In the Blind Spot bar of Covent Garden’s St Martins Lane Hotel, the former Manchester United superstar and England Captain David Beckham confesses his love of a fine whisky, an appreciation of being left alone in his local boozer and how much he misses the great game.
With a glass of Haig Club Clubman single grain whisky in hand, Beckham admits to indulging in the sanctuary of his local and the joy of chancing on a whimsical country pub.
“I love pubs in the countryside because that’s where you find the little ones that have been there for many years,” he says.
But his local, which won’t be named, is a special place. “There’s my local that I go to quite a lot and it’s just nice to go somewhere where people see me all of the time and so I get left alone.
“I have taken a few people in there from America and I took Tom Cruise in and we got left alone… we just sat there and got left alone,” Beckham adds, almost perplexed that the pair were allowed solitude.
How two global celebrities managed some privacy in a local pub may be a mystery, but the real fascination is how former England star Beckham – who played for football clubs Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain – ended up launching two whiskies.
It all began at the end of one of the UK’s greatest footballing careers, a tough time in Beckham’s life, evident in the passionate commentary he gives about his life in football.
“I will always miss the game and I will never be as comfortable anywhere as I was on the pitch,” he starts. “It’s something that I wanted since I was a kid and to play for the clubs I have played for and to represent my country, it’s a big part of my life and I will always relish it.
‘Always going to be tough’
“I think it was always going to be tough [to leave football], but I was ready to go into something else and working with Diageo on Haig Club has been great.
“I played football for 22 years and experienced so many great things and the teams I have played for. Winning the treble for Manchester United was amazing, but being given the captain armband [for England at 25] was a dream come true. I do miss playing for Man U and Madrid, but nowhere near as much as I miss playing for England.”
"I always wanted to be a whisky man, it’s just cool. When I came to the end of my [football] career it wasn’t a shock [to go straight into Haig Club], I didn’t have to think ‘what am I going to do?’"
The next steps in his career had been thought out by the star long before the football career had ended. And so it wasn’t a surprise to be going straight into the whisky business.
Evidently, working in whisky was also a burning passion Beckham had wanted to fulfil for some time, yet being in the sporting spotlight prevented him from putting anything into motion.
“I have been part of Diageo for three years now,” Becks explains, still with a glass of Haig Club Clubman loyally in hand. “I always wanted to be a whisky man, it’s just cool. When I came to the end of my [football] career it wasn’t a shock [to go straight into Haig Club], I didn’t have to think ‘what am I going to do?’.”
The deal to work with Haig Club with Diageo was struck by Beckham and management, mainly because sitting around and doing nothing after ‘retirement’ at the age of 38 wasn’t appealing to one of the highest-paid footballers in history.
Some of his passion for football has switched to whisky and manifested itself in the global success of Haig Club and, Beckham hopes, the Clubman variant.
The UNICEF ambassador is keen to point out, several times actually, that his work with Diageo is much more than him being paid to promote the brand. In fact, it’s a partnership, which sees both sides contribute ideas.
Although, sometimes, Beckham can get it wrong. “When we first talked about the blue bottle, because I’m a traditionalist and thought about the heritage and history of Haig Club, I was like ‘it doesn’t say history to me’.”
It made sense
But after learning why Haig Club’s now iconic blue bottle would advance the brand – blue bottles are used in the labs to create the liquids so makers’ views are guided only by taste and scent – he concedes it made sense.
His wife, Victoria Beckham, was an instant fan of the design and of the whisky itself. He says: “When I first started this project three years ago, Victoria said ‘the bottle is amazing’. I told her she had to try the whisky and she did and she loved it.”
Brooklyn Beckham, the eldest of the four Beckham children – the others being Romeo, Harper and Cruz – has also indulged in his father’s whisky, it transpires. “Brooklyn is the only one old enough to have a little sip with me and has tried a little bit.”
The likes of 18-year-old Brooklyn are the generation of drinkers Beckham and Diageo are targeting with Clubman, which is an attempt to blow away the dusty image and conformity of whisky.
Connoisseurs will tell you how to drink whisky, whether you should have ice, a drop of water and what you should and shouldn't mix it with. However, Clubman breaks all of those rules, Beckham claims. “It’s about bringing in younger consumers because even I thought, coming into the whisky world, that it was a gentleman’s drink to be drank in front of the fire in a leather chair, but it can be enjoyed in so many different ways.”
One of Beckham’s favourite ways to enjoy his whisky is in an Old Fashioned cocktail, but if he has too many, then it’s straight for the Alka Seltzer. He jokes: “I carry it around everywhere with me.”
But is this the last product to come from the House of Haig and Beckham? Perhaps not, as the hero explains: “If we continue to have the success we have with Haig Club and Clubman then there will be other products. We are always looking to bring something new onto the market.”
Read about the launch of Haig Club Clubman, which was exclusively revealed to The Morning Advertiser first, which aimed to break the known whisky rules.
Meanwhile, watch the new advert for Clubman below, which encourages drinkers to consume the liquid how they want to.