Bushmills Finalists

I don’t drink whisky, let’s just start there. Never really had a taste for it, but as I quickly approach 30, I wonder if it’s about time I acted my age and started to appreciate the difference between a 16 and a 21 year old, erm, I’m talking about malt of course…

Last week I had the perfect opportunity to do just that. I was lucky enough to be invited over to Northern Ireland for the 2nd year of the ‘Make it to BUSHMILLS’ competition. 11 pairs of finalists from 11 different countries around the world compete in a lovechild of Eurovision and the Krypton Factor. They participate in various challenges such as barrel rolling, beach golf, whisky tasting, cocktail making and then they get a final 60 seconds to impress the judges in a frank one on one interview which even Simon Cowell would be proud of. Some sang, some danced, some even juggled…

As a non-whisky drinker, it may seem strange that I reported on this, but I have always wanted to become a connoisseur in whisky, well not quite, but at least wanted to know my malt from my mash. BUSHMILLS seemed the perfect brand to get started with. Huge over in the US, and becoming very much a cult drink for the cool kids around the world, their ethos is very much about friends, and as master distiller Colum Egan says

‘we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and neither should you’

There still seems to be a perception that you can’t drink whisky until you are 60, have your own leather armchair, with your slippers and pipe. But thankfully that is quickly being abolished. Brands like BUSHMILLS no longer require you to drink your whisky straight or with a drop of water. In fact they encourage you to enjoy it however you wish. I obviously tried as many as I could straight up, but add a dash of ginger ale, orange or just plain old coke and you instantly stumble upon something new and a little different. It’s not like vodka where you tend to mask the alcohol, it’s still there with all it’s flavour. Cocktails are also becoming increasing popular in our new age society, part of the competition was actually to design and make your own cocktail. There were many a cut finger, flying fruit, and spilt drink, and although some of the taste may have been missing, there was no lack of whacky creations as you can see below.

Bushmills Whisky Cocktail AppleBushmills Whisky Cocktail Strawberry

Whisky is actually appearing in more and more cocktails, in fact some of the most well known and nicest on the planet such as the Tennessee cowboy, Rob Roy and Manhattan all have whisky at their core. These different ways to drink whisky may erk the old school brigade, but they are a dying breed. It’s all about the present and the future.

But back to the competition, and after a hard fort few days, the South African team of Jonathan ‘Oros’ Oliff, 28, from Durban and Sean Tickner, 30 from Cape Town were crowned BUSHMILLS champions for 2011. They win two weeks working at the world-famous Old Bushmills Distillery, where they will make their own unique blend of BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey, live in luxury penthouse accommodation and get £5,000 spending money. Not bad for a couple of days rolling on the beach and drinking…

I managed to grab some time with the guys, and they were worthy winners, always energetic and up for a good laugh and you could tell they loved their whisky and were just really passionate about it. Not to mention they are both married to twin sisters!

A huge thanks to BUSHMILLS for sorting everything out, 22 competition winners had a few days they will never forget, including a last evening treat of an intimate gig with Foy Vance and Duke Special. BUSHMILLS themselves seem to have created the perfect mix of knowledge, yet with a younger, more friendly edge. Having been in the business for over 400 years they are extremely well established, but I have no doubt they are very much a brand for the now and for years to come. Stylish, fun and friendly, next time you are in a bar, or shopping for something a bit different in the supermarket, go and take a look. They even converted me…

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Foy Vance at BushmillsGolf on the Bushmills BeachBushmills South Africa
Bushmills Whisky WinnersBushmills South Africa Winners