The Stories Behind the Bottles
By IBD Team Samai
Samai is Cambodia’s first premium rum distillery founded by Daniel Pacheco and Antonio Lopez de Haro in 2014. Samai’s mission is to lead in the craft of distilling premium Cambodian spirits that combines high-quality, locally grown ingredients, innovation, and passion. Our team of five had the opportunity to work with Samai on its marketing expansion strategy and financial model for the next round of fundraising. Samai’s hope is to deliver high- quality Cambodian rum to the world and help change the perceptions of Cambodia.
On the first day to Samai, Daniel gave the team a thorough tour on the production process, which ranged from fermentation to bottling. To gain an understanding of what the rum production process looked like before arriving on-site, the team attended private distillery tours and conducted several interviews with individuals who worked in the spirits industry. Being able to visualize the production steps allowed us to make more informed and strategic recommendations. In addition, we were able to have more insightful conversations when speaking face to face with Daniel and learn more in depth about business.
Prior to arriving on site, the team held weekly conference calls with Samai to discuss the scope and details of the project. For the Day of Arrival Brief, we presented to Antonio and Julie, their marketing manager, on our findings on the global go-to-market strategy, focusing on the Spain, UK, Hong Kong and Japan markets.
Given that Samai is a growing start up, our project scope fluctuated quite a bit. After we presented our global expansion plan, we found it more opportunistic to help Samai redefine their mission and values and provide them with strategic marketing plans and tactics for implementation.
Events on Thursday Night
Rum Tastings and Cocktail Competition
Every week, the Samai Distillery opens its doors to the public so that new and devoted Samai customers can enjoy hand-crafted cocktail beverages prepared by Samai’s bartenders. The most popular cocktail on the menu is the infamous 21 Points, cheekily named by co-owner Antonio. Original cocktail 21 Points presents a classic version of a rum and coke, while the 21 Points features the Samai Rum, cola, lime, bitters, and fresh sugarcane. We can attest that it is as delicious as it sounds! We spent our evening talking with customers, bartenders, and expats to gain deeper insight into their perspective of Samai. These insights were an invaluable contribution to our formulation of marketing and expansion strategies.
One of the traditions started by a prior IBD team is to host a Thursday night cocktail competition. This year, the girls and boys battled it out for curating the best cocktail on the tiki bar menu. The girls’ cocktail were so popular that there were a few moments where we couldn’t keep up with the demand. We did our best to act like seasoned bartenders who knew how to accommodate a packed bar. We learned useful skills that aren’t often taught in the classroom, had fun, brought in incremental sales for Samai, and met some interesting people.
As much fun as Samai nights may be, its purpose is to produce rum. Venezuelan co-owner Daniel Pacheco hopes to improve the reputation of rum as a high-end alcohol worthy of appreciation.
Beach in Koh Rong Sanloem
The team had a great, relaxing time on the Koh Rong Sanloem, a well-known island off the coast of Cambodia. We continued to work on our marketing efforts, even during our vacation weekend. During our resort stay, we asked if the resort had Samai rum at their bar. To our surprise, the resort said that they had already ordered Samai rum, or we would have never given up our marketing efforts.
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap
The team rose at 4am to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Though exhausted from the early wake up call, it was truly worthwhile experience to have see this exceptional view. The team also enjoyed visiting multiple temples in Angkor Wat and learning about the history of the Kingdom of Cambodia.