The New Malt Order…
Adrian Peel chats with the London winners of Auchentoshan’s recent New Malt Order competition, finding top bartenders to create a fresh take on this lowland elixir
Auchentoshan distillery is a Single Malt whisky distillery located in Clydebank in the west of Scotland. The name Auchentoshan is from Gaelic Achadh an t-Oisein and translates as “the field of the corner.”
As part of a recent bartender search, which took place last autumn, the company announced two London winners, Georgia Billing (who works at Plateau in the City) and Jack Wareing (from the capital’s award-winning Dandelyan, located on the Southbank), who travelled to Glasgow for a week at the end of November with an international team of winners to create a new blend.
Georgia and Jack were chosen out of seven of the UK’s most creative talents from top city bars. They joined 10 other outstanding bartenders from around the world to create the Auchentoshan New Malt Order 2016, a limited edition blend which will come out later this year. Their masterclass was with ‘Miss Whisky’ herself, Rachel Barrie.
Georgia was the first to be interviewed ahead of the trip to Scotland. “My sister and I grew up in Cardiff with a Chinese mother and British father – you can imagine what a mix our family dinner table was!” she laughed, recalling her early life. “I’ve been on the bar scene for over ten years; it started as a part-time job to fund world travels and studying. “After recently completing a PhD in Cambridge, which entailed, amongst other disciplines, nutrition and food science, I chose to make my passion my career and returned to the bar industry full time.”
What made Georgia decide to participate in the Auchentoshan bartender search? “I heard about the competition from my friend and mentor, Michele Reina,” she replied. “Michele trained me to make cocktail bitters and liqueurs from scratch, and we often challenge each other to find and use new and unusual flavours in food and drinks. The Auchentoshan New Malt Order competition was a great opportunity to showcase our bitters and to meet like-minded experimental bartenders.”
Going into more detail regarding the contest, the young bartender said: “The competition brief was to explore a novel serve of Auchentoshan & Ale (a lowland whisky). Any Auchentoshan whisky and ale could be used, in combination with the competitor’s own handmade bitters.
“I created bitters with citrus flavours, including lemon and orange peel, coriander seed and spices, including green cardamom and ginger. The finishing touch was a scotch bonnet chilli! I matched the bitters with Auchentoshan American Oak, hopped mead, lemon curd and a little coconut liqueur.
“The inspiration was to use the flavours dominant in American Oak and match these with Caribbean scotch bonnet chilli, being mindful of flavours that grow together, go together. The natural sweetness of the honey teamed with lemon curd was to play with the oily and creamy mouthfeel, or oleogustus sensation in the drink.”
Asked about her previous bartending experience, Georgia noted: “I have worked in the bar industry since 2004, from barbacking to consultancy to higher-end cocktail bars and events. I even ran my own business conducting cocktail workshops. I’m not a fan of presentations and I usually suffer from nerves in competitions, which is why I try to enter as many as I can to grow my confidence.
“Not at all – it was a shock!” she exclaimed when quizzed about her victory. “The standard was very high, especially in London where there is such a concentration of talented and passionate bartenders. The other entrants were incredibly knowledgeable and a reminder that I have a long way to go. I feel grateful to have such a rare opportunity to visit Glasgow and the Auchentoshan distillery.”
Georgia continued: “We are going to work with the master blender, Rachel Barrie, to make a blend of Auchentoshan for bartenders, by bartenders. I’m not sure what to expect and I’ve been told that a lot of surprises are coming our way.
“I can’t wait to see the distillery and taste some single cask malts and to learn about the science and art of making a new blend, as well as the technical aspects of distillation. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the group to share experiences and gain insight on global bartending trends.
“The New Malt Order refers to the global community of bartenders chosen to work on the new blend of Auchentoshan. Jack Wareing and I are the UK representatives involved in this first edition, to be launched in 2017. We even get to contribute to the bottle and packaging design!”
Discussing her plans for the future, Georgia states: “I think I’ll always be behind the bar, but I also have a new start-up in the pipeline, the Reina Lab, which is a drinks laboratory producing bitters, liqueurs and the world’s first vermouth without sugar. The administration is a long process but I want to launch next year. Watch this space!”
Jack Wareing introduced himself: “I have been in London for the past two years now, but I’m originally from Northampton, home of the mighty Saints! If I’m not on the bar you will find me tending my plants – I’m a little green-fingered. I get points for trying at least…”
Explaining why he decided to enter the competition, Jack stated: “I am a big fan of Auchentoshan and I believe it is important to show support for the brands you believe in. Their somewhat humble approach to being unique appeals to my sensibilities and this competition really pushed the boundaries and challenged the concept of what bartending competitions are all about.
“Rather than an all-or-nothing sprint for glory, this was more considered and focused on the group with education at the forefront. The competition called for bartenders to create their own cocktail bitters, using Auchentoshan new make spirit as a base, to be used in their own take on the Auchentoshan & Ale.
“My bitters used an ancient druidic recipe which called for abundant and forageable plants native to the UK called the ‘Nine Herbs Charm’ with mugwort as a bittering agent. I created a serve called ‘A Wooden Horse’, which used barley three ways (fresh, brewed and distilled) and green apples as an acidifier. Round two was more of a freestyle approach, as long as the bitters were used again. My serve was a spin on a Jungle Bird, using a raspberry and Campari sorbet named after the adored Scottish broadcasting institution, Jackie Bird.”
Was Jack surprised at his victory? “Being my first competition, I had no idea what to expect,” he replied. “After preparing for a month, I knew that what I presented was the best I could do. It was definitely surprising to hear my name called out as winner, but I did have a huge smile for a few days after!”
On the subject of the upcoming trip to Glasgow, Jack commented: “I’m meeting up with 11 other bartenders from Canada, the USA, Germany and Sweden to collaboratively create a brand new expression of Auchentoshan. We get to play with all of their toys and all of their more experimental casks.
“From the concept to the blending all the way through to the design and marketing, we will have creative control – it will be our bottle. Not only will I be working with some of the best bartenders in the world, but also master distiller and all-round wonder woman Rachael Barrie!
“The New Malt Order is a community of young bartenders dedicated to the development and progression of modern whisky,” explained Jack. “With an emphasis on education and understanding, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and instead aim to change perspectives.”
The passionate bartender revealed his future plans, professionally speaking: “I’m planning to stay on with Dandelyan for the near future but then who knows? I’d love to represent a brand, but I think I’d miss bartending too much!”
The full UK shortlist of bartender competitors- including the establishments they work at in brackets – was as follows:
Andrei Marian (Four Sisters)
Ernest Reid (Smith and Wollensky)
Georgia Billing (Plateau)
Harrison Knox (Archer Street)
Jack Wareing (Dandelyan)
Michele Raina (Skylon)
Sam Mathieson (Dine)