On Monday 13 November Woodford Reserve held its third annual 2017 Australia Cocktail Competition at Marble Bar in Sydney.

Black Pearl’s Matt Linklater beat out 155 other bartenders from around the country with his Natural Order cocktail featuring Woodford Reserve Rye, pomegranate vinegar, grenadine, white ale umeshu, soap bark extract and limonata.

The competition invited bartenders across the country to produce two Woodford Reserve cocktail recipes and serve them in their bars throughout September. Each contestant was tasked with creating their ideal version of the classic old fashioned using Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select, and an original cocktail that showcases the flavour profile of Woodford Reserve Rye. Beyond Linklater’s Natural Order, the competition saw creative bourbon whiskey cocktails with ingredients including smoked pineapple syrup, black walnut bitters, creamed corn syrup, cedar wood smoke and salted maple syrup.

State heats and finals resulted in five of the country’s best battling it out in Sydney for the national finals. All finalists impressed the judges with their creativity and innovation. Top honours go to Simon Hopkins from Surly’s American BBQ in Sydney coming in second place and Vini Wang of Hains & Co in Adelaide taking third place. The other national finalists are Joshua O’Brien from The Bowery (QLD) and James Connolly from Long Chim (WA).

Now, Linklater heads to New York in 2018 on an all expenses trip to attend the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience US final — a total prize valued at AUD$7,000.

“I’d like to thank my fellow competitors,” says Linklater. “Not only does this competition push me to be better, but it’s incredibly humbling to have the privilege of spending the last 24 hours with such talented people. I never really set out to win, I just tried to be the best version of myself on the day.

“To be rewarded with this incredible opportunity — there are no words. Woodford Reserve has consistently been present throughout my bartending career. It’s been great to add my personal touch to the brand through these drinks. Next year, Woodford Reserve can cement its touch on me at the finals in New York. Giddy up!!”

The Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience US Final will take place in New York in April 2018.

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