PROOF & COMPANY CHINA PARTNERS WITH LIBER WINES


SHANGHAI 20 May 2020 – Proof & Company China has formed a strategic partnership with LIBER, Ltd. that combines Proof & Company’s rapidly growing national distribution platform with LIBER China’s extensive private client and corporate network to expand the sales capacities of both groups. This partnership also allows Proof & Company clients to access LIBER’s portfolio of crafted wines and champagnes across China.

This three-year exclusive partnership builds on a multi-year relationship between Proof & Company and Stéphane Moreau, Co-Founder of LIBER. In 2019, Stephane was appointed as Senior Advisor, China for Proof & Company. In this role, he is a member of the group’s advisory board.

“While Proof & Company is not a wine company, we benefit greatly from a strong partner in this adjacent category. As we launch the ecoSPIRITS offering of pouring craft spirits, it is also wonderful to have an exceptional champagne to complement our craft spirits lineup,” says Christopher Lowder, General Manager, China. “The LIBER team also maintain an excellent network of luxury corporate clients, and we have been able to successfully collaborate in supplying these clients with some of our premium spirits products such as Ferrand Cognacs and single-cask Scotch whiskies.”

Jean-Marie Pratt from the LIBER x Proof & Company team serves Presidents Xi and Macron in Shanghai in 2019

LIBER manages an exclusive portfolio of fine wines mainly from Rhône Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne. Their wine portfolio features premium, terroir-driven brands such as Billecart-Salmon, Nicolas Rossignol, Confuron-Cotetido, Jasmin and Gerin. LIBER’s team in Mainland China includes wine industry veterans Queenie Xia and Jean-Marie Pratt, both of whom serve as national ambassadors for these high-quality brands in China’s luxury hotels, gastronomic restaurants and networks of private and corporate clients. In addition to Mainland China, both Proof & Company and LIBER have distribution operations in Hong Kong and Macau, where they similarly collaborate through shared offerings to both on-premise and private clients.

Billecart Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, France

“The partnership between LIBER and Proof & Company is truly the result of a common vision, shared values and a strong will to build together a platform to develop a customer-centric strategy for our independent crafted wines and spirits. I also feel extremely proud to be a Senior Advisor for our group operation in Mainland China, which is a major priority for both companies,” notes Stéphane Moreau.

The partnership in China allows the combined salesforce to access a broader base of clients, which bolsters opportunities while streamlining operational costs. Both measures will help the partners strengthen their financial position and service quality during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.


About LIBER, Ltd.
LIBER, founded by Connor McClay, Bertrand Carquillat and Stéphane Moreau, is an independent privately-owned company dedicated to crafted wines, champagnes and spirits. LIBER operates in Greater China with a team of dedicated professionals who live and work by their shared values: Passion, Respect, Integrity and Accountability. LIBER activities are structured around four divisions, each focusing on specific customer needs: Distribution, Servicing, Consulting and Open Market Sourcing.

For more information, please visit www.liberwines.com


OPEN LETTER: LET'S COME BACK STRONGER, TOGETHER

SINGAPORE, 13 May 2020

To Our Industry Community,

For the first time in nearly nine years, the Edison lightbulb above the entrance at 28 HongKong Street in Singapore is dark. That simple, welcoming symbol of hospitality will stay dark until at least 1 June, when Singapore’s “circuit breaker” lockdown is tentatively scheduled to be lifted.

28 HongKong Street, the cocktail bar where the Proof & Company journey started in 2011

These past 12 weeks have been the most difficult that all of us at Proof & Company have seen in our lifetimes in the hospitality business. COVID-19 has been devastating for the bar, restaurant and hotel industry in Asia Pacific. It has brought about a level of stress regarding the present and uncertainty about the future that can be difficult to grasp. Many of the clients who have supported us for years are hurting even more than we are.

This pandemic has forced all of us to make painful decisions. At Proof & Company, no decisions have been more painful than parting ways with beloved team members who had such bright futures with us. Through it all, our approach to the crisis has been straightforward: to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our team, our clients, our brand partners and our shared future.

And yet we count ourselves amongst the fortunate. Something extraordinary has emerged from this crisis in recent weeks: an unprecedented sense of togetherness. All across the region, the industry is coming together in remarkable and unexpected ways. If we are all lucky, these changes will strengthen our industry for years to come.

To our team, the sacrifices we are making together are difficult, but they are making the difference. To our warehousing and delivery teams, who have worked through the lockdowns across the region, thank you. You are part of an army of essential workers who are keeping economies on life support. Your continued belief in our mission, your dedication to our clients and your positive spirit inspire us.

To our clients, the bars, restaurants, hotels, wholesalers and retailers of Asia Pacific, you are the frontline in this crisis and you are being hit the hardest. As you pivot to new business models overnight, you are sharing your learnings with peers and competitors alike. Look up Hope + Sesame in Guangzhou, China and their excellent online COVID recovery content. You won’t regret it. On our side, we are doing everything we can to be there for you – by extending credit terms, by helping you launch bottled cocktail programs, and by supporting local COVID-19 industry relief initiatives like #lovetowuhan. Is there more we can do to help? Please reach out.

To our global bar family, your perseverance, creativity and tireless energy in the face of historic adversity inspire us every day. Your camaraderie is of benefit to us all. Nearly 2,000 of you have signed up for our complimentary COVID-19 JERRY beverage learning, looking to sharpen skills and knowledge during the lockdowns so you can take even better care of guests when the good times return. We cannot wait to see you over the bar when they do.

To our brand partners, almost without exception, you have asked a simple question, “How can we help?” You have extended payment terms, air freighted shipments to avoid stock outs, and generally had our collective backs. Your support ensures that we can serve our clients without interruption, as they navigate this difficult period. We will not forget it. We are proud to represent you.

