12 finalists, 5 days, 1 epic location: Here’s how The Perfect Blend 2019 went down

The finalists with the teams from The Blend and The Exchange.

Bali, Indonesia. Island paradise. It’s a place of iconic beaches, surf, culture and organic eating — contrary to belief, or perceptions, it’s home to all manner of sustainable, healthy-living lifestyles as well as an exciting night life.

And last week it was the setting for the Grand final of The Perfect Blend 2019. Why Bali? Did you know Bali will be plastic free as of July 2019?

The brief of The Perfect Blend both for Regional Finals as well as The Grand Final, invited bartenders to enter a signature creation incorporating minimal waste or sustainable practices, so the location was rather fitting as a place for developing the competitors’ education about the movement towards a more sustainable bar.

There were just over 400 entries into The Perfect Blend 2019, which saw a whopping 92 Regional Finalists take the stage across Australia and New Zealand. The competition took to the road in late February, completing a lap of the country and heading across the ditch to our neighbours in NZ, where they hosted the Regional Finals (and threw a helluva bartender party each night), and picked up a winner in both the Professional and Apprentice categories in each state.

In the end, six Professional and six Apprentice category winners gathered in picturesque Bali, for five days of workshops, dinners, challenges and much needed pool side relaxing.

Sessions included yoga to convey the importance of sustainability from within. They also hit the early morning market for a flavour experience demonstrating the local fruits, herbs and spices, which gave them tips and techniques for one of the challenges to come. They also took a social media workshop, and dived into a whisky of the world dinner as they got to know one another. Kurtis Bosley, last year’s winner of the Professional category, also hosted an evening of cocktails paired with dinner at Da Maria in the heart of Seminyak.

The Grand Final — Challenges

Keeping the finalists on their toes and putting them through their paces, The Perfect Blend set out their challenges on different days during their stay.

Each bartender sat a blind tasting, in which they had to identify a range of spirits from the comprehensive Beam Suntory portfolio, followed by an exam which tested not only their knowledge of the Beam Suntory brands but their ability to think creatively and outside the square, the same way The Exchange brand ambassadors do.

The next day, they needed to present two drinks before a panel of judges including The Exchange ambassadors, and last year’s winner Kurtis Bosley, owner of Corretto Dee Why.

One of the challenges was “Refresh the way you whiskey”. The brief provided identified Bali, as a tropical setting, with stunning poolside venues. A chance where one can unwind, relax and indulge. However, it seems poolside is stuck in the ‘old side’ when the century turned, which means we’re getting 80’s inspired cocktails. This challenge invited the finalists to create their own twist on the cocktails found during this occasion. Holiday fun cocktails turned resort-chic.

Tim Laferla took out the Professional category.

Bartenders had to innovate and create a signature creation using Jim Beam White Label, Jim Beam Black Label, Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club 1858, Bowmore 12 YO, Auchentoshan American Oak, Connemara.

For the second challenge, the Mystery Box Cocktail creation, Finalists had 15 minutes to conceptualise their cocktail and submit their chosen ingredients without picking up a tool. They then had 1 hour to prep ingredients before ‘tools down’.

This brief again conveyed the message of wastage in bars being a huge problem, where everyone can make an impact, and everyone can make a change.

They were challenged with the task of creating a cocktail that incorporates a sustainability method or minimal waste practices, that can be easily replicated around the world using ingredients that are readily available in bars. Using the following brands listed – Sipsmith London Dry, Roku, Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam White, Jim Beam Black, Auchentoshan American Oak, Ardmore —accompanied by a table of wastage items and fresh, they were free to create.

The judges assessed the two drinks from the Professionals first, affording the Apprentices the opportunity to watch and learn from their colleagues who have been through this before. But as always with The Perfect Blend, the Apprentice competitors stepped up to the high bar set by the Professionals, and the judges were impressed by the level of drinks and performance and creativity on display throughout the day.

Max Giudice won the Apprentice category.

There could be only one winner per category, however, and after announcing the runners up — Brittany Rowe from Old Mate’s Place in the Apprentice category, and Lachlan Robinson from Perth, WA, in the Professional category — Beam Suntory National Brand Activation Manager, Hayley Morison announced the winners: from Scout in NSW, it was Tim Laferla, taking out the Professional category and Max Giudice, from Tiny’s took home the big prize for the Apprentice category.

Tim and Max will be off to New York for Bar Convent Brooklyn as well as visiting Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam distilleries in Kentucky, in just three weeks from now!

Keep up to date with The Perfect Blend at www.the-blend.com.au.