And so there was 16.
No time to rest though! After the elimination we went straight into the next challenge.
The second round of challenges had us starting off with the much anticipated Kings of Flavour. This challenge was almost like a two-for-one bar-gain (pun intended), with Whisky Mastery and Sensorium, both extremely fun to do!
I started in the Sensorium, which might be the coolest challenge I’ve ever done in any competition.
Here we were asked to create (in advance) only one cocktail, but the serve should include all 5 senses, that be sound, sight, smell, taste and touch. Some proved to be easier than others. I chose to limit, or remove some of the senses, instead of just adding impressions.
My theme for this serve was how the brain creates flavour and flavour memories, which is often quite different from what we think.
I started off with an almost empty bar-top, only a small linen bag containing earplugs and blindfolds for the judges. They were then asked to use both, and when cued, remove earplugs only.
While the judges could neither see nor hear, I started my set up. First I put out a small trey in front of each judge, and filled it with coffee beans. Then I signaled them to remove the earplugs, so they could hear me. While I was talking, the aroma of the coffee beans started to fill the air.
Often when you remove one of your senses, you will find that you pay more attention to the others. When it comes to flavour, our sense of taste often gets credit for what we experience, however the experience starts long before we ever taste anything.
Sight is often our first sense put to task when eating and drinking, and we often rely on it extensively when determining flavour. “Loosing” it, even for a brief moment will force us to really think and pay attention to what we are experiencing, making more use of our brain.
Our most powerful weapon when tackling flavours is our sense of smell. Far more equipped than our tastebuds, our nose (olfactory system) can detect thousands of aroma compounds, which then will be deciphered by our brain and recognised as different flavours. It is also the only sense that can ”bypass” our brain, and get an immediate response without us even having to think about it.
Some aromaes are so recognizable, that even if you can’t put a word or name to it, you’ will have no problem recognizing it.
At this point, I asked the judges to remove their blindfold.
As hoped, they had recognised the coffee aromas while blindfolded, and I continued my speach.
Coffee is one of those aromas, recognisable to most, and even those who don’t enjoy drinking it, often enjoys the aroma. It is also one of the flavour notes of Singleton of Dufftown, which was my chosen spirit to work with for this challenge. Another flavour note is burnt sugar/ caramel, which was to be the other flavour I focused on.
At this point, I started to make my drink, Think Twice ( Not a Celine Dion reference by the way).
50 ml Singleton of Dufftown
20 ml Vermouth Rosso
10 ml Moscovado & Cedarwood Syrup
1 barspoon Fernet Branca
1 dash Orange & Mandarin Bitters
Stir on ice, strain into ceramic vessel.
I served the drink in an egg shaped ceramic vessel, cut so that when you approach the glass to drink, your nose is completely isolated from all other smells apart from the drink. The glass was sitting on top of the tray with coffee beans, making the aroma of coffee very present up until the judges closed in and took a sip of the drink.
Even though there was not actually any coffee in the drink itself, coffee is a big part of the flavour impression of the drink. Even the vessel felt like a coffee cup. In the end, your flavour memories are so much more than what you taste alone – and I hope I managed to get my message across to the judges.
The Whisky Mastery was all about the decks and how to get the best hand.
From a deck of cards, each colour a category of ingredients to work with – fruits,herbs and spices, condiments & exotica, each competitor drew 8 different cards, each representing an ingredient. You could (and should) use as many of the ingredients drawn in making your two drinks.
I’ve always been quite lucky with card earlier, though casinos are nothing compared to the high stakes here. I did draw a strong hand though, depending on how you see it:
Green tea, rooibos tea, passion fruit, orange marmalade, kaffir lime leaf, dried dates, rose liqueur and a french aromatised wine in the style of Dubonnet ( or at least thats my interpretation of it, since no one seemed to know what it was)
As is tradition (iternal joke amongst the competitors thanks to Emil), we got 30 minutes to prep our ingredients, then 10 minutes to prepare and present our drinks before the judges.
When prep time started, the first thing I did, was to try and organize my ingredients into two logical drinks so I could choose my base spirits. I ended up with Lagavulin 16 and Oban 14, with 5 ingredients going into one drink and 3 going into the other.
The biggest challenge for me was to get the dried dates converted into some kind of liquid, that would be tastefull in only 30 minutes. I decided to add some water and bring them to a boil. I then added the rooibos tea and sugar, and let it simmer for 20 minutes (ish) while I was doing the rest of my prep.
Next step was to add some boiling water to the green tea, just to open them up, before I strained the leaves off, and added them to the Oban. I sealed everything in a bag and dropped it into the sous vide, making a quick infusion.
Then I sliced open the passion fruit, mixed it in with the kaffir lime leaves, and let it steep for the reminder of the time.
I’ve always loved rose as a flavour in drinks, which is quite strange since I don’t care for the smell that much. However, I found it a bit challenging to work with the rose liqueur given, so I decided to use it as an ingredient for what turned out to be my very own fortified wine.
First I dissolved the orange marmelade (quite bitter) in the aromatized wine, before adding a splash of the rose liqueur. I strained everything through a coffee filter, and voila – done.
Last thing before prep time was over, was to strain off the date and rooibos reduction and add some balsamic vinegar and cool it down. This might be the fastest shrub in history, but it was very tasty!
It was down to seconds, but I managed to get all my prep done – now it was time to make the drinks!
35 ml green tea infused Oban 14
15 ml Green Chartreuse
30 ml Passionfruit & Kaffir lime leaf puree
10 ml Lemon juice
Hollowed half passionfruit shell filled with green tea and kaffir lime leafs
Shake with ice, strain into a highballglass with crushed ice. Place the garnish on top with a straw.
By now the sun was setting, on what had been a very long day, and I wanted both my drinks to be a bit “aperitivo” inspired, both in name and flavour. Still, they should be contrasting, so where one was long and refreshing – the other was short and soothing.
East of Eden
45 ml Lagavulin 16
25 ml Aromatised wine infused with orange marmalade & rose
10 ml Date & Rooibos shrub
Stir on ice, strain into prechilled old fashioned with ice.
All competition images by Ian Gavan/Getty Images