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An Insightful Hour with Diageo Bar Academy Director – Lam Chi Mun

Picture Credit: Diageo Bar Academy

Have you heard of Diageo Bar Academy? It is the training arm of Diageo and it strives to build up the professionalism and knowledge of all bar owners, bartenders and almost anyone who is interested to learn more about the bartending industry. Geek Flora has the privilege to meet one of the Diageo Bar Academy (DBA) directors, Mr Lam Chi Mun, during the visit to ProWineAsia 2018 and she managed to arrange for a chit-chat session with Mr Lam at Diageo Bar to understand more about what DBA is all about.

Training as the Backbone

DBA builds its backbone with the professional training that it is famous for. The Academy has a structured portfolio and courses that build up from one another to give a person the necessary training he or she needs to become an outstanding bartender in the global bar scene. In Singapore, many courses are available to the bartenders and they are able to gain access to many resources within the DBA’s courses.

In recent years, DBA also recognises the need for the common folks to learn more about the drinks they enjoyed. The Academy, therefore, opens an online portal where anyone who has an interest in bartending will be able to sign up and take their online courses at home for free. DBA’s structured courses allow the participants to understand basic steps in bartending and also to become his or her own bartender at home.

Moreover, if anyone is interested in opening a bar, DBA also provides training in the Business of Bars, where the owner or the team members can attend to better equip themselves with the knowledge of running a bar efficiently.

Know Your Liquid

Besides training, DBA also offers up other valuable information nuggets. For those who want to know more about the different liquids, DBA has what you need. You can pick your choice of liquid – Scotch whisky, vodka, gin and even baijiu – and DBA has the low-down for you. With a brief introduction of the liquid and its production to how it can be served, DBA’s knowledge vault is perfect for a knowledge-hungry you.

Bar Tools

In our opinions, one of the best things that DBA offers is the downloadable bar tools available on its website. From Facebook headers to festive menus, DBA offers a quick and easy way for bars to get a funky and attention-seeking menu for almost any occasion. It saves bar owners the time and efforts to come up with something new, and also help to reduce the operating cost of the bars with its ready-to-use tools.

World Class Competition

Most of us have heard of World Class Competition, but we are just not within the industry to truly understand the prestige that comes with it. It is possibly the reason why DBA started as Diageo wanted to help young bartenders around the world to grow their knowledge and, eventually, take part in the World Class competition.

That is the reason why DBA seeks out WSET to collaborate to build upon professional certification. WSET is an organisation based in the United Kingdom with a huge presence in many countries. With its reputation in the alcohol industry, WSET is the perfect organisation for Diageo to work with.

And that is where Mr Lam Chi Mun comes in.

Introducing Mr Lam Chi Mun

Mr Lam is DBA’s Asia Pacific Director. He has an extensive career as an educator and spends much of his life, learning and teaching in the alcohol industry. Mr Lam is a pioneer in many of the industry’s initiatives and is also one of the first who took the WSET course in Wines and Spirits in 1988-1989.

When Diageo approached Mr Lam to work together, Mr Lam was in his 20th year as an educator in Shatec. One thing led to another, and Mr Lam decided to join Diageo in its quest for education. Mr Lam’s position in Diageo is unique. He is the Asia Pacific Director in DBA, but he also works with WSET to bring forth training materials for the global training programs.

A typical day of work for Mr Lam

We ask Mr Lam about his typical day at work, and well, we got quite a stunning reply from him! He shares that he split his day into various parts. One of them is creating contents for education through the different agencies that deliver the lessons for the global students. He also ensures that the contents which go online to the DBA’s portal are suitable for the audience. Additionally, he also handles some of the marketing contents on social media.

Another part of his job is a little harder. He travels extensively and visits partner bars in the Asia Pacific region to find out if bartenders and staff in the bars require training. This part of the job is challenging as he needs to figure out a suitable time for these bartenders to attend training as they are always busy with one thing or another within their job scope. Therefore, Mr Lam needs a lot of patience and plenty of organisational skills to work with bar owners to arrange training sessions for their staff.

Once he identifies training needs, Mr Lam organises suitable training programs. He does some of the training himself and leaves the rest to his team of capable educators.

An Interesting Part about Mr Lam’s job

What we find interesting about this part of Mr Lam’s job is also the fact that it entangles itself with sales. Diageo freely trains the bartenders of a bar that signs a contract to house its products, and in return, the staff of the bar gets free training. In our opinions, this is a win-win situation. The bar becomes a partner of Diageo and with the free training, the staff becomes knowledgeable and is able to help sell more. Diageo benefits from the higher sales too, as the bar will buy more from them. In this way, Diageo makes partners and help them prosper whenever they sign a sales contract. It is not a one-sided benefit but one where the other party wins too.

Courses available for the common folks

Speaking to Mr Lam also make us curious about the different courses available in Singapore. So, on behalf of all of you who wants to advance your knowledge of spirits in general, we ask Mr Lam for suitable courses to recommend. Here are some of the courses that are useful:

  1. WSET Level 1 in Spirits
  2. WSET Level 2 in Spirits
  3. Diageo Bar Academy online courses

WSET Level 1 and 2 are available at Shatec and of course, the DBA’s online courses are available for anyone who signs up for it. For those of you who wish to start learning more, why not start with DBA’s online courses? They are designed for the busy folks who need to learn at their own pace so it is perfect for a start!