To our regional governments, your COVID-19 support for small- and medium-sized enterprises, such as the JobKeeper program in Australia, is giving everyone a fighting chance – and saving countless jobs. We are fortunate to have such capable, action-oriented government leadership. Asia Pacific was hit first, and hit hard, but it will do its part to help lead the world out of this crisis.

To our shareholders, you have always believed in the Proof & Company vision. Your steadfast support, particularly in a crisis of this scale, puts us in a stronger position to help our teams, our clients and our hospitality communities.

This togetherness translates into resilience. As hospitality venues in China, Hong Kong and, soon, New Zealand reopen, this resilience is on full display. It gives us all hope.

A busy service at 28 HongKong Street in happier times

We now have every confidence that we – as a community, as an industry, and as a company – will beat COVID-19. Yes, the post-COVID world will be different. Hospitality will be different, possibly for a long time to come. The road back will take time, and there will no doubt be setbacks along the way. Like you, we are using this time to reflect, to absorb the lessons we are being taught, and to adapt to the new normal that will follow.

More than anything, we are grateful to be a part of this community. It may be amongst the hardest hit, but it is also the most unified. The light outside 28 HongKong Street will most certainly come back on in due time.

When it does, let’s come back stronger, together.

Spencer Forhart Chairman  I   Paul Gabie  Chief  Executive Officer



MEDIA FEATURE: THESE ASIAN BARS ARE PIONEERING THE NEXT WAVE OF THE CRAFT COCKTAIL REVOLUTION

Published Feb 13, 2020 by Hong Kong Tatler   Written by Dan Q. Dao

Thank you to Dan Q. Dao and the team at Tatler Magazine Hong Kong for the excellent feature on the Asia bar scene, including a selection of the regional bars developed with the assistance of the Proof Creative Team: 28 HongKong Street (Singapore), ATLAS (Singapore), Pontiac (Hong Kong), Manhattan (Singapore). It is wonderful to see so many of our friends celebrated for their good work, especially during these challenging times.

Twenty years after the craft cocktail revolution launched in New York City, Asia is pioneering the next frontier of drink-slinging innovation. Bridging Western tradition with disciplined craftsmanship plus a treasure trove of untapped local ingredients, Asian bars are creating some of the most exciting and outré cocktails in the world.

The first thing you see is an eight-metre-tall gilded tower whose brightly lit shelves are neatly lined with seemingly hundreds of liquor bottles. Below, bartenders in crisp white blazers shake and stir with equal parts poise and bravado. You order a gin martini, which arrives in a custom etched coupe glass with one of those thin, rounded lemon peel twists floating on top. But even before you take a sip, you’ve already forgotten where (and when) you’re standing.

You’d be reasonably forgiven for losing yourself at Atlas, the legendary gin-centric bar that opened in Singapore in 2017 yet feels like New York City circa 1920. After all, the 7,400sqft bar is set in the lobby of Parkview Square, one of the island city-state’s iconic Art Deco skyscrapers whose grandiose bronze facade and stunning geometric designs were meant to mirror the style of Prohibition-era Gotham. Equally attention-grabbing is that soaring pillar of spirits: it’s holding 1,000 or so gins, whiskies and wines—all catalogued meticulously by producer, origin, type of still and more.

The lively scene at 28 Hong Kong Street, one of the bars that started the craft cocktail revolution in Singapore (Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Street)

Sitting at number eight in the annual World’s 50 Best Bars ranking, Atlas is Asia’s top performer on the list. Last year, another Singaporean bar, Manhattan, came in third overall—beating out all of its competition in the United States. Suffice to say: as far as international regard is concerned, Asia’s finest bars would hold their own if they were picked up and dropped down in any of the world’s cocktail capitals.

Now with the undivided attention of the drinks world, however, Asia is pioneering a new, exciting frontier for cocktail culture. While the more developed scenes in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo push the envelope with creative concepts and untapped ingredients, newer emerging markets like Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City are taking note and vying fiercely for a place on the global stage. Challenges remain, of course—namely, a lack of resources, training and access to ingredients—but the competition is spirited and the thirst palpable.

RAISING THE BAR

It makes sense that Singaporean bars with a classic ethos would rake in the top honours in the West. After all, it was largely successful US, European and Australian bartenders and entrepreneurs who first saw fertile ground for a cocktail scene in relatively wealthy, globalised Singapore. In 2011, former New York City lawyers Spencer Forhart and Paul Gabie helped kickstart the Asian cocktail revolution with the opening of 28 Hong Kong Street, a then-unprecedented 55-seat speakeasy tucked away on a nondescript block in Singapore’s Chinatown. Nine years and countless accolades later, the bar remains remarkably faithful to its founding ethos: classics and original creations shaken and stirred to a hiphop and soul soundtrack.

The success of that bar would inspire Forhart and Gabie to launch Proof & Co, a bar-and spirits-focused creative agency that’s since become the pioneering force behind top establishments in Singapore—including Atlas and Manhattan—and throughout the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Services include menu and concept development, but also a much-needed supply chain, particularly for spirits, liqueurs and barware not yet available in Asia. With a flagship office in Singapore, Proof & Co has been instrumental in establishing the city-state as the modern capital of cocktail culture.

“Singapore was historically a trading post and financial hub, so you have different cultures and ethnicities coming together to promote creativity,” explains Jason Williams, a Queensland native who moved to the Lion City five years ago to serve as creative director for Proof & Co as well as Master of Gin at Atlas.

“There are tons of expats from the United States and elsewhere, along with a local middle class that have come up in a globalised economy. They experience cocktail culture elsewhere and bring it back here. And since food culture in Asia is so integral, people already have much a broader palate compared to in Australia, where I’m from. Here, they’re more willing to try new things, from smoky mezcals to European liqueurs.”

