Interview

Finbar BOYLE • General Manager Brown-Forman Southeast Asia

Finbar Boyle arrived in January 2018 to Singapore as General Manager of Southeast Asia for American drinks giant Brown Forman

Q: When did you become based in Singapore?

 A: I arrived in January 2018, to be General Manager for Brown-Forman across the Southeast Asia region. 

Q: At the time, which were the three most important markets in volume and value?

 A: Jack Daniel’s is found everywhere across Asia. Within Southeast Asia, more established markets were Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines. We also began expanding our Single Malts and American Whiskey across the region, with the initial focus on Singapore and Malaysia markets.

Q: Are these markets still the same today?

A: Yes, we continue to be confident in the growth opportunity for our Whisky portfolio across all Southeast Asia markets, and increasingly behind our super and ultra premium whiskies. GlenDronach is a rich and robust whisky, fully matured in Sherry Casks. Along with our Speyside offering’s from the Benriach Distillery, we have an increased focus on our Single Malt Scotch Whisky today. 

“GlenDronach is a rich and robust Speyside whisky, fully matured in Sherry Casks.”

“Scotch has long dominated in Asian markets.”

“Consumers are drinking more premium products, and willing to explore and pay more for something new or unique across all spirit categories,” Finbar Boyle

Q: What international trends in spirits were realised in Southeast Asia in the time you were here?

 A: There has long been a vibrant cocktail scene across Southeast Asia cities like Singapore and Bangkok. In the past 5 years, we have seen many cocktail bars impress on a global stage with quality drinks and service, while increasingly infusing local knowledge and flavour to their drinks. It is great to see, especially after the resilience shown through COVID19 restrictions.  

Consumers are drinking more premium products, and willing to explore and pay more for something new or unique across all spirit categories. We see this in American Whiskey, where strong growth trends in the USA increase demand for variety in markets around the world, including Southeast Asia cities like Singapore. Consumers are certainly interested in the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel range or Woodford Reserve Range of fine whiskies. There are many exciting new flavours and whiskey variants to explore. 

Consumers are more open to trying Whisky from around the world including Asia. Scotch has long dominated in Asian markets, and while Single Malt Scotch is in higher demand everywhere. Japanese Whisky and American Whiskey continue to grow as more consumers try new flavours, grain bills and barrel finishes. 

Gin continues to gain traction across Southeast Asia following global trends and at home consumption increasing throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. Tequila and Rum are starting to expand in their offering and consumer interest for something different like Mezcal. Bartender’s are often driving this trend seen in other international markets. 

“Jack Daniel’s is found everywhere across Asia.”

“Consumers are certainly interested in the Woodford Reserve Range of fine whiskies.”

Q: What international trends did not take root in Southeast Asia?

A: Flavoured Gin has seen rapid growth in some European markets, however, we are yet to see this take root in Southeast Asia. Ready to Drink (RTDs) and Hard Seltzer have seen incredible growth in America throughout the pandemic. Premium Tequila is growing fast in the USA and while this trend will be evident in some cocktail bars across Southeast Asia it will be much slower from a larger consumer uptake. While pre-mix drinks are large volumes across the region, the premium priced options from international brands have more room to grow. Pre-mix canned cocktails will be interesting to see in the coming years, and whether consumer demand for this convenient cocktail serves increases at home or while traveling. 

Q: What do you forsee as the foremost trends in the next two to three years in Southeast Asia?

A: Southeast Asia will continue to see brown spirits dominate total spirits consumption and there will be more variety of premium and above Whisky offerings from around the world. Single Malt Scotch Whisky will continue to attract new consumers as this demand continues. Consumer demand for simple serve cocktails will see more demand for American Whiskey, as the corn, rye or wheat grain whiskey makes for easy mixing with soda, tea or traditional cocktails like an Old Fashioned. Otherwise just enjoy neat or on the rocks. Consumers will drink a greater variety of cocktails as our region’s talented bartenders bring twists on traditional recipes to meet locals taste preferences. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry.

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