On a rainy Thursday evening, Harry Daffern sidles up to the bar at 1881 by Water Library. He removes his copper-coloured jacket, draping it over a chair, and orders a Chivas Extra Old-fashioned. “You mean, an XO-Fashioned,” says the bartender, exchanging a laugh with the young Briton. As soon as Harry gets comfortable, a tall, barrel-chested man with arms like pythons sneaks up behind his chair. Somewhat surprisingly, he does so without a sound. Grinning wildly, he wraps Harry in a bear hug, knocking the wind out of him. “Where have you been?” he shouts. “It’s been too long!”
Harry adjusts his black-framed glasses and peers over his shoulder. Within seconds, a smile suddenly parts his lips. The two burst into laughter. “What’s it been, three days?” says Harry.
Relationships like these are now the norm, but they didn’t form overnight. When Harry arrived in Bangkok one year ago, he considered his future as Chivas Brand Ambassador. “I thought, ‘Wow! I’m working abroad, in Thailand. What an honour,’” he says, adding, “‘and what a responsibility.’”
Thailand, as he knew it, was a whisky drinker’s paradise. Chivas was well-known. But one question endured—how could he take it to the next level? “I asked myself, ‘How do I get people to love the brand? How do I inject my passion for Chivas into my relationships with others?’” He had never been to Thailand. He couldn’t speak the language. Whilst he fed off the buzz of Bangkok, he had to clear a few obstacles before he could set down roots.
“I just went out and talked with people, tried to build personal connections,” he says. He also teamed up with Teerakitt “Will” Charuchinda, the local Chivas Brand Ambassador and Mixologist, who crafts fresh, signature Chivas cocktails on top of going out and connecting with fans and partners. Together, they have fortified existing friendships, struck up new ones, and discovered great places to enjoy Chivas, such as Do Not Disturb, or DND, a top club in Thong Lo-Ekamai whose magnetic vibe and world-class DJs have made it a local favourite. Also helping the cause are grassroots efforts, when the two talk face-to-face with small groups, properly introducing Chivas.
“We do a lot of tasting sessions,” says Harry. “I like to explain the history of Chivas first—there’s 200 years to talk about—because that’s very important, and then I take everyone on a journey. Smell the whisky, take a little taste, get under its skin, discover what it has to share. After that, we do a full tasting.”
It’s at this point that Chivas and the sanuk way of life combine. “Whether it’s bar staff or patrons, people are always interested, always smiling,” he explains. “We’re all having fun with it, responsibly. Ultimately, what people really connect with is the experience they have whilst enjoying Chivas.”
After polishing off his cocktail, and with the rain having slowed to a drizzle, Harry moves on to his next destination, Roof 409. There, he jokes in French with the mixologist, Mica, and asks for Chivas Extra with a splash of soda water. “At the end of the day, the best way to enjoy Chivas is how you like to enjoy it,” he says. “For me, you pour Chivas Extra over ice, top it off with a little soda water, and add a cinnamon stick, because cinnamon is one of the tasting notes. But for someone else the experience might be entirely different, and that’s great.”
In part to learn where and how Bangkokians like to enjoy Chivas, but also to connect with more and more people, Harry and Will have launched the twice-a-month “Chivas Thailand Night Out.” Through a Facebook page of the same name, Chivas Thailand Night Out invites one and all to hit the town with Chivas and create some unforgettable stories along the way. The first two nights out were held at the Pernod Ricard Le Cercle bar (yes, there’s a bar at the Pernod Ricard office). “I wanted people to feel like they were coming to my home. That’s the essence of the brand,” Harry says. From there, the event has visited various local venues, including hotspots like Muse in Thong Lo, gradually growing bigger and gaining momentum. Chivas Thailand Night Out has showcased the lifestyle side of the brand, putting its personality on the fore—and it’s a personality with some spirit.
Under the spray of Bangkok’s bright neon lights, Harry heads to his last stop of the night. This one is a rooftop bar, The Speakeasy at Hotel Muse.The staff greet him with high-fives, handshakes, and sawasdees. He chats with a couple of expats. One sips on a Blood and Sand, the other on a yet-to-be-named cocktail crafted by Danny, the clever young bar manager from Canada. Before leaving for home, Harry reflects. “You know, it’s certainly been a challenge getting to know the bartenders and managers, making friends with locals in another language,” he says. “But it’s so much fun, too.”
Harry finishes his drink. He exchanges wais and shares goodbyes, and the night continues.