Photo: Courtesy of Atlas

Yet it would be inaccurate to give Singapore sole credit for birthing cocktail culture in the vastness that is Asia. Those with a longer memory may recall that the US food magazine Bon Appétit in 2008 proclaimed Tokyo to be “the cocktail capital of the world”—perhaps for the precision, craftsmanship and omotenashi (hospitality) of Japan’s buttoned-up bartenders. Often compared to other Japanese crafts like the tea ceremony or ikebana (flower arranging), Japanese bartending is a reflection of virtues like patience, respect and service.

It’s worth noting that many attributes of Japanese bar culture predate even the US’s own cocktail revolution. Indeed, even the late New York bartender Sasha Petraske cited the enthralling bartending performances put on at New York City’s Angel’s Share and other local Japanese-owned cocktail bars as inspiration for his legendary reinvented speakeasy Milk & Honey. And when Petraske’s disciple, Richard Boccato, began investigating the now ubiquitous use of “fancy,” hand-cut ice, he turned to a Japanese ice-sculpting studio in Queens, Okamoto Studio.

That early fascination with Japanese cocktail culture would soon be mirrored by a love for the cult genre of Japanese whisky—a product of Scottish-Japanese collaboration that emphasizes the meticulous selection of natural spring water and a ceremonial reverence for the art of blending. In 2015, when Suntory’s Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 won the title of World’s Best Whisky, the spirits market acknowledged, for the first time, that Asian distillers were a force to be reckoned with. These days, Suntory and its primary competitor Nikka are foraying into gins and vodkas made with Asian botanicals and citrus such as yuzu.

But while there are exceptions, Japan’s cocktail culture continues to be defined by a near obsession with a classic canon of drinks and a dedication to honing even the simplest techniques. “One time, I was talking to a Japanese bartender working at Mizunara: The Library in Hong Kong,” remembers Nick Braun, creative director of the Bangkok-based Umami Hospitality group. “I asked him what he’d been learning, and he said, ‘My gin and tonic isn’t quite right.’ That’s all he’d been working on for months: perfecting a gin and tonic. They do things perfectly, or not at all.”

That’s not to say that creativity has been altogether sacrificed: Hiroyasu Kayama, in particular, has been revered for plucking out lesser-known ingredients like Japanese peppers grown at his family farm and gula melaka (palm sugar) brought in from Malaysia. But broadly speaking, Tokyo, like New York City and London, is marked by a concrete identity that’s become easily recognisable to global cocktail fans—one of scientifically accurate measured pours, impeccable light-touch service and exactly timed cocktail shaking.

ALL IN THE MIX

More fast-paced streams of innovation might be found in second-wave Asian markets like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei, but also particularly where a convergence of diverse cultures and widespread economic growth have given rise to newfound cultural, and thus cocktail, capitals: Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and notably Bangkok.

With emergent middle classes, many Southeast Asian cities are seeing land grabs for first iterations of global concepts like craft beer breweries, Third Wave coffee shops and classic cocktail bars. For both the people who drink cocktails and the people who make them, it’s a brave new world.

Photo: Courtesy of Pontiac

“The best thing about the bar scene in Southeast Asia is that it’s youthful and diverse,” says Williams, whose consulted on regional projects like the hyperlocal Trigona at the Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur. “People are doing cool and crazy things—not just the cookie-cutter-style bars that you might see in different cities. There are also mutations of different concepts, whether that’s Ginza-style Japanese bars that also play heavy metal, or bars doing molecular mixology with all Southeast Asian ingredients.”

One standout of these exceedingly inventive hybrid concepts is Hong Kong’s Pontiac, a women-led, Coyote Ugly-esque neighborhood dive that oozes pure rock ’n’ roll. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, owner Beckaly Franks has been dubbed the First Lady of Hong Kong mixology for leading the city towards the trend of relaxed and inclusive cocktail bars that still shake up award-worthy drinks. “Before we opened in 2015, there were some great heavy hitters but mostly the scene was very exclusive,” Franks says. “That ‘you can’t sit with us’ mentality has flown the coop. There’s a spirit of collaboration in the scene.”

Franks is quick to earnestly shout out Pontiac’s peers, including Stockton (“They’re the OGs representing Hong Kong”), COA (“Jay Khan is the most honest, determined guy in the industry”) and Quinary (“Antonio Lai is a champion and a badass leader”), as inspirations for how she trains and mentors her staff. But Pontiac’s unique calling card is perhaps its multiculturalism: the staff has included people from the Philippines, Taiwan, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Brazil and the United States.

“Hong Kong is special in that we have a beautiful melting pot of cultures—everyone comes from a different background, so we have to learn to respect each other and how each of us does things,” Franks asserts, adding that that diversity translates directly onto the menu. “My bar manager Tracy Villegas, who is Filipino, created a Palamig Ti Punch—a classic agricole rum punch but made with the flavours of Palamig, a traditional drink in the Philippines.”

Photo: Courtesy of Stockton

Local ingredients likewise inform the ethos at Singapore’s Native, a three-year-old bar by luminary Vijay Mudaliar that looks and breathes like a classic Western cocktail bar except with a fixation on Asian ingredients (pandan leaves and Indian whisky, for instance) as well as locally procured artisan crafts (batik fabric aprons and locally crafted ceramic vessels). One notable drink, Antz, fuses salt-baked tapioca and coconut yogurt with aged cane juice and Thai agricole rum. The garnish? Crunchy Polyrhachis ants from Thailand nestled in a liquid nitrogen-frozen leaf with melting basil “cubes.”

“It took us a while to connect with our audience, as we work solely on local and regional produce and make no classics at the bar,” admits Mudaliar. “However, I think it was exciting for the local audience to rediscover ingredients used in our heritage—but in terms of a cocktail. We work on reconnecting our customers with tradition, farmers and foraged produce. Being indigenous to this part of the world, we really wanted to showcase not only the unique ingredients, but also give a sense of familiarity to the culture.”

