Kolkata, Sept 26 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS): The incidence of certain “preconceived ideas” about Scotch whisky is what provides the opportunity to “sex it up” and present it in an entirely new light and that is exactly what he is paid to do, says a bald man in his mid-30s.
“Whisky is taken for granted as serious drink for old people. I want to help people appreciate all that can be done with it,” says Max Warner, the global brand ambassador of the Chivas brand of Scotch, his eyes lighting up every time he mentions the words ‘Scotch’ or ‘whisky’.
On Thursday night Warner turned up the Taj Bengal’s Junction bar to do his bit for the brand he endorses and also conjure some captivating Scotch whisky cocktails, ahead of the start of a special cocktail season here.
His bar tricks, which included pouring flaming spirits from one glass into another, drew much applause from the crowds.
“I don’t throw bottles. But that fire trick, I do like doing. I’ve set fire to quite a few bar tables over the years,” he confides.
He says he wants to make whisky drinking “aspirational”, a style statement for “cool, adventurous and successful” people.
And to tear away from the traditional ideas about the drink, Warner promotes whisky as cocktails.
“The cocktail culture traces back to late 1800s when there were over-rational supplies of rum and people started experimenting with it,” he says.
“Traditionally, whisky is not used in cocktails, but actually it is perfect for it. It already is a blend and it makes great progressive, vibrant cocktails,” he asserts.
But does India have a discernible cocktail culture that he can tap into?
Warner says, “Define discernible; if it means there is enormous possibility and potential, then I’ll definitely say yes.”
“I have been to quite a few Indian cities and I met 300 to 400 people in each one of them, and the feedback I got from them to my cocktails was just ‘wow’,” he says.
He thinks India’s relative conservative approach to liquor comes from its colonial history and its deep rooted culture and heritage.
“Australians embrace drinking and the whole bar culture. That’s because it’s a barely-300-year-old country. So they are very open to all that is new and it’s a great place for someone like me,” he says.
“India has this long history and culture, which is great, but it makes my job slightly more challenging,” he adds with a smile.
Last year he went to 95 countries, telling “amazing stories” that he picked up on his travels and making whisky cocktails “look and sound interesting”. He is also “good at seducing people”. It’s really a lot like James Bond’s life, he says.
He says, “Once I was in Hong Kong, and there was this guy translating between me and a reporter who spoke only Chinese. And the reporter asked me how should one drink whisky, or what’s the best way to drink it,
“And I just said one should drink it in whatever they feel comfortable in. I drank it naked with my friends, the glass and the whisky itself.
“And when it came out the next day, the interview read, ‘Max Warner, global ambassador for Chivas, likes drinking whisky naked in his apartment, waiting for his friends to come.’” Very Bond-esque indeed!
And with all the fun and games and the racy chatter, the thing that he underlines is “it’s all about having fun, living in the moment and taking in as much as you can”.
He says, “Of all the big cities that I have been to New York, London, Paris, Rome…you name it, the city that I found to most alive was Beirut.”
“You see, the people of Beirut have seen so much conflict and suffering that whenever they have a chance to celebrate and embrace life, they never lose on it. They go out have fun and really enshrine the statement that it’s just this one life you’ve got,” says Warner.
By Divyanshu Dutta Roy/IBNS