Photography: Shahril Bahrom
Diageo World Class has officially kicked off in Malaysia with the first round of the competition hosted in the Hilton’s Zeta Bar.
Thirteen of Malaysia’s best bartenders showed off their skills to impress three judges – Lam Chi Mun from Diageo Bar Academy; Ben Ng from Fluid Alchemy; Kim Choong, Editor of ThirstMag.com – in the Fundamentals of Flavour challenge, using Johnnie Walker Gold Label to create unique cocktails that each tell a story, as well as display their knowledge of the whisky.
On hand was Diageo Bar Academy Trainer Aubrey Sim, an already familiar face to the bartenders, to oversee the entire event and then lead them through the upcoming challenge briefing.
As the day started, nervous energy filled the bar as the competitors prepared themselves for the first round of judging. One by one, they took to their stations behind the bar and carefully explained each component of their drinks and the steps behind it to the judges. Some cocktails were elaborate constructions presented on serving platters with dry ice and coffee beans, while others were more straightforward with simple garnishes. As per the rules of the competition, each bartender had two minutes for set-up and five minutes to mix the cocktail, with any time exceeded being deducted from the final score – which unfortunately was the case with a few of the bartenders, who took more than the allotted five minutes and were penalised.
Each drink was marked on technique, presentation, creativity, aroma, flavour and expression of the spirit, which in the end yielded some really impressive and unique cocktails that emphasised different elements of the Gold Label. my personal favourites were the Flashy Old Fashioned by John from Majestic KL (an attention-grabbing drink with light, fruity flavours), Golden Thyme by Naresh from Westin (thyme-infused tea served warm with a side of nougat) and Mesolithic Nectar by Shawn from Omakase+Appreciate (a rounded cocktail with a strong core honey flavour).
Scores were totalled and the judges announced the top three bartenders (in no particular order): Insan from Tate, Dedi from Souled Out (whose Royal Gold Jasmine made a real impact with the use of jasmine buds and delicate floral notes) and Shawn from Omakase+Appreciate. As the competition goes on the scores will be compounded, so those who lost points in round one can have a chance to catch up in the two remaining rounds.
Aubrey Sim gave some important tips for the next round to help with gaining more points, including: knowing the spirit flavours well (and communicating that with the judges) and practising and preparing ingredients as much as possible for the rounds before so there is no time wastage.
Round two is the History of London Challenge, using Tanqueray 10 as the core spirit. The cocktail must draw inspiration from some aspect of the culture of London – be it a certain movement, era, icon, etc. It’ll be another exciting round, and we can’t wait to see what kind of creative cocktails they’ll come up with this time.
All cocktails made in the Fundamentals of Flavour round will be on sale in the respective restaurants and bars for customers to enjoy outside of the competition.
Round two, The History of London challenge, will take place on May 18. Watch this space for more reporting from the scene.