More surface-level attempts to simply drop Southeast Asian flavours into classic cocktail formats have been at times misguided. Braun recalls an early moment in Bangkok’s cocktail renaissance in which Thai ingredients were used primarily in such forced applications with subpar results.

“Back then, it was tom yum-spiced cocktails, sticky rice infusions, and mango liqueurs—low-hanging fruit that weren’t very creative and didn’t mix well,” Braun says. “But now that more and more people are seeing Bangkok as a true cocktail city, we’re seeing interesting ways that the breadth and variety of Southeast Asian cuisines lend themselves perfectly to innovation. For example, things here are typically locally sourced. And while Western cuisine is generally quite wasteful, Asian cuisine focuses on eating the whole animal.”

Photo: Courtesy of Asia Today

Asia Today, the neon-lit bar that Braun opened with veteran Thai bartender Niks Anuman-Rajadhon in 2017, offers a masterclass in spotlighting local ingredients in thoughtful ways. “We focus our drinks around local wild honey from different regions, species and vintages, as honey is one of the most terroir-driven natural ingredients,” explains Anuman-Rajadhon.

A house daiquiri incorporates a honey variety from Khao Yai National Park, while the back bar showcases local ingredients like cocoa wine and various rums produced around Thailand. “European food has been pretty well explored in cocktails,” Braun adds. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the next new ingredient fads coming out of Asia.”

SHAPING THE SCENE

The retro interiors of Live Twice are inspired by a Japanese take on mid-century modern aesthetics (Photo: Courtesy of Jigger & Pony)

Asia’s rapid ascent in the bar world offers the continent’s top haunts an opportunity to shape the global conversation in terms of ingredients, techniques and trends. At the same time, more acclaim has turned a profession once deemed unworthy into a lucrative, sustainable industry.

“The prestige of being a bartender is small but growing in Asia—it’s now seen as a viable career path,” Williams says. “At Manhattan, we hired a strong Filipino contingent of bartenders who were used to working banquet situations. Five years later, most still work there and they’re travelling the world leading presentations on how to build one of the world’s best bars. That’s a huge metric of success for us.”

Indra Kantono, co-founder of Singapore’s pioneering Jigger & Pony group, which just launched its latest venue Live Twice, says a new generation of homegrown bartenders is emerging to helm and open their own bars. “It is already the case that home-grown bartenders are leading and opening exciting bars that take the cocktail scene to the next level and make it their own,” Kantono says. “The Jigger & Pony bar is managed by Jerrold Khoo, a Singaporean bartender who rose up the ranks from apprentice to bar manager at our group.”

Beyond their home bars, Asian bartenders have also earned acclaim through their performances at the world’s largest bartending competitions. At this year’s Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition it was a Thai talent, Ronnaporn “Neung” Kanivichaporn of Bangkok’s whimsical theatre-themed Backstage Cocktail Bar, who took home the crown with his basil-garnished take on a lighter, rum-based Bloody Mary. He was the first bartender representing an Asian country to win the competition.

Kanivichaporn notes that he’s not the only Thai making waves in global competitions, expressing excitement for peers like Arron Grendon of Tropic City, who won the Chivas Masters Global 2018 competition, and his Backstage colleague Supawit “Palm” Muttarattana, who bested the rest at Campari’s Asia-Pacific bartender competition.

“I’ve been thinking about Thai-born bartenders for a couple years—we are good enough now that we can make our country’s name global,” Kanivichaporn says. “We have a new generation of talented Thai bartenders. If they can get through the language barrier, I would love to see them share their ideas and passion on the world stage.”

Photo: Courtesy of Manhattan

But language is hardly the only struggle. In Ho Chi Minh City, several ambitious bars have emerged as hopeful champions for the still-nascent Vietnamese cocktail scene. Among them is Rabbit Hole, a recently opened but already beloved speakeasy that whisks revellers to a bygone, prewar era of Saigon with live jazz and subtly tweaked classics.

Co-owner Leon Nguyen cites poor access to ingredients as a major issue: “I have to source things in non-official ways, such as hand-carrying. That’s been the biggest challenge. We can’t even get Chartreuse, Cherry Heering or Pimm’s.”

Another obstacle is a lack of infrastructure for training. “Saigon fell behind because we didn’t have alcohol literacy yet,” Nguyen explains. “Vietnamese bars tried to copy popular Japanese concepts, but many times people don’t take the time to learn the basics.” But to improve training and education within his fledgling bar, Nguyen is not looking only to the West. Rather, he’s bringing in heavy hitters from Asia’s mighty cocktail scene for an ongoing Asia 50 Pop-Up Series at Rabbit Hole, featuring guest shifts from seminal regional bars like Ben Fiddich in Tokyo, Quinary in Hong Kong and its namesake Rabbit Hole Bangkok.

Nguyen is hopeful that with the right training, a little patience, and some inspiration from those who’ve come before that Vietnam might one day see one of its own bars in a coveted place on a World’s 50 Best Bars list. “After we opened, we saw more and more bars taking cocktails seriously and understanding classics,” Nguyen says. “That’s the greatest reward—being able to change something big-picture in Vietnam.”

From classically minded stalwarts to innovative newcomers, here are five bars worth visiting during your Asia cocktail bar tour:

1. Bangkok: Asia Today

Taking advantage of Bangkok’s Wild West allure, bartender Niks Anuman-Rajadhon bucks global cocktail trends and does things his own way. The ethos here is local: the menu prominently features Thai rum along with dozens of varieties of foraged wild honeys and lesser known ingredients like bai hor wor—a herb coming from the Pga K’nyau indigenous peoples of northern Thailand.


