Nikka Whisky Cocktails – Perfect Serve Finals at The Blythswood Hotel

In 1918 what would drive a young man to travel 3 months ALONE to Glasgow to learn and study. Well this is a Whisky Blog, yip “Whisky“.  The Godfather of Japenese Whisky “Masataka Taketsuru” made the lonely pilgrimage to Scotland in the early 1900’s to follow his dream and learn the craft of making Scotch Whisky.

Masataka wanted to learn from the world leaders and take his new found knowledge back to Japan to replicate and create a similar style of Whisky as Scotch.  His family had been in the Sake business for a couple of centurys, so spirit making was in his blood. His thirst for learning took him across Scotland, through most Whisky producing regions, enabling him to compare and take note of the small changes in process and equipment that can make big differences in character and flavour, finetuning his skills.

Masataka and Rita 1920

After his galivants, he settled back into study life at Glasgow’s University, and it was at his modest lodgings in Kirkintilloch he fell for Glasgow born Rita, love blossomed.  A few years after arriving in Glasgow Masataka Taketsuru graduated from Glasgow University and fully equipped with his Whisky production knowledge and a Scottish – soon to be bride – they returned to Japan to begin work on his dream.  Initally working for another spirit maker, finally in 1934 Masataka established Nikka Whisky, building his first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, and the rest is history…

Mood set… now almost 6,000 miles from Japan’s Whisky distilleries, I sit in Glasgow’s 5 star City Centre Blythwood Hotel and can fully understand why Nikka chose this City to host it’s 3rd Nikka Whisky Perfect Serve Finals… Nikka’s foundations are right here in Glasgow.

In the running to be crowned Nikka Whisky’s Bartender of the Year are:


Paris Amaury Guyot the Sherry Butt
London Adam McGurk the Hawksmoor
Munich Doreen Philipp Falk’s Bar@Bayerischerhof
Milano Tommaso Colonna Caffè Gambrinus
Moscow Bubashvili Ilia Aloha Bar
Prague Adam Hrapko Black Angels

Their first challenge of the day was for all finalists to prepare the perfect Nikka Coffey Grain Manhattan, they were to use their own recipes and wow the judges on presentation, flavour and use of the Nikka Whiskies.  The judges who had the “awful job” of sampling some of Europes finest cocktail makers wares were, Charles Maclean, a prominent Scottish whisky writer, Salim Khoury of the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar in London and Global Nikka representative Emiko Kaji from Japan.

Amaury Guyot’s Perfect Nikka Manhattan was made up of:

  • 1 dash of Angostura Orange Bitters
  • 1 dash of Angostura Bitters
  • 1 cl Noilly Pratt Rouge
  • 1 cl Carpano Antica Formula
  • 1,5 cl Noilly Pratt Dry
  • 45 ml Nikka Coffey Grain
  • Twist of lemon and orange

Each contestant demonstrated their abilities and skill on how to engage the customer (judge) and produce a cocktail to beat the other 5.  But the days main event was to take place after lunch, each finalist had to role play, in a situation set up by the judges, to mix, shake and stir their way to be the best.  Concocting perfect cocktails for each judge – one at a time – delivering their best chat and best Nikka Whisky cocktails.

First up Italy’s Tommaso Colonna flambouantly produced a ‘pic-nikka’ blanket, basket and fine Italian foods to accompany his Whisky cocktails, Adam Hrapko had flown into Glasgow from Prague the day before accompanied by a perfect ice sculpture of a skull, in which he poured Nikka whisky through a hole on the top to allow the Whisky to flow out the skulls mouth – very impressive, and if you are quick it can be seen at the Pot Sill in Glasgow. Bubashvili Ilia served a delicious Nikka Cocktail from a large kettle and Adam McGurk was on top form with his quirky London vibe and delicious mint julip cocktail served in a copper cup.

BUT all the gimicks, gadgets and flair really were no match for winner Amaury Guyot co-owner of the new Sherry Butt bar in Paris and runner up Doreen Philipp manager of the Falk’s Bar at Munich’s Hotel Bayerischer Hof who both produced immaginitive Whisky cocktails with no paraphernalia just charm and dynamite mixing skills.   Both winners had earned themselves a once in a lifetime trip to the home of Nikka in Japan to tour the two Nikka distilleries: Yoichi and Miyagikyo, and learn more about the brand.

The judges were impressed by Amaury’s technique, his natural attitude, and of course his cocktail skills. The judges all agreed that all the finalists showed incredible creativity, but what set the French bartender apart was his ability to really listen to the judges, and present personalized drinks according to the OMAKASE theme of the contest.

Japenese Whisky is soaring up the taste charts with many Whisky lovers and has a massive space in my Whisky cabinet.  The lighter less complex characteristics accompanied with the rich sherry notes found in many Japanese Whiskies is certainly my style of Whisky.

A huge thanks to the Liquorists for organising the event for Nikka, the Blythswood for hosting, the contestants for mixing some outstanding cocktails,  the judges for their wit, and of course Nikka for creating some amazingly tasty whiskies.

View the video of the event here…

Here’s to next year…


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1 Response

  1. Roberta says:

    I hold no severe grugde against Nikka and assume they have valid reasons for acting the way they do, but still…Because of my interest for these grain “experiments” as I call them (because at this level, let’s face it, that’s what the Coffey Grain & Coffey Malt are), I invested in other Miyagikyo whiskies and was each time disappointed.Now in the long run, I’m glad I know other Miyagikyo bottles. As a Japanese whisky fan, I would have tried them anyway sooner or later, but as a European customer, I still feel misled.You’re right, most people don’t care about all that. I even met some whisky fans who didn’t even know what Yoichi and Miyagikyo are, and thought that Nikka is a distillery, and yet that never prevented them to enjoy what’s in their glass.But I want to know what distillery the whisky I’m drinking is from, no matter if it’s still in activity or not.When the information is simply not available (which is sometimes the case with some small Scottish independant bottlings), I can live with it. But when I’m misled and told that a particular whisky is from a distillery when in fact it’s from another, that just doesn’t rock my boat at all.Nikka may have been straight about it in some one shot Japanese press release, but when even The Whisky Exchange gives wrong information about the bottles they sell, it just shows that Nikka hasn’t been straight enough, at least in my book.

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