Bottom’s up as Shea and Ciara take on the world

Shea Ireland and Ciara Crawford
Shea Ireland and Ciara Crawford

When Glenfiddich Whisky went in search of the nation’s most experimental bartender it was a Banbridge brother-and-sister who most impressed judges, as they challenged preconceived notions of how to down a dram.

Shea Ireland and Ciara Campbell responded to the Scottish distillery’s global search for bartenders to ‘collaborate with mavericks outside the traditional drinks world to create a more surprising, unusual and inventive Glenfiddich drinking experience’.

Shea, a cocktail waiter in Aberdeen, had given up a career in engineering to follow his passion - a love for the food and drink industry that he’d first experienced while working as a waiter in Halls Mill Inn as a student.

Straight away Shea knew he wanted Ciara, an artist in residence at Oxford Island and running her own ceramics business, as his ‘maverick’.

“Shea’s thinking was that he wanted to challenge the idea of having your drink from a glass,” said Ciara. “He wanted to experiment with the vessel to enhance the experience.

“We have a strong ceramics culture here and ceramics feature throughout history so we decided to take away how the senses are influenced by a glass and see how they are changed by a ceramic vessel - it’s shape, colour, texture and even aroma.”

After being shortlisted, Shea and Ciara had to travel to London for their Dragon’s Den-like presentation in front of a panel of judges.

“When we were announced as the winners we were over the moon, really shocked,” said Ciara. “It’s lovely to be part of something like this with your brother - to do something like this together and win together.”

Shea and Ciara will now compete for the world title.

“It’s in the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland in November and we’ll be competing against people from places like Dubia, Russia and USA.

“We’ve been flat out preparing for it. Shea has been researching with a professor in Oxford and I’ve been working on the actual product - developing glazes and shapes for a final product we can show.

“It’s been a great experience and even if we don’t win the world it’s been great to win the UK.”