Cocktails at Asia Today in Bangkok’s Chinatown district put the spotlight on local ingredients such as cocoa wine and various Thai rums (Photo: Courtesy of Asia Today)

2. Ho Chi Minh City: Rabbit Hole

Advertising professional Leon Nguyen’s self-proclaimed avant-garde bar transports drinkers to pre-war Saigon. Art Deco furnishings, velvet curtains and live jazz sessions contribute to the image, while regularly rotating cocktails skew classic. One notable nouveau spirit to try: Hanoi’s small-batch Song Cai gin, a wholly Vietnamese bottling fused with hand-foraged botanicals and heirloom grains.


Rabbit Hole in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a new, speakeasy-style bar that is already beloved by patrons (Photo: Courtesy of Rabbit Hole)

3. Hong Kong: Pontiac

Pontiac is worth a visit for the music alone—a jukebox loaded with old and new rock anthems helps solidify the bar’s grungy street cred. It’s also one of Hong Kong’s most culturally progressive watering holes: female-led, with staff from Asia, Europe and the Americas. Its relaxed, devil-may-care attitude is encouraged by owner Beckaly Franks, who’s known to look the other way as her staff hop on the counter to pour shots for the crowd.


An original creation of Pontiac, a progressive Hong Kong bar founded by mixology maven, Beckaly Franks (Photo: Courtesy of Pontiac)

4. Singapore: Native

Offering the most straightforward interpretation of classic drink culture reimagined with local ingredients, Native, helmed by veteran Vijay Mudaliar, sets the standard for hyperlocal cocktail bars. Here, you grab a seat on a stool carved by a local carpenter to enjoy cocktails made with local rum and locally foraged herbs—while enjoying local music as you sip.


Drinks at Singapore’s Native are created using a hyper-local approach (Photo: Courtesy of Native)

5. Tokyo: Ben Fiddich

At this tiny Shinjuku institution, the whitesuited owner-bartender Hiroyasu Kayama slings cocktails using Japanese whiskies and spirits infused with herbs grown at his family farm. The journey to the bar is also notable: enter the nondescript building, take the lift to the ninth floor and search for the giant wooden doors that’ll transport you into a wood-bedecked den adorned in paintings and still-life fruit arrangements.


Photo: Courtesy of Ben Fiddich


DIPLOMÁTICO RUM JOINS PROOF & COMPANY AUSTRALIA, EXPANDS NATIONAL RETAIL FOOTPRINT


MELBOURNE 30 September 2019 – Commencing 1 October 2019, Diplomático Rum has appointed Proof & Company as their distributor in the Australian market. The acquisition builds on a seven-year partnership between the two companies in key Asia domestic markets and travel retail across Asia Pacific.

“We could not be more excited to bring this delicious liquid to the Australian bartender and consumer. We aim to build on Diplomático’s strong foundation here and develop it into a household name for lovers of rum and quality dark spirits alike,” says Paul Broadbent, Proof & Company General Manager, Australia & New Zealand.

Australia remains Diplomático’s most important Asia Pacific market. In keeping with this status, both companies are expanding their investment in Diplomático’s development. Sai Hamsala, Diplomático’s Melbourne-based Asia Pacific Brand Ambassador, will now be joined by Kate Mansour, in the newly created role of National Brand Manager, Australia for Diplomático. Mansour joins Proof & Company Australia and Diplomático with a wealth of spirits industry brand and marketing experience, including at Brown-Forman, where she helped oversee the growth of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and other premium brands in Australia.

‘It is a privilege to join Proof & Company and Diplomático to oversee the Australia market for this exceptional rum. I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting involved in the entrepreneurial culture that both companies are renowned for,” notes Mansour. In her new role, Mansour will be responsible for rolling out the “Heart of Rum” program across the country, with a focus on getting liquid on lips of this award-winning rum.

Diplomático is one of the fastest growing premium rums in Australia. Starting in late 2019, Coles Liquor Group will make Diplomático available in Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice Liquor Market locations. This builds on an existing nationwide presence with EDG Group through Dan Murphy’s and BWS stores and with independent liquor retailers.  Through Hamasala’s work over recent years, Diplomático also has a strong presence in leading bars and restaurants, which will see continued focus from the expanded team.

“Diplomático have been present in Australia for the last nine years thanks to the exceptional work carried out by the Baranows Emporium team. We are thankful for their work in building this foundation. Moving forward, we are excited to take Australia to the next level, from good to great, with the talented and passionate team at Proof & Company,” notes Alfonso Castillo,  Diplomático Asia Pacific Marketing Manager.


About Diplomático Rum
Diplomático is a super-premium rum from Venezuela. In 2018, Diplomático was awarded Wine Enthusiast’s prestigious “Spirit Brand of the Year,” the first-ever rum to win in this category. The Diplomático distillery is located at the foot of the Andes Mountains and is a family-owned brand inspired by the character of Don Juan Nieto Melendez, whose portrait is illustrated on its labels. Having produced top-quality spirits since 1959, Diplomático’s distillery combines traditional methods with modern technology to produce the finest of rums. The production area boasts great conditions for sugar cane and rum production including fertile lands, abundant water and a Caribbean climate. The team of award-winning Master Blenders works diligently to create unique and complex rums. The product range consists of the Tradition Range: Planas (aged up to 6 years), Mantuano (aged up to 8 years) and Reserva Exclusiva (aged up to 12 years), the Prestige Range: Single Vintage and Ambassador, both aged 12 years and finished in Spanish sherry casks for one and two years respectively, and a Special Edition: The Distillery Collection, featuring a Single Batch Kettle rum, a Single Barbet column rum and a Pot Still rum. For more information, please visit www.rondiplomatico.com.


