Max Warner is the Chivas Global Brand Ambassador. He’s also the driving force behind The Chivas Masters Global Cocktail
Competition. We spoke to him about his role, the new competition and the iconic brand that is Chivas, not to mention food pairing at The Cannes Film Festival, ‘Living with Chivalry’ and drinking
aperitifs on submarines.
You’ve been with Chivas, first as an Ambassador, then as the Global Brand Ambassador, since 2004. What’s your relationship with the brand?
Chivas has always been a forward thinking brand and associated
itself with iconic visionaries. Since it launched as the world’s first luxury blended Scotch in New York in 1909, it’s survived Prohibition, enjoyed a post-war resurgence when Seagram took over, developed an association with the effortlessly cool Rat Pack, weathered a dip in the 70’s and seen overwhelming success in the 2000’s when
Chinese drinkers introduced us to Chivas with green tea.
Since I joined I’ve told stories and balanced communicating the
outstanding heritage of Chivas with indulging my passion for travel (I’ve visited over 50 countries), food, drink and different cultures
(experiencing some 45 different languages). By doing this I’ve been able to deliver the most relevant messages for the brand.
In 2007 we launched the ‘Live with Chivalry’ campaign. This built on the ‘interesting’ Chivas man and focused further on his attitude to the world around him, his behavior, attitude to others and virtues of generosity, kindness and being in touch with emotions. More and more I began to realise that the target audience for our brand was someone not so dissimilar to me. As I said, forward thinking is at the foundation and I will continue to drive my passion to reach the Chivas drinker in the way that the brand inspires me to.
What’s your proudest achievement since leaving bartending behind and becoming the Brand
Quantifying what we do as a brand ambassador is challenging, we’re not selling product and no one ever got recognised for promoting a dream or a lifestyle. I always try and question what I do and imagine someone standing in front of me with no experience of Scotch, bars, cocktails or luxury. I ask myself ‘How do I communicate with them?
I want to inspire bartenders to revisit an established brand like Chivas. I specialise in bringing brands to life through events and treatments, be it Plymouth in the past, or Chivas as I have done for the last decade. I’ve received many accolades from peers, industry professionals, design consultants and luxury experts about the work I have completed so far. Also writing a book from scratch and
developing an app were high points. Professionally, I don’t believe my proudest achievement has happened yet and until it does I am not prepared to entertain hanging up my shaker, my suit carrier or file away my passport.
What’s the thinking behind The Chivas Masters competition?
Chivas has run cocktail competitions in the past but they were all
local to markets and cities, and dependent on the quality of
ingredients available and level of bartending talent creating the drinks. Everything I work on is intended to have a broader meaning, after all, our target consumers are savvy, sophisticated drinkers. Simply getting bartenders together and challenging them to make Chivas cocktails has no positive impact on the Chivas liquid or the consumer experience. We had to deliver a platform that looked
forward five years to understand what we wanted the brand to look like amongst the top level bartending fraternity and how we could increase consideration and awareness for Chivas drinkers in the
Our global vision is to be recognised as the world’s most iconic whisky. How this translates in the mind of consumers and their bar experience is that we need to ensure we are visibly present in the most iconic bars in the world. The Chivas Masters Cocktail
Competition is about building advocacy, developing an
understanding of our brand and also developing the career
progression of up and coming bartending stars.
The prizes are fabulous: as a former bartender which would appeal to you most?
All the regional winners from around the world will be taken to New York – the ‘Big Apple’, the most exciting playground in the world. Awe inspiring, impressive and dangerous!
From there they then get taken on to Tales Of The Cocktail in New Orleans – the ultimate celebration of everything to do with drinks; experiential events, industry characters, famous local food,
historical architecture, culture and, of course, the music. Not to mention the Spirited Awards – the “Oscars” of the drinks world.
Finally, the overall global winner gets to work with Dave Arnold, one of the industry’s most innovative operators, to create a luxury item, such as a device, tool or experience, which will have their name on it. The ultimate identification for any craftsman is to make their mark by creating something unique. This will go towards making the drinks experience better and more rewarding in the future.
If you hadn’t guessed, I was the litmus test for the prizes. I needed all of them to appeal to me as a bartender and an ambassador. How can you expect others to get excited about something which doesn’t completely float your boat?
You’ve been all around the world judging the competition, what’s stood out for you?
The standard has been incredibly high by all the competitors. As the competition has progressed I’ve realised that local flair has won through and not just the quality of the drinks. It also proves that the internet and social media are such powerful tools for some of these self-taught innovators who have researched techniques, tools and presentation styles.
Which is your favourite period from the four eras highlighted in the competition – The Classic Age, The Post-War Boom, The Disco Years or The Age of Revivalism?
We are experiencing the most creative and impressive
performances with drinks right now. If we didn’t have the drinks from The Classic Age, the amusing and fun drinks of the past from The Post-War Boom and The Disco Years, we wouldn’t have any
reference to reimagine for the present. The drinks created today will stand the test of time and become modern classics so for that reason my favourite era is The Age of Revivalism, or perhaps we are
experiencing the 2nd Classic Age of Cocktails?
What global trends are coming through in whisky and Chivas in particular?
Whilst cocktails and drinks rituals are crucial to getting the share of mind with bartenders, ultimately the majority of our consumers are interested in how they can use water and ice to their best
advantage. Dilution control, chilling and the best type of glass to highlight aromas is continuing to be explored.
Food pairing too is important. I was challenged this year to create a Chivas cocktail pairing for a five course menu at the celebrated 2 Michelin Star ‘Palme D’Or’ restaurant in Cannes for the Film
Festival. Chivas is versatile and needs to be represented in the most luxurious environments and occasions. Paired dinners used to heighten the experience and flavours are a great way to
demonstrate this. We hosted 114 guests over the 12 day festival. Best news? No one was served a single glass of wine for any of the exclusive dinners!
Where is the most memorable place you’ve
Too many to mention really, they are all unique and special in their own way. It would be a toss up between attempting to break the world record (platform connected to the ground) for the highest whisky tasting on the 146th floor of the Burg Khalifa, Dubai 2 days after opening or having an aperitif inside a submarine in the Gulf. But possibly the most memorable was sitting on top of a glacier in St Moritz wearing nothing other than a dressing gown, swim shorts and snow boots. I was with three friends playing cards and chipping the ice to chill our glasses of Chivas. Epic views…cackling laughter…crackling ice!
I have had the pleasure of hosting some of the most dignified,
famous personalities. Memories which will remain with me for a
lifetime, however, I respectfully cannot disclose any of these due to the nature of our union. Live with Chivalry and all that!
What advice would you give the competitors in the competition?
Be a bartender – yes it’s a competition but treat us like customers not judges. Show your skills through referencing the associated
tasting notes, make it personal and original. Judging all over the world makes it different, only the bartenders know how to make the customers feel good about the experience.
What are you looking for in the winner?
Balance of the four eras, being classic in their style, make the
experience playful, be honest and show good innovative techniques. Above all be original, be ‘The Master’.