Back in July this year, we had a quiet sip with Brett Bayly, brand ambassador for Glenfiddich in Southeast Asia.
Brett’s career started when he moved from the Philippines to Australia, where he started at Burger King (known as Hungry Jack’s in Australia).
From then on, he got a taste for the bar environment and worked his way up from being the guy who cleaned up glassware and whatever else ended up on the floor, to general management positions, after which he moved back to the Philippines to start a business.
He is now based in Singapore representing William Grant & Sons.
Recently we caught up with him at Below Whisky Den in Saigon where he was holding a masterclass.
Here’s what we asked him between sips.
B: How old are you?
BB: I’m 31, but feeling 21.
B: What’s your philosophy as it relates to customer service?
BB: This for me is the most important part of the hospitality industry. Most people can cook, everyone can open a beer, but people go out to be doted on and served. A good time in a bar or restaurant comes down to the service and attitude of the staff, then the skill.
B: How would you define the bartending industry in Southeast Asia at the moment?
BB: Incredibly exciting! So many things are happening. We’re seeing a huge swing from the old towns of London and New York holding the throne, to places like Singapore leading the way, being very hotly chased by the rest of the region.
B: How does the Vietnam bartending industry compare with the rest of Asia at the moment?
BB: To be honest, there’s some development still to happen, but I don’t think so much in skill. I’ve loved my times coming to Singapore with Glenfiddich, and I’ve met some great people.
I think what sets other regions apart is the community behind the bar industries in other places, is it’s really a fraternal bond, understanding the late nights, angry customers, and sacrifices made by the industry.
Vietnam isn’t far off, but I’d love to see that camaraderie really develop between the individual bars, but also from north and south!
B: As you travel throughout Southeast Asia as Regional Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich, what trends in hospitality are you seeing emerge?
BB: It really is a mixed bag with high end rotovaps and other lab equipment showing up, as well as people really taking the craft ends of bartending to new heights with carving ice and more traditional techniques.
The big one I’m really seeing would have to be prioritising unique, local ingredients and taking pride in what each country has to offer.
B: Which bars did you visit while you were in Vietnam? How was your experience?
BB: I’ve actually done two trips to Saigon and Hanoi, and honestly, I’ve hit the town pretty hard. I really wanted to get a scope of what was on offer and once I got a taste for the calibre of outlets, I wanted to see where the faults were.
As for Hanoi, I honestly can’t choose because I’ve been welcomed so generously at each of the outlets we’ve been at. But I have to give mention to The Alchemist and Gallery Bespoke because they let me do guest shifts behind their bars and tolerated my “where’s this” type questions the whole time.
Vietnam has been so welcoming to me. I was just there and I’m already looking forward to my October trip!
B: How would you describe Saigon’s bar culture at the moment?
BB: Amazing. I hadn’t been to Vietnam since I was a kid and it has developed so far beyond what I expected it would. Vietnam sadly doesn’t get the type of attention it deserves but it is definitely coming.
With the transient culture of bartending these days, I’m always excited to see what skills and knowledge teams have picked up and brought home and really made their own.
B: What advice do you have for Vietnam bartenders?
BB: Never stop trying to learn. Remember someone can always teach you more! I received this advice from a friend who helped open Dandelion in London.
He’s an incredible bartender and I asked him why he hadn’t opened his own place after 14 years in the industry, especially with his amazing resume. He turned without hesitation and said, “I haven’t finished learning yet. I can always learn from someone else.”
Take your time, big opportunities will come if you focus, and really try to learn everywhere.
B: When you’re not drinking Glenfiddich or any of the other brands in the William Grant & Sons portfolio, what do you go for?
BB: I have a pretty open palate, and to be honest, it’s mood dependent. If I feel like I’ve earned a drink at the end of the day, I’ll probably reach for an ice cold beer. If Im celebrating, let’s do a shot of bourbon.
I was just in London last week and spent an afternoon drinking sherry and eating cheese near the Thames.
It’s probably easier to say what I don’t drink if I’m honest. It always just has to be mood dependent.
B: What does the future hold for Brett Bayly?
BB: How I wish I could answer that question.
I didn’t think the future would’ve had me in the role I’m currently in if you’d asked me a year ago, and yet here I am.
I’m always open, but for now, I’m pretty happy just where I am and really excited to see where Glenfiddich as a brand can take me, and hopefully, where I can take them.