write up.

  1. The start of Edinburgh’s cocktail scene can be traced back to the Radfords
The Radfords' Timberyard restaurant
The Radfords' Timberyard restaurant

These Radfords are of the wonderful Timberyard restaurant in Auld Reekie. At the Small Fish in a Big Pond seminar, some of the city’s other luminaries spoke about the factors that have led to Edinburgh being a leading cocktail city on the world stage.

Mike Aikman remembered how Andrew and Lisa Radford opened the Blue Bar Café in 1997, and how he went to work there. 'I got the best of my training through them,' he said.

Other factors for Edinburgh’s success included small multiple operator the Montpelier Group investing in its staff and training in the early noughties; and a city league cocktail competition that required bars to put in a different team of bartenders every time, ensuring that all staff across participating bar teams upped their game, and helping to foster the community atmosphere that abounds today.

  1. Sometimes shortcuts don’t work out

Monkey Shoulder’s Lazy Old Fashioned machine, a wonderful-looking steampunk contraption that churns Old Fashioneds out in a conveyor belt, stood proudly at the front of the William Grant opening party, but unfortunately had broken down.

We were hoping to see it in action at the dedicated Monkey Shoulder party the next night, but alas it wasn’t to be. #bartendersarebest

  1. Edinburgh’s bars absolutely killed it

Seriously. All the bars were heaving with international bartenders and drinks industry bods, and every single event we went to ran like clockwork. Props to all the bar teams for making it happen, and for blowing everyone’s socks off.

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