URBANBAR LAUNCHES ASIA BARWARE HUB AND ONLINE STORE IN COLLABORATION WITH PROOF & COMPANY


SINGAPORE, 19 August 2019 – UrbanBar, a leading United Kingdom designer of premium bar tools and glassware, has launched a Singapore-based stock hub and online store (www.urbanbar.sg) to serve the rapidly growing Asia cocktail and bar scene. This premium barware hub, which will be operated in collaboration with Proof & Company, is the first of its kind in the region.

“We have witnessed the increase in premium cocktail bars, spirits distribution and premium drinks culture across Asia.” notes Nick Andrews, “After a number of years building our position in the region, we are now extremely pleased to be working with the team at Proof & Company to offer our full range online and direct to a number of Asian countries. We are stocking and supplying Asia from Asia.”

By holding UrbanBar stocks in Singapore, and allowing consumers and trade clients to purchase online for the first time, UrbanBar and Proof & Company will be able to reduce prices, shorten lead time for orders, and offer improved customer service and support. With the launch of the new store, online ordering and shipping service will be open to customers in Singapore, China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea. Trade clients of Proof & Company in Singapore will also be able to order UrbanBar items through the new Proof & Company online trade portal.

“The dramatic rise of Asia’s cocktail scene means the demand for proper tools, glassware and other accessories of the Second Golden Age – oak barrels for cocktail ageing, for instance – has never been greater,” notes Bobby Carey, Spirits Evangelist at Proof & Company “We find that trade clients, in particular, have suffered due to the lack of premium options available locally and the long lead times for overseas orders. We are excited to be able to finally address these two challenges through this expanded collaboration with UrbanBar.”

To celebrate the launch of the new online store, customers who register and place their first order by 30 September 2019 can use code SAVE5 for a special 5% launch discount.


About UrbanBar
Urban Bar is a leading United Kingdom-based designer and producer of luxury barware and glassware. They have been developing products for almost forty years and continue to develop and learn new techniques that enables them to produce cutting edge items and keep pace with the evolution of mixology and drinking culture. They do not release an item unless they are entirely confident in its design, functionality, quality and proud enough to allow it to carry their name. For more information, please visit www.urbanbar.com.


PROOF & COMPANY COMPLETES SGD 11M RAISE LED BY AGLAIA FAMILY OFFICE TO FUND ITS CONTINUED APAC GROWTH

SINGAPORE, 12 JULY 2019 – Proof & Company, the independent spirits company headquartered in Singapore, today announced that it has closed a growth capital round totalling SGD 11 million led by Aglaia Family Office. A significant portion of the round was taken up by the company’s existing investors. With this closing, Proof & Company has become one of Asia Pacific’s most valuable independent spirit companies.

The funding will support the growth of the group’s APAC spirits distribution platform, including continued team development in Australia and China, along with inventory expansion at the company’s stock hubs in Singapore, Shanghai and Melbourne. The funding will also support the company’s innovation initiatives, such as JERRY, its SaaS-based hospitality education service, and True Believers, its vehicle for developing and distributing affordable craft spirit brands.

“Proof & Company’s disruptive approach to independent spirits is experiencing nearly unlimited growth opportunities. Consumer markets across APAC continue to develop at an extraordinary pace and regional preferences are coming to align with global preferences. This investment will allow us to deepen our distribution in the region while allowing our innovation initiatives to gain broad market access,” said Spencer Forhart, Chairman of Proof & Company.

Over the past year, Proof & Company has grown its team from 70 to 100, opened an office in Shenzhen, and completed the integration of its Neat Spirits Australia and Neat Spirits New Zealand acquisitions. Building on this momentum, the company will now use this funding to increase inventory levels across the region and reinforce what has become the sector’s only APAC-wide platform for independent spirit brands.

“Proof & Company has positioned itself as one of the leading independent spirits companies in APAC. We are excited to support the business as it continues to capture the strong growth we are witnessing in the craft and premium spirit segments, ” said Patrick O’Regan, Head of Investments at Aglaia Family Office.

“Proof & Company has developed an innovative business model with strong growth potential. JPJ Invest is very comfortable with this investment. “, noted J. Peter Jessen, Chairman and CEO of JPJ Invest Pte Ltd, who will also join the Board of Directors as an outside director.


About Aglaia Family Office
Aglaia is a capital markets-licensed multi-family office headquartered in Singapore. Founded in 2006, Aglaia provides bespoke family office services to ultra high net worth families, trusts, and foundations across the globe. Aglaia adopts an endowment approach to investing, establishing a bespoke portfolio that will preserve and grow capital through generations. Aglaia’s infrastructure and resources are dedicated to sourcing and evaluating the best investment ideas and opportunities across public and private markets globally. For more information, visit: www.aglaiaim.com

About JPJ Invest
JPJ Invest is a member of the Jebsen & Jessen Family Enterprise. Established in January 2016, it serves as an investment platform providing a home for SME businesses without any geographical or industry sector restrictions. JPJ Invest is focused on both active and passive investments in businesses with impeccable standards and governance, solid track records and transparent business models. The team at JPJ Invest are comfortable to take on responsibilities and provide guidance to the businesses it invests in, both at board level and on an individual project basis.


OLD DUFF GENEVER LAUNCHES IN ASIA PACIFIC WITH PROOF & COMPANY, SUPPORTS EDUCATION & BARTENDER INITIATIVES


SINGAPORE, 19 June 2019 Old Duff Genever, founded by renowned bartending, spirits and cocktail educator Philip Duff, and Proof & Company have announced a distribution partnership to cover key markets in Asia Pacific, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Australia and New Zealand. This launch is the first partnership of its kind for an independently-owned genever in the region.

Old Duff Genever will join Proof & Company’s new “Brands of Reference” initiative, which focuses on championing best-in-class offerings in the lesser known spirit categories that are nonetheless essential to the Second Golden Age of fine drinking.

