Woodford Reserve Bourbon Trail launched by master mixologist

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This year’s Woodford Reserve Bourbon Trail was launched at The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel’s Grill Room in fitting Prohibition-style.

The Woodford Reserve Bourbon Trail Bar competition aims to uncover the countries best Old Fashioned cocktails. Bartenders are encouraged to create and present a classic Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned cocktail using sugar, bitters and garnish of their choice, with the winning creations deemed by a curation of three esteemed judges.

Participating bars in Cape Town include Cause & Effect, Orphanage, Arcade, Twankey, Burger & Lobster, HQ, Socal, Harringtons, Souk, One & Only, The Station and Radisson Granger Bay. Johannesburg participants being: Sin & Tax, Marble, Mesh Club, Gemelli, Saint, Landmark, Mootee, Marabie Club & Hemmingways Bar.

The winning regional Cape Town and Johannesburg bars will go head to head in the national Woodford Bourbon Brawl final, hosted in Cape Town on 27 November 2018, with the winner taking home the award for the National Old Fashioned bartender of the year.

The Woodford Bourbon Trail launch was led by award-winning master mixologist; Marson Strydom, the elegant Woodford Reserve event embraced this Bourbon’s heritage with the sounds of Duke Ellington on the bandstand, black jack and roulette tables fuelled by ‘funny money’, a photo booth to snap up the best vintage fashion of the night, prizes, and a tasting master class.

Highlighting the tradition of fine Kentucky Bourbon, Strydom choose cocktails to delight the palette. “With this heat I wanted something lighter, such as the Spirit of Rooibos – a rooibos infused Vodka with Woodford Double Oaked. The drinks needed something a little softer, because The Old Fashioned is quite a heavy drink. It’s very complex, as the sugars have more flavours,” he said.

The Woodford Reserve Bourbon Trail has seen judges search for the best cocktail in Cape Town and Johannesburg. This year engages 20 venues in the project. “The Trail is our annual campaign where we look for the best Old Fashioned by bartenders. One of the most creative I’ve seen was called The Clay Age Old Fashioned at Mootee Bar in Johannesburg. It was left for one month in a clay vessel. There are some other crazy ideas - such as The Maple & Bacon Old Fashioned cocktail at Burger & Lobster in Cape Town.”

The Woodford Reserve brand ambassador sang the praises of this handcrafted Bourbon: “Woodford Reserve is one of oldest distilleries in America. It’s one of the only Bourbons to be triple distilled, and also uses copper pot distillation, which gives flavour and character because the copper reacts with the alcohol vapours,” he added.

Offering insight into Woodford Reserve’s versatility, the mixologist showcased the nuances of this Bourbon with cocktails that featured “beautiful body, and a beautiful finish,” to those “a lot bolder with lots of spices.”

Fleshing out the Speakeasy and red hot jazz ambience of the prohibition period were Michael Bester on guitar, Stephen de Souza on double bass and saxophonist Marc de Kock. Showcasing the creative roots of award-winning Woodford Reserve, the trio played a repertoire oriented towards the big band swing era, with classic tunes such as Take the A Train.

#WoodfordBourbonTrail2018


Jade Allen