Cover Foo Ken Vin with a lineup of spirits—Hardy Noces Dor, Herradura Plata, Tomatin 30YO, Bulldog gin, Jack Daniels Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve Distiller Select—imported by Drinks Connexion

Celebrating its 2nd anniversary this year, Drinks Connexion is an intermediary between some of the world's best distillers and retailers. Founder Foo Ken Vin meets us at the bar to talk about his passion for rare spirits and rap beats

Above Skullduggery builds a Tequila Herradura Horseshoe Margarita, a Herradura Tequila Paloma and a Woodford Reserve Mint Julep using spirits supplied by Drinks Connexion.

Tatler Malaysia: 2020 marks Drinks Connexion’s second year anniversary. Congrats! How will you be celebrating? With drinks, no doubt?

Foo Ken Vin: It has been an incredible journey so far. I remember starting with just a few brands in our portfolio, which we have managed to grow by volumes. None of this would be possible without our shareholders, internal team members, and partners including wholesalers, trade members and consumers who believed in us. Together, we have pushed the boundaries to provide Malaysian consumers with more variety and enjoyment.
How will we be celebrating? As we always do since we started the company: by sharing good food and drinks with everyone we engage with.

How did working with Guinness Anchor Berhad and Moët Hennessy Diageo Malaysia equip you to build Drinks Connexion from the ground up?
My starting role as brand executive of Guinness Anchor Berhad made me decide that this was the industry for me. It was exciting for a fresh graduate to work on an international brand while creating campaigns to cater to the local consumer’s needs. It was the beginning of my working with wholesalers to understand their distribution and touch points, as well as liaising with trade partners to discover their different targets.
Meanwhile, Moët Hennessy Diageo Malaysia introduced me to the world of luxury spirits, champagne and wines. The role of brand person had a wider definition: it involved marketing, stocks forecasting, and reviewing profit and loss statements and advertising budgets to ensure we had hit our targets.
I was really fortunate to have such strong support from all my mentors, who gave me the required skill sets to start my own thing.

See also: How To Pronounce Moët & Chandon, Courvoisier' & Other Alcohol Brands

In the movie Uncorked, Chardonnay is described as the Jay Z of white wine (versatile and smooth) whereas Riesling is likened to Drake (crisp, clean, and kind of sweet). As a fan of rap music, which spirits would you ascribe to your favourite rappers, Tupac and Post Malone?
Wow, this is a really tough one, as both are my music idols. Tupac would be cognac or whisky — elegant in character and classic in taste, but ever-evolving. Brands in this category continue to innovate while maintaining their core values.

Post Malone is more like gin or tequila. Vibrant, fresh, creative, fun for mixing or remixing, these beverages are approachable to everybody. 

See also: Rising Hip Hop Starlet Zamaera Weaves Her Story Into A Debut EP 

How have consumers’ tastes in spirits changed in recent years?
Consumers are more inclined to try new brands within a category of spirits. As travel is now more accessible, imbibers are exposed to brands that are less known or unavailable at home. With that, they bring back newfound information and knowledge.

Importers are also introducing international, award-winning brands to the local market, brands that might be well-known abroad, but virtually unheard of in Asia. Consumers are interested to try these brands, which makes it the responsibility of importers to organise tastings and educational sessions.
Tell us about Drinks Connexion’s most recent inductions.
We have been appointed the sole Malaysian importer and distributor for the full portfolio of the Brown-Forman Corporation. Our key focus is to reignite Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whisky. The team’s brainstorm sessions revolve around the “JACK IS BACK” motto, so look out for exciting campaigns coming from Drinks Connexion.

How does Drinks Connexion build awareness for its partner distilleries?

  1. Working with Brand Ambassadors and Bartenders: Each brand has its own heritage and character that is better explained by ambassadors who have lived and worked in the distilleries. Because spirits are their tools of trade, who better to speak for spirit brands than bartenders? We engage guest bartenders visiting Malaysia as well as work with local industry talents. It is our goal to inject some fun into the scene, to network, and to share the experiences of people all around the world with our friends in Malaysia.

  2. Hosting Tasting Events: Reaching out to new groups of consumers is always exciting. We have brought in brands that were not well-known in the local scene, and watching the reactions of customers discovering a new product always feels rewarding. For every consumer we successfully connect with, our brands gain more exposure. The magic lies in the liquid as well as the experience of exploring through our senses.

  3. Organising Distillery ToursDistillery tours are a priceless experience that allow us to share the know-how and expertise behind a product. Direct engagement and face-to-face inquiries make us appreciate a beverage more. With each visit, we bring back a new group of consumers who then share their experiences with their network of friends.

See next: 5 Food-Fuelled Adventures To Experience In Malaysia

  • PhotographyKhairul Imran
  • VideographyGoh Kwee Jin