DRINKS WITH Xavier Padovani, Hendrick’s Gin

Xavier Padovani, global brand ambassador for Hendrick's Gin

4bars.com.au caught up with Xavier Padovani, the global brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin, while he was visiting these shores in April. This is what he had to say:

This isn’t your first visit to Australia. What brought you out here last time and what brings you back ‘down under’?

“That is correct; I attended the Sydney BarShow in 2007. This time around the main focus of my visit was to meet Suntory our distributor in Australia to support their effort and understand the market better. Supporting their effort meant that I met with Roman, Nigel and his team at Club Suntory to share with these guys as much information as I can on the brand such as its production process, the brand identity and other details so they can understand the brand better to in turn share the message with the bars.

I was also interested into founding a potential location for our next ‘Fantastic & Ridiculous Monday of the Unusual Rose and Cucumber Society’ nights.”

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What is your impression of the Australian bar scene?

“Sydney seems to be big operations where design is a focus while capacity is not an issue with huge outlets with a central location. Overall quite a great bar scene as is most often demonstrated by a  finacial capital.

Melbourne seemed slightly different, smaller bars in locations that are hard to find. There’s also a kind of European feel and a speakeasy natural feel; very cool bars and very cool bartenders. Bars are slightly less flashy but maybe more interesting than Sydney.

Saying that Sydney is filled with fantastic bars, so to summarise; both cities quite  are different, but I need more time to express a credible opinion as ten days is not quite enough for one to visit all the bars and get a full intake of the Australian bar scene!

In both cities I was impressed by the standards. Australian bartenders, I have found, are up to the same level as any of the London or NY bartenders. In fact, it seemed that most of them have worked in London or NY as they clearly know everyone on the scene and are familiar with these two cities’ drinking habits.  I even recognised a few familiar faces since I have worked with a few of the boys in London… Be it with Nick Van Tiel & Georgia in London Tiki hang out Trailer Happiness or James who now runs Piano Bar. A small world!

I have also found over the years Australia may just have been developing a soft spot for gin as with the well known Gin Palace in Melbourne or the new opening of the Gin Garden in Sydney.

Overall a scene somehow quite similar to the UK bar scene even if unique, with bartenders that are interested into their work and seem to be thirsty for knowledge. It’s like hanging out in the London bar scene, but the weather is hot and sunny and the quality of life seems way better, only down side it is far from Europe, but who can complain when you just need to walk five minute to drop by the beach!”

How did a Frenchman get involved with an English themed gin produced by Scotsmen?

“To cut a long story short, I have been working with William Grant & Sons for a few years. Prior to Hendrick’s Gin I have worked with the NPD department (New Product Development) on launching a Blended Scotch Whisky named Monkey Shoulder. I was also involved on Hendrick’s initial launch in the UK and have always followed the brand with a very close interest.

When the brand became global and a position was created to take this fantastic and unusual gin all around the world, it was a natural area  for me to grow into so I had to take this opportunity. There was not such a position before so it was, at first, and quite a challenge.

I’ve always wanted to work on brands ever since I was bartending in London, Brussels, Paris and Cape Town and met ‘brand people’; I sometimes thought that they did not really get the on-trade! So when the opportunity presented itself to work for a family business, one of the only remaining independent Scottish distiller’s, there was no hesitation as the company demonstrated the same standards, values and principles that I stand for.

So in the end, I think we found each other, Hendrick’s Gin is very unusual and clearly not a brand for everyone which allows us to work with confidence and do things that aren’t done by anyone working on a regular plain gin brand. Hendrick’s is not for everyone!”

What do you love about your role as global brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin?

“Everything, everyday! This is not a nine to five day, your phone/email is always live; this is a 24 hours commitment. But what a way of living! I feel very privileged and I give 200% everyday as my job has given me an opportunity to travel the world to establish a network to build the brand equity.

Most of our clients love the brand and it is a natural fit that we happen to work together, we understand their needs and they understand the brand, as I said previously hendrick’s Gin is not a brand like other and in this aspect is very, very different!

I am always on the road, but love every minute of it, there is nothing more exciting or interesting than arriving in a new destination with the challenge of creating some kudos for the brand or just setting up a launch or looking at business opportunities, every single aspect of the job is so interesting that there is no empty moment!

This is a challenging task as I have to deal with many aspects from marketing, sales, and PR teams, on all aspects of the brand, who can sometimes be a little too ‘by the book’, but I am always ready to challenge marketers.”  

How do you prefer to enjoy your Hendrick’s?

Big measure of Hendrick’s Gin, topped up with half soda, half fresh pink grappefruit juice and slice of cucumber on Bondi Beach.

Finish this sentence. The industry needs more…

“Structure in regards to the education level; governments need to be more implicated and the local/national authorities need to get more involved.

More funding to establish bartenders as a serious credible job since in some countries it is not seen as a viable job and that’s not good! Government has the power to change this. I understand they may have other priorities, probably rightly so, but education is sadly not very well developed in regards to bartending and that must be changed.

Distillers and global corporate drinks companies bear a responsibility with the education they can pass on to the bar community and need to be more open in how they showcase the way distillers operate.”

And less…

“‘Star-tenders’; like the occasional bartenders, bar consultants, bar guru, bar wizard… Sometimes people concentrate a little too much on the way they can showcase their knowledge to their industry colleagues or audiences rather than purely bartending, fogetting simple rules such as to looking after their guest properly.  One thing some ‘star-tenders’ they tend to forget is a basic rule of the job; greet your customers from the first time they walk in and let’s not forget that we (bartenders) are here to serve a guest, to look after a customer, to deliver a service (making a good drink) so if the customer wants a Long Island Iced Tea or a Cosmo there is no need to say: “nope we don’t do that here” as I have heard it in some bars in the past! Yes, educating the consumer and encouraging them to trial new drinks is a fantastic thing but let’s not forget who pay the bills!”

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