Drinks World caught up with Knut Randhem to chat about his exciting new role at Dictador and why the career change from bartender to brand ambassador. Read on to find out more…
Drinks World: Firstly, congratulations on your new role, great to be keeping you in Asia. Tell us about your new role with Dictador rum?
Knut Randhem: Thank you. I love working in Asia, the diversity between the different markets makes it a very interesting place to work in. It constantly keeps you on your toes, and you need to adapt to different settings and environments.
At Dictador my main role is to be the brand manager of South East Asia, but I will also assist in other markets, such as Taiwan, and the Philippines. As Dictador are planning to expand in the region, I will keep myself busy with both on and off-premise trade, which is a new challenge for me.
My base will be in Bangkok, which I’m very happy about, as this was my first home in Asia when I moved here three years ago. I will definitely miss Singapore but I will get opportunities to go back often.
DW: What was your personal motivation to obtain this role and move away from behind the bar or will we still see you behind bar in the role?
KR: After three years at CE LA VI, I felt I was ready for a new challenge, and I knew Dictador from before, so when I found out they were looking for someone, I instantly felt this was the right move for me. The fact that they have a number of different products makes the job even more interesting for me. I think for myself I need to have different products to work with to keep myself busy so I constantly come up with new activations, which keeps my creative side entertained.
Having said that, I will miss working behind the bar for sure, it’s been my profession for 10 plus years now, so it’s a big part of me. Hopefully some guest shifts will ease the pain.
DW: Tell us what we need to know about Dictador or what we don’t know about it?
KR: The most important thing for Dictador is that it’s not only about the single rum in front of you; it’s about the experience and the moment of enjoying Dictador. That’s why we have a number of different expressions of our rum, complimented with Colombian made gin. And to compliment that we have a range of exclusive cigars, made to be paired with the spirits. In addition we have a range of premium Colombian coffees to go with that. So all together we have a big range of products to cover a wide range of occasions, whether it’s a quiet drink with a friend, or the prefect end on a perfect dinner.
DW: What have you learnt in recent years working with CE LA VI across the Asia region, especially around consumer trends and tastes?
KR: I’ve learnt that no market is the same. It might appear so on the surface, but everyone has their thing, and their way of making drinks. Many markets are quite conservative when it comes to drinking, so it takes a while to change and introduce new spirits to them, historically, whisky and brandy has been big here, but things are slowly changing. When I started, you barely saw a bar with a large selection of gin or rum. But today, three years later, you have bars that specialise in specific spirits and drinks. And the people behind the bars are very passionate about what they are doing, which pushes the standards even higher.
DW: Is there a difference between the tourist customer and the emerging local cocktail lover across the region?
KR: The difference used to be bigger I think, before tourists came here with lower expectations on drinks and quality, but nowadays since there are so many great bars around, their expectations are a lot higher. This is due to the local people working behind the bars being so eager to learn new things and create a better environment around the drinking culture, so the standards have been raised.
DW: What’s happening in rum across the region, firstly from other brands and then from your new favourite Dictador?
KR: Firstly, I think sugar cane spirits fit the Asian palate and it’s diverse spirits. Before I think the local sugar cane spirits were of quite poor quality that made many locals stay away from rum, but nowadays we have so many different expressions, and the fact that rum has a better price point than whisky or brandy makes people more willing to try something new. And once you’ve opened the door for them, they will stay loyal to your products.
DW: What is your rum cocktail of choice?
KR: I like most rum drinks. A nice daiquiri never fails, but I have always been a big Old Fashioned drinker, so I guess a nice Dictador 20 Year Old with a few dashes of bitters will have to be my weapon of choice.