Live Webinar for Johnnie Walker Black Label

Talking about online courses, there is an upcoming live webinar for “Johnnie Walker Black Label and the Art of the Highball” on 26 June at 10 pm Singapore time (2 pm UTC). For those who wish to sign up and learn more about the art of making a perfect highball, you can register here. It is free so why not?

 

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    Is Jane Walker going to bring gender equality?

     

    The whisky world is filled with amusement and criticism when news of Diageo submitted a trademark application for “Jane Walker” hit the Internet. The drinks giant applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month and stated that Jane Walker is for “alcoholic beverages except for beer”. There was also news that labels submitted to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) show a drawing of a woman similarly dressed as the famous striding man logo and a bottle label named “The Jane Walker Edition”.

    The Internet has been blazing with both praise and criticism for the gender-specific trademark application. Some have come forward to applaud the move as a reminder for gender equality. Others have feedback that it is a backwards move to spread gender inequality and biases further.

    Is Jane Walker going to bring about gender equality?

    Gender equality is a long-suffering debate that gets nowhere, so far as we can see it. Men claim one side of the story while the women argue the other side. There is no end to this argument. We would rather see a general inclusion of human beings, accepting every one of us as an individual.

    Jane Walker, if done right, can indeed bring about a general inclusion of human beings. It is, however, a very tricky move that needs extreme planning. Is Jane Walker going to be a different blend? Will it be weaker or stronger than Johnnie Walker? Is the liquid going to be the same? Will Jane Walker become a core range or a limited release? Is the expression planned for release globally or only in the United States of America? The questions are endless.

    Nonetheless, the answer to each question will determine if Jane Walker will succeed. What if Jane Walker is a new blend that is more floral, fruitier or sweeter? How would the world respond to that? Or maybe Jane Walker could be a heavily peated whisky that is floral and sweet at the same time? What will the world think?

    Countless combination for Jane Walker’s success

    We believe that numerous combinations can build Jane Walker’s success on the world’s stage. The global community is waiting impatiently for Diageo to reveal their plans and share the new trademark with us. The revelation is likely to make or break the new Jane Walker Edition. Diageo is known for its work in promoting gender equality in the workplace, as well as running campaigns and projects to empower women around the world.

    The news of Jane Walker comes in a period where sexual harassment is trending in the news, mainly founded in the allegations made against Hollywood movie producer, Harvey Weinstein. Will Jane Walker help women around the world, or will she be seen as another sexist plot against women? We hope for the former!

    Reactions from around the world

    While we wait for news from Diageo, here’s a top response from Jump Radio. Listen to Jesse and Jenna as they present to you: The New Jane Walker Whisky Ad.

     

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      An exclusive invite to Diageo’s Bar

      Whisky Selection at Diageo’s Bar

      Geek Choc and Geek Flora visited Diageo’s bar in late December 2017. One of the employees whom we got to know at Singbev’s recent sales in Suntec invited us. The bar is newly renovated and opens to the employees and their friends just one week before our visit.

      The Journey to Diageo’s Bar

      The procedure to get into the bar was somewhat exclusive. After our security check-in at the office lobby, our host ushered us to the bar where we registered ourselves as “Friends of Diageo”. After all the necessary check-in, we headed straight for the bar (hidden behind a curtain)!

      Mr Johnnie Walker

      We were greeted with a grand walkway (attached to a pantry) before we hit the bar. Once we entered the bar, Mr Johnnie Walker was there to greet us. The bar counter was also right in front, with seats all around.

      Geek Choc in deep conversation with our host at the bar

      It is a beautiful place that is artistically decorated to give a homely feel. We understood that Diageo opens the bar to friends of the employees on Thursdays and Fridays of every week from 6 pm to 8.30 pm and they can invite up to three friends at one go. It is a good initiative and one that we appreciate! The drinks at the bar are free-flow (except the JW Blue Label), and there is a menu for cocktails too!

      Comfy tables and chairs behind the bar

      We had a wonderful time with our host as we chat about nothing in particular but the conversation veered towards whisky (of course)! We understood that the bar displays some rare and old whiskies through the chat and we were determined to check them out! So, before we left for the night, we went to take a closer look.

      The Rare Gems in Diageo’s Bar

      Here’s what we found!

      Display on the left of the bar

       

      Display on the right side of the bar

       

      Part of a whisky-making kit

       

      Johnnie Walker 1920 Edition

      There are indeed rare gems to be seen here, especially that Johnnie Walker 1920 Edition! While that is not for sale, our host reminded us that we can always go for the Johnnie Walker Ghost – the only blended whisky with liquids from mothballed distilleries!

      Alas, good times always end too fast. It was 9 pm too soon, and we had to go. It was a short visit but one that inspires us to continue our whisky journey with all of our readers.

       

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