Max Warner joined Chivas Brothers in 2004 as the Brand Ambassador for Chivas Regal whisky, having previously worked at establishments such as the world-famous Savoy Hotel, the Bank Restaurant & Bar, AKA, The Sanderson Hotel and Baltic. The Chivas Masters Bartender Advocacy campaign was launched in 2014 which allows bartenders to re-visit the four influential cocktail eras to understand the famous Scotch cocktails of those times. Max is now preparing for 2016 when he takes the Global Final to Shanghai. We caught up with him to find out more about his career and Chivas Regal.
LM: What sparked your passion for the drinks industry?
MW: Interesting personalities, energy, innovation, hospitality and flavour.
LM: What are the qualities required to be a Brand Ambassador?
MW: You need to be great with people, have a passion for creativity, both with the way that you curate an event, and the way you design (drinks). Most importantly, you need to be a good storyteller. It’s important that the image you portray to others honours your brand whilst engaging your audience. With Chivas, fortunately for me, that means style and sophistication.
LM: What are the most demanding parts of your job?
MW: Travelling (the flights take a toll on your body), lack of sleep and entertaining, whilst drinking responsibly. Sometimes I can do a week of events, which involves conducting consumer tastings for 15 people in the morning, cocktail pairings for 15 for lunch, and then a full blown event where I am the host for up to 400 people.
I once did a trip across the Gulf region and did 14 events in 5 days! If I didn’t possess the qualities required to do my job, I think I would have broken. Fortunately, I was travelling with Colin Scott, our Master Blender. Colin has been blending Scotch whisky for over 40 years and was 62 at the time. As far as I was concerned, it would have been a very poor show if I had not kept up. In the end we were just egging each other on! What a ride!
LM: Is there anybody in the industry that you particularly look up to?
MW: Too many people to mention. I particularly admire those who can deliver experiences at the highest level, look sharp at all times, always have time for a charming chat and a catch-up, and most importantly, be able to balance the hectic world of international travel with the commitments of a family. One such person is Giuseppe Gallo, who very recently hung up his Executive Club card, but who successfully honoured a Brand Ambassador role for eight years…and knew when to call it a day. I am excited to hear about his next venture.
LM: What is the Global Masters competition about, and what is your involvement?
MW: I am the orchestrator for the Chivas Masters, one of my proudest achievements to date. The Chivas Masters is an advocacy-building program designed to engage the best bartenders in the iconic bars of the world. It asks bartenders to research the history of Scotch Cocktails (which date back to the 1880s) and flavours, and then deliver a personal story behind the inspiration for each of their drinks. Now in its third year, the Global Final, which will be held in June 2016, will include a number of individual and group challenges, all of which are preceded by a master class (from an industry legend) on a specific element associated with modern bartending techniques. In a nutshell, research the history and values of both Chivas and modern day bartending, and create drinks which highlight the flavour versatility of the Chivas blend. Education, innovation and reward…success tastes better when shared.
LM: What was your inspiration for creating the ‘Crafted for the Senses’ book and iPad App?
MW: Having worked on Chivas for 10 years, I was keen to write a book of inspirational recipes that would encourage the leading bartenders of the world to create sophisticated drinks and new drinking occasions. Specifically with Chivas 18, we divided the drinks into six perfect serves (water, whisky and ice), then six crafted classics (refined ingredients to modify Classic Scotch cocktail recipes), and finally six flights (drinks which tell a story through flavour and shared drinks options). The book and the iPad app would hopefully transcend the biggest challenges I had faced on my global travels (over 40 countries across 28 languages) speaking to my audience through the most universal communication – using ‘the senses’ as my medium.
LM: What are the distinct qualities of the Chivas Regal brand?
MW: It is a luxury timeless brand, which stands for heritage with a worldwide iconic image. It was launched as the world’s first luxury blended Scotch whisky in 1909.
LM: What is next for Chivas Regal as you have just launched the collaboration with Globe-Trotter luggage?
MW: Chivas is distributed in 150 countries, so we are always looking for ways in which we can innovate our offering, rewarding our loyal consumers, but also ensuring we find ways to engage and recruit new consumers. Partnering with Globe-Trotter gives us an opportunity to deliver a shared brand experience for our audience – we are evolving our Made for Gentleman series, and the next one is really exciting as it nurtures our brand belief even further. In the meantime, look for exciting new additions to the Chivas family with a limited edition Chivas 18 Ultimate Cask Collection available exclusively in Travel Retail, a nice little addition to slip into your Globe-Trotter luggage.
LM: What are your personal luxuries and favourite travel destinations?
MW: Classic craftsmanship. A suitable cologne, elegant watches, sharp suits with expensive shoes and durable, yet stylish luggage. Tokyo for inspiration, New York for cool, Paris for romance, Barcelona for food, Cape Town for adventure, Tel Aviv for parties, and any island in the Andaman sea if I want to hide!
Interview by Simon Wittenberg