EXPERT JUDGING PANEL
The judging panel for the 2023 Tasting Australia Spirit Awards features a line-up of spirits aficionados and hospitality superstars.
Ollie Margan, Head Judge
Ollie Margan is founding partner of Adelaide cocktail institution Maybe Mae, which celebrates 9 years of championing Australian spirits. He has studied distillation at the University of Adelaide and has been a staple judge across multiple national spirit competitions since 2018. Ollie resumes the role of Head Judge in the Tasting Australia Spirit Awards for a third consecutive year.
Cara Devine has worked in hospitality since the age of 16. She decided to focus on bartending after a stint as a hostess in a high-end cocktail bar in Canada. She learnt the ropes at award winning bars Blythswood Square Hotel and Kelvingrove Cafe in Glasgow, before relocating to Melbourne. Here, she spent time working at Lily Blacks and Union Electric before settling at Bomba Tapas Bar and Rooftop, where she is currently Bar Manager. Accolades include being named one of Drinks International’s Top 25 Australian Bartenders and placing number 14 on the Bartender Magazine Most Influential List 2022.
Duncan McRae is an experienced drinks professional with two decades of experience across spirits education, innovation, strategy.
Originally from Scotland, Duncan brings wealth of industry experience gained from a variety of roles within the Global Premium Drinks space, including working as Global Ambassador and in innovation for Hendrick’s Gin, and as Global Head of Marketing at Atom Brands Group (now part of ZX Ventures). He is the is Co-Founder of Woven Whisky, an award-winning Whisky blending house based in Leith, and LuckyFolk, a consultancy servicing the drinks industry.
As co-founder of Woven, Duncan is working to re-define the whisky blending space, bringing a fresh perspective to the traditional art of blending in Scotland and elsewhere.
Grace Rawlins made her way into the hospitality industry just a week before the pandemic hit in 2020, starting out at Adelaide institution Maybe Mae. From there she has soared to new heights, taking out accolades including Australian Bartender Rookie of the Year and landing a spot in Drinks World Top 25 Bartenders of Australia. Since returning for travelling around the world, she is now currently Bacardi Australia's Representative for SA/NT.
Kayla Grigoriou is the general manager of Bar Torino and founder & distiller of boutique spirits company Needle and Pin Spirits. Coming from a winemaking family, she has an innate ability to combine just the right ingredients to create great drinks in a warm & welcoming atmosphere.
She is a pillar of the South Australian hospitality community and an advocate for change, equal opportunity, education and mentorship through The Pursuit of Hospitality and HERd. Passionate about women's rights within the industry, she has made a career out of learning how things are done and achieving them in her own way.
Kayla Reid is an award-winning bartender, beverage creative and hospitality consultant with over 13 years of experience in the industry. She has worked in a plethora of different venues, from beer boutiques and dive bars to premium high-end cocktail and whisk(e)y bars. Staff mentorship and development are some of her passions and she is well-versed in playing a key role in opening new venues, project management, cocktail creation, menu development and all-round hospitality consultancy.
Luke Sanderson has passion for all things spirits and hospitality, starting out in events and cocktails bars across NZ and the UK before settling in at The Black Pearl in Fitzroy for almost half a decade.He has also worked on some of the worlds most awarded brands with William Grant & Sons, Glenfiddich and Hendricks. He now heads up the Global Advocacy team for True Believers, an independent spirits company dedicated to flavour, crafting their love for fine spirits and great drinks with world class producers in France, Mexico and Scotland.
Mark Reginato is the owner of Hellbound Wine Bar, and spirit and wine distributer through Man of Spirit and Connect Vines. Mark is well-known throughout the Adelaide hospitality industry as a beverage connoisseur and returns in 2023 as an esteemed judge for the Tasting Australia Spirit Awards.
Meira Harel is a wine and restaurant professional who has managed many of Australia’s top venues, including Melbourne’s The Town Mouse, Daylesford’s Lake House, and Adelaide’s Press Food and Wine, Peel Street Restaurant and Leigh Street Wine Room. Relocating to Australia from Israel in 2012, Meira is now recognised as a leading beverage authority in the country. She was named Victorian Sommelier of the Year in the The Age Food Guide 2016, and has judged multiple national wine and spirit awards. In 2022, Meira joined the Creative Team of Tasting Australia as Drinks Curators.
Michael Keogh has worked in the hospitality industry for over a decade, cultivating a love for whiskey and cocktails along the way. He spent over four years running Maybe Mae in Adelaide alongside Nick Corletto; under the helm of Ollie Margan, before moving on to opening and owning both Memphis Slim’s House of Blues & Shotgun Willie’s.
He’s currently at the helm of both of these award winning venues, cultivating drinks training & creativity and the culture of true hospitality within the staff of Gonzo Group.
Nick Corletto is the Managing Partner and Venue Manager of Adelaide cocktail institution Maybe Mae. He has had over a decade of hospitality experience across multiple venues, from restaurants to nightclubs and pubs. This experience has led him to a consumer experience-led perspective, and emphasis on sustainability and provenance of ingredients in products, particularly Australian brands.
Rocky Hair began her career in bartending with Swillhouse Group in Sydney, where she became a staple at The Baxter Inn. She has also spent a generous amount of time working and living internationally in the US, UK and Lebanon. Rocky approaches large scale beverage creation with a no holds barred approach, demonstrating a keen eye for detail and international trends. With a fervent love of Whisky and warm hospitality, Rock currently works as the Group Operations Manager with Mucho Group in Sydney.
Seb Costello has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. He is the founder of the first Australian spirits bar Bad Frankie, the current Gin Chair and former Head Judge for the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards run by Melbourne Royal, a committee member of Spirits Victoria Association, and an independent ambassador for Australian spirits. He is also now the training coordinator for the Australian Distillers Association, setting up a critical education pathway for distillers in Victoria.