“Genever, while a niche category today, is historically important and makes some cracking classics. In the modern cocktail realm, leading bars need at least one quality real Dutch genever in their arsenal,” notes Jason Williams, Creative Director at Proof & Company and Master of Gin at ATLAS in Singapore, “We really do believe Old Duff is the gold standard in the genever category today – and we always love being able to champion a brand founded by a dear friend and fellow bar professional.”

Old Duff Genever is a range of real Dutch genevers designed for the modern cocktail bartender, and cocktail civilian, as Philip likes to say. Genever is the parent of both whiskey and gin, and the spirit has a rich distilling tradition dating back to the 1500s in Holland, Belgium and parts of Germany and France. It is historically distilled from a whisky-like grain base – often including a good bit of rye – complemented with very small amounts of juniper and other botanicals.

During the First Golden Age of cocktails in mid-1800s America, genever was the best-selling imported spirit in the United States, with as many as 450 bottles of genever being imported for every 1 bottle of other imported spirits. Old Duff, which is entirely milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and bottled in Holland, brings to life this important chapter of spirits history that was on the verge of being lost.

“When I created Old Duff Genever in 2017, Asia Pacific was always a region that was on my mind; historically, because of the genever-drinking traditions of Asian countries where Dutch travellers established themselves from the 1600s on, and commercially, because the region represents the future of a large chunk of our industry, especially in the realm of craft spirits and cocktails,” reports Duff, “I’ve been teaching seminars on cocktails and spirits throughout Asia Pacific since 1998, and I’m beyond excited to return to launch Old Duff Genever. I couldn’t wish for a better partner on this journey than Proof & Company; they instinctively understand and champion founder-led craft spirits brands and have an unmatched expertise in the world of bars.”

As part of its Asia Pacific launch, Old Duff will be supporting a year-long genever education campaign in collaboration with JERRY, the online beverage learning platform. The goal? Simply to raise awareness of this unique and beautiful spirit, and its importance to cocktail culture in the First and Second Golden Ages of fine drinking. Old Duff and Proof & Company will also be continuing Old Duff’s tradition of donating USD 1 per bottle sold to bartender charities and bar community initiatives in the region.


About Old Duff Genever
Old Duff Genever is the world’s most legitimate and transparent real Dutch genever range, currently composed of the core Old Duff Genever, and the rare Old Duff Genever 100% Maltwine with the Seal of Schiedam (one of only three such genevers in existence). While most supposedly “Dutch” genevers buy in their maltwine from Belgian distillers, every drop of Old Duff is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and bottled exclusively in Holland, at a family-owned distillery founded in 1777. The brand was created in 2017 by spirits expert Philip Duff, an Irishman and lifelong bartender who had spent 17 years living in Holland. Since its global launch in New York that year, Old Duff Genever has become the best-selling 100% maltwine genever in the USA (and the first such genever to be sold in the US in a century) and gained listings and menu cocktail placements in the Dead Rabbit, Eleven Madison Park, The NoMad hotel, Amor y Amargo, Existing Conditions, Katana Kitten and virtually every other significant cocktail bar in New York. After launching in the UK in October 2018, Old Duff cocktails can already be found on the menu at top venues such as The Savoy Hotel’s American Bar, Swift, Aqua, Demon Wise & Partners, and the brand is additionally available in its homeland Holland and onboard the Holland America cruise lines. For more information, visit: www.oldduffgenever.com


DIPLOMÁTICO RUM AND PROOF & COMPANY EXPAND PARTNERSHIP, APPOINT PETER CHUA AS ASIA BRAND AMBASSADOR


SINGAPORE, 24 May 2019 – After the successful re-launch of Diplomático Rum in Mainland China together in 2018, Diplomático and Proof & Company are expanding their partnership in Asia Pacific to cover travel retail across the region and are jointly appointing Peter Chua as a Singapore-based brand ambassador to support Diplomático’s Asia markets.

In late 2017, after five years of partnership in Singapore and Hong Kong, the two companies extended their collaboration to cover Mainland China. Under Proof China’s active management, China has developed into one of Diplomático’s fastest growing Asia Pacific markets.

“Asia’s growing prestige and international exposure in the F&B industry provides an exceptional platform for independent brands such as Diplomático,” mentioned Alfonso Castillo, Diplomático Asia Pacific Marketing Manager. “We’re thrilled to have Peter joining the team as it will bring all his experience, knowledge and networking allowing us to increase our reach and attention on the region.”

In early 2019, Diplomático appointed Proof & Company to manage a number of key travel locations in Asia Pacific. Travel retailers, long a major force in the region, are now embracing craft and independent spirits like never before, driven by rapidly changing consumer tastes, cocktail culture and the spread of Second Golden Age of fine drinking.

“Travel retail has traditionally been about offering spirits at an unparalleled value. Today’s traveling drinkers are considering a wider range of factors in their spirits purchases: craftsmanship, regionality, sustainability, and even health and wellness,” notes Tom Hogan, General Manager, Regional Asia for Proof & Company, “We have worked closely with Diplomatico for years now. As a family-owned producer, they live the values of quality and independence that we are passionate about. Their rums are a truly perfect fit for this new era in travel retail.”

Diplomático’s award-winning rums are now available in 7 travel retail gateways around the region, including Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney airports. In the second half of 2019, this footprint will expand to more than 15 Asia Pacific gateways, positioning Diplomático as a regional leader independent spirits in the travel retail channel.

To support the rapid growth Diplomatico is enjoying in the region, the two companies have appointed Peter Chua as a Diplomatico Brand Ambassador, with a focus on Diplomatico’s Asia markets, including Proof & Company’s markets of Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia. In this role, he joins a brand team that includes Sai Hamsala, Diplomático’s Melbourne-based Brand Ambassador. Both will be working in enhancing the brand’s education and presence in the 17 countries where Diplomático is already available in Asia Pacific, part of a reach over 80 countries globally.

