Just when you thought that you couldn’t possibly get excited about another cocktail competition, we’re here to say: oh yes you can! We’re gearing up to the fourth Chivas Masters Global Final coming live and direct from Tokyo on 1st July and if it’s half as good as what we’ve heard Global Brand Ambassador Max Warner has in store, it’s going to be one action-packed, one-of-a-kind event.

Not just for the 15 exceptionally talented finalists and their supporters back home but for anyone interested in the creation of fabulous cocktails and the people and passion behind them. For one thing, this is the first time that a global cocktail competition will be held in Tokyo so expect plenty of insights on that front, plus of course there will be the challenges set by Max and the illustrious panel of judges made up of Dré Masso, Chris Lowder, Iain Griffiths and Micah Melton.

You could fly out to Tokyo in the hope that you’ll get a glimpse of the bartenders soaking up the culture (hint: you definitely won’t get to see them competing – that will be taking place behind closed doors). Your best bet is to tune into The Cocktail Lovers channels every day for insider updates, including interviews with the finalists, highlights from the day and excerpts from the challenges.

The Chivas Masters 2016 Finalists in Shanghai

Like we said, the action starts on 1st July but we’re starting our coverage from today, bringing you the lowdown on all 15 competitors, views from the judges, top tips for visiting Tokyo plus interviews with four influential bartenders from around the globe on the impact visiting Japan has had on their careers.

Here Chivas Masters 2015 winner Josh Reynolds shares his thoughts on what the competition means to him, how it’s changed his life and what this year’s competitors should bear in mind for this year’s final.

Over to you Josh…

Josh at work during the Chivas Masters 2015 Final

Of course, I’d always been aware of Chivas for a while; not just as a Scotch but for all of the things it embodies:
generosity, the brotherhood aspect and of course, as an amazing product made in a caring way. But it wasn’t until I started my research for the competition that I really began to appreciate just how special the history and heritage of the brand actually is. For instance, it was the first luxury whisky ever made which is incredible in itself but when you consider that the Chivas brothers were pioneers in the art of blending and were the first to create a premium blended Scotch – that makes me so proud and humbled to have been named a Chivas Master.

Winning the competition has absolutely changed my career and in turn changed my life 

I don’t think I would have met the industry legends that I’ve had the privilege to meet or travelled the world visiting places like Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Bali had it not been for the competition – the opportunities it’s given me have been mind-blowing.

It’s also changed my outlook on the industry

It’s hard to explain but I put it down to the ethics and ethos of the brand – when I walk into bars, or when I’m hosting or presenting I think about quality, or as Chivas might say, ‘maintaining the exceptional’.

To win the competition in New York was really special to me

To be the city where Chivas Regal 25 Year Old was launched in 1909, making cocktails at the NoMad Hotel with the Empire State Building in the background was such an amazing feeling. Sure we were pushed to another level with two days of very  intense challenges but I came out of it a much better, more rounded bartender with lots of new friends from all around the world.

With his signature serve the Chivas Dizzy Tea

The choice of location brings something special to each Chivas Masters Global Final

As a bartender, you can’t help but take stimulation from the place where you are. At each chosen location for the Chivas Masters Global Final, whether it’s New York, Shanghai or this year, Tokyo, you get to experiment with other flavours, see how each city works and check out the way the locals do things in their bars. That in turn should inspire you and your drinks – not just for the competition but back home in your bar as well. If being in a new city doesn’t fire your imagination, you’re probably doing something wrong!

Once a Chivas Master always a Chivas Master

The role means so much. I’ve been involved with everything to do with this brand for the past two years – that’s because I want to share more experiences and learn how to be a better person through the brand. That might sound a bit weird but what I mean is I want to share with everyone else just how amazing this cocktail competition is, and it’s only four years old!

Josh teaching last year’s finalists how to make ice balls

My top tip for all of the competitors taking part this year?
Be yourself, listen to the judges, read what each round means rather than creating a drink that doesn’t fit the brief – I’d also say to try and involve the history and heritage of the brand as much as possbile. The other thing I learned was that the judges aren’t necessarily looking for the person who can make the tastiest cocktail– they’re also looking for someone who acts in a way that embodies the brand, so think about that as well. Other than that, I’d say pick the judges brains, learn as much as you can from everyone around you and get to know the city.

You can find Josh mixing up a storm at new London bar Scout, as well as working with his brother Ali at Yellowhammer Drinks

Tomorrow we speak to the inaugural Chivas Master, Masahiro Urushido

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