Team SA takes Bushmills trophy

[Image] TeamSA – Jonathan Oliff (l) and Sean
Tickner (r) – have triumphed over the
competition in Northern Ireland.
(Image: Darren Kidd / Presseye.com)

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The Make It 2 Bushmills – also referred to as the World Whiskey Games – is a gruelling competition where teams of two battle it out for two days at the renowned Bushmills Distillery in the village of Bushmills, County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Teams take on punishing tasks, both mental and physical, such as beach golf, barrel rolling and blind taste tests in the hopes of winning the prestigious Bushmills Trophy.

The prize includes a two-week stint at the 403-year-old distillery, working with master distiller Colum Egan; a chance to make a unique whiskey using techniques imparted by Egan; and a generous allowance of US$8 200 (R59 000) spending money.

This year, it was the tough duo from South Africa that won, beating, among others, the home team. Sean Tickner, 30, a prosthetist from Cape Town, and 28-year-old Jonathan Oliff, a brand strategist from Durban, were the two local representatives.

The judging panel included Egan; Kevin Baird of Irish rock band Two Door Cinema Club; Rob Allanson, editor of Whisky Magazine; and Jonathan Galkin, manager of independent label DFA Records.

Teams from 11 different countries took part – the competition included Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Russia, and the US.

Of all the countries, South Africa had the highest number of entries, which were then narrowed down to the final two.

“We’re looking for real friends, with a genuine love for life and wicked sense of humour,” said Egan before the event, “and I’m sure we’ll find them.”

Afterwards the distiller lauded the pair, who are brothers-in-law, as worthy winners. He said they had shown the qualities sought by the judges, despite the fact that they didn’t win any of the challenges.

Competitive spirit

Participants arrived in Belfast on 16 August 2011 and were whisked off to Bushmills for the first day of the event. They were taken on a tour of the distillery and shown by the master distiller what happens behind the scenes. They also visited the 40 000 hexagonal basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway, Ireland’s first heritage site.

During these leisure activities they had the chance to size up the competition.

Day two started with barrel rolling. A difficult mission, but Oliff and Tickner managed a first place in their heat and third place in the final.

The teams then had to brave a round of beach golf, in the rain, followed by the blind taste testing and cocktail making challenges. Although these were less physically demanding, they proved to be harder than expected – South Africa managed to correctly identify only one of the whiskeys on offer in the taste test.

For the cocktail challenge, which had to include Bushmills Irish Whiskey, Team SA paid tribute to the country’s first democratically elected president with a cream based creation named Magical Madiba.

The final task was persuading the judges of their winners’ potential, through a short performance featuring song, dance, poetry or whatever they felt would be necessary to be convincing.

It was enough to secure top spot for Team SA.

“It’s amazing to be named the winners,” said an elated Oliff. “We came to the global final here in Bushmills to do our country proud – we can’t wait to take the distillery home to South Africa.”