Peter is one of Singapore’s most loved, and most awarded, bartenders, having been with Proof & Company for almost 8 years. He was on the founding team of 28 HongKong Street in 2011, and is currently the Head Bartender of Junior Singapore, Asia’s only pocket bar with rotating concepts. Peter’s international success includes representing Singapore in the Diplomático World Tournament, Diageo World Class and Bacardi Legacy global finals. Peter also earned his Bachelor of Hospitality from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2013.

Noted Peter, “Diplomático was the first craft rum I tasted that got me interested in that spirit category. Having worked closely with them for the last 6 years now, officially joining the family feels like an inevitable progression. More so, I am excited to be able to share the appreciation for Diplomático throughout the rest of Asia!”

Peter will retain a bartender residency at Junior, so long-time guests and fans of Diplomático will be able to catch him there on a weekly basis, when he is not traveling around the region spreading love for the “heart of rum.”


PROOF & COMPANY SPIRITS COMPLETES INTEGRATION OF NEAT SPIRITS NEW ZEALAND, BOLSTERS LOCAL TEAM AND OPERATIONS

SINGAPORE, 10 May 2019  Building on its integration of Neat Spirits Australia in September 2018, Proof & Company, one of Asia Pacific’s leading independent spirits companies, is making a significant investment in expanding its platform and capabilities in New Zealand.

In April 2019, Neat Spirits New Zealand completed its integration into Proof & Company, and now operates under a unified banner as Proof & Company New Zealand. This integration marks another step in Proof & Company’s drive to create an Asia Pacific-wide platform for independent spirit brands.

Proof & Company will significantly expand its team in New Zealand over the course of 2019 under the leadership of General Manager Paul Broadbent, who oversees both Proof Australia and Proof New Zealand from the company’s Melbourne-based regional headquarters.

The official launch of Proof New Zealand has also seen the introduction of Proof & Company’s acclaimed creative team services in New Zealand. This award-winning support for hotels, bars, restaurants and retailers will be overseen by Creative Director Jason William and Sydney-based Spirits Evangelist, Charlie Ainsbury. The Spirits Evangelists on Proof & Company’s creative team provide bar development, training and education for clients and act as ambassadors for Proof & Company’s portfolio of independent spirit brands.

This weekend, you can catch Charlie and Jason at the official after party of Highball Spirits Festival in Wellington, where CGR Merchants is also hosting  a 28 Hong Kong Street takeover. Guests can expect 28 HongKong cocktail classics, and the high energy atmosphere of this iconic Singapore cocktail bar.

As part of the integration, Proof New Zealand has also officially launched JERRY, Proof & Company’s online beverage learning platform. This modern beverage education solution, the first of its kind globally, soft launched in Asia in early 2018 and is now used by leading hospitality operators around the world.

“New Zealand was where the Neat Spirits journey all began back in 2012,” notes Broadbent, “The New Zealand independent spirits scene is really starting to blossom and we are keen to contribute to its growth by expanding our team and portfolio, supporting education for hospitality  professionals through JERRY and helping to elevate guest experiences through our creative services.”

“We are committed to building a world-class platform for independent spirits across key markets in Asia Pacific. This next step in New Zealand is a natural one, given our successful investment in Neat Spirits in Australia in 2018,” notes Proof & Company CEO, Paul Gabie, “New Zealand consumers and the local bar community are committed to so many of the principles that define ‘independent’ for us, including craft, provenance, and sustainability. We look forward to building on the great work of the Neat Spirits New Zealand team.”

Proof & Company and Neat Spirits were both founded in 2012 to champion importation, distribution and marketing of independent spirits brands in key Asia Pacific markets. With the integration of Neat Spirits New Zealand, Proof & Company has completed its full acquisition and integration of Neat Spirits.


PROOF & COMPANY SPIRITS APPOINTS NEW GM, AUSTRALIA AND COO, APAC TO CAPITALISE ON UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH

SINGAPORE, 10 April 2019 Six months after re-branding Neat Spirits Australia as Proof & Company, the independent spirits company has made two leadership appointments to capitalise on the extraordinary growth it is experiencing in its Australian and Asia Pacific markets.

 Starting 1 April, Paul Broadbent has been appointed as the group’s new General Manager, Australia & New Zealand. Since joining Proof & Company from Bacardi Australia in early 2018, Paul has helped to lead Proof Australia through a period of rapid growth, with distribution volumes expanding more than 250% in the past 18 months. National retail and travel retail channel partners helped drive much of this growth, with Australian consumers continuing to embrace independent spirits for entertaining at home in ever greater numbers. Star performers in Proof Australia’s spirits portfolio have included Citadelle Gin, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Lark Whiskies, Forty Spotted Gin and the newly crowned “World’s Best Classic Gin” by Adelaide’s own Never Never Distilling Company. This expanded distribution footprint has been complemented by the launch of Proof & Company’s creative services and JERRY online beverage learning platform in late 2018.

 “There is an exciting energy across the Proof & Company markets right now, much of it coming from our great brand and channel partners. We have momentum on our side, and I am looking forward to leading the charge for independent spirits in the highly competitive Australian and New Zealand marketplaces,” notes Broadbent.

 As part of these investments in Proof Australia, Dan Walker, formerly General Manager, Australia & New Zealand, will relocate to Singapore with his young family and take on the newly-created role of Chief Operating Officer for all Asia Pacific markets. In this senior operations role, he will oversee brand partnerships, procurement, warehousing and local fulfilment operations in all eight Proof & Company markets.

“The growth we are experiencing across our portfolio requires continued investments in people, technology and facilities. With this new role, I will be able to focus on delivering the best possible service to our brand partners and channel clients, notes Walker, “Brand building and radical customer focus remain cornerstones of the Proof & Company mission. I am delighted to be appointed as the guardian of our continued commitment to these core principles.”