We spoke with our 2018 winner Jordan Sweeney of The Wigmore Tavern, where he is Assistant Head-Bartender. Jordan discusses his motivation to enter the competition, his top tips on competing and his ultimate experience of the distilling apprenticeship!
I hadn’t entered a competition for two years prior to True Taste, but I felt that the prize was an opportunity I could not miss. Winning a 5-day distilling apprenticeship and working with the Hayman’s Master Distiller Christopher Hayman and Distiller Sam Pembridge really inspired me, so I went for it and applied!
It was a fantastic experience. You could tell a lot of thought had gone into creating the interesting and challenging rounds. For example, in one round you had to nose and identify distillates of the 10 Hayman’s botanicals, and then blend these to create a perfectly balanced gin. As someone who is really interested in the gin making process, it was so unique.
I also loved watching the presentations and seeing what the other contestants had come up with. The competition gave contestants free reign, so allowed creative bartenders to shine and I saw some incredible drinks. There’s such a wealth of talent in our industry, and it was a fantastic opportunity to see that.
The distillery itself is a beautiful setting for the competition. The three-course meal at the end of the day was a lovely touch, and it is a memorable moment enjoying a meal with friends and the three massive stills watching over you!
Truly, the knowledge you gain is the prize. I’ve had the chance to get hands on experience in a working distillery with true professionals. Sam, will have you doing everything, not just the fun bits! You will be measuring out the botanicals and loading the stills. He’s very open with his knowledge and offers it openly and freely, so you really have a chance to learn a lot if you utilise this!
The distiller’s apprenticeship also included a lot more than I had imagined. It’s a masterclass in product development and you are included in everything, from recipe testing and fine-tuning to marketing. You work closely with the Hayman’s Brand Ambassador, so you gain a broad understanding of how the drinks industry works.
It is incredible. One of the most respected gin companies selling my gin! I cannot wait to see the reaction to it, especially from fellow bartenders and people I respect in the industry!
All the drinks in the final are going to be of a very high standard. They will already have won their individual heats. So, for me it all comes down to how you present your idea and the story you tell. Take a few risks and do something different, as you only get one shot!
In one of my competition drinks I used two types of hops and so for my presentation I created an alternate universe where the hops were a royal family! It was definitely whacky so was something the judges remembered!
I am a firm believer in not letting facts get in the way of a good story! That’s not to say I am encouraging you to lie, but I have seen so many presentations derailed by the competitor desperately trying to remember a certain date or detail. You should certainly have facts and be ready to throw them in where possible, but never rely your whole presentation on them. Focus on the pace of the presentation and engage the crowd as much as possible – you’re just having a chat with them after all!
1. To make the Hop Heritage distillate Jordan created a homemade blend of Fuggle, Goldings, Willemette, Bramling Cross and Centennial Hops.
2. To make the Palace Party Distillate Jordan created a blend of three aromatic new age hops to give a fruitier, citrusy floral blend.
3. Add all the ingredients except the Palace Party Distillate into a shaker.
4. Top with ice, and shake.
5. Strain and serve into a chilled glass.
6. Spritz with the Palace Party distillate before serving.
Jordan will be joining us to judge the 2019 True Taste competition. Entries for Hayman’s True Taste 2019 competition are now open here!
Watch out for his Bartenders-Edition Gin, details of which will be released soon!
* Or over 21, depending on where you live.