In Touch With The Spirits

September 26, 2016 Leilani Techaira


In a ballroom inside the Hilton Resort Guam, bartenders and servers attend an interactive portion of training for Möet Hennessy products. They stand behind a makeshift bar with all eyes and ears turned towards Ryan Gan, as he begins to demonstrate proper pouring technique. “With the information you’ve learned today, you need to ask yourself, ‘How can I get a customer to upgrade from one brand of alcohol to another?’” said Gan. “It is in the delivery and the consistency of your drinks. Helping the consumer find the difference in taste and mouth feel.”

Gan was working in the food and beverage industry wiping down bottles of wine for inventory when one day, he took a moment and stopped to read some labels. The information listed on each bottle piqued his curiosity and so began his foray into the world of wine and spirits. Fast forward a few years, and he is now an award-winning sommelier, as well as the Asia Pacific education and training manager for Möet Hennessy.

Growing up in Singapore in a family that did not drink, and in a region with limited diversity of alcohol, Gan found himself in an unfamiliar world. Wanting to develop his nose and his palate, he started constantly visiting the supermarket. “I would buy the different fruits that I see in the [wine/liquor bottle] tasting notes and cut them up and smell them. We so often consume things without stopping to consider their scent. What do chocolate, black fruits, tropical fruits, and so on smell like?” he asked.

As Gan’s curiosity grew so did his dreams and aspirations. The path to becoming a sommelier had him studying tasting notes, soil types, regions, grapes, vintages, and so much more. That information, combined with what he’s learned about spirits through Möet Hennessy, has given him a breadth of knowledge beyond the company’s portfolio. Sharing that knowledge is what inspired him to become an educator.

“What motivates me is to see more and more people in this region get in touch with wines and spirits,” said Gan. “I get excited to share my knowledge each year, and to see how people and Asia have grown.” Although traveling throughout Asia as a trainer keeps him from home, being exposed to different cultures keeps him going, allowing him to make a difficult subject easier to understand and be more accessible.

When Gan is doing a guided tasting in the region he will come across individuals who are trying a product for the first time. That is when he reaches into his vault of key words and connects the flavors of the alcohol to the flavors of their past. “I tell them, ‘In Cognac you can taste caramel and oak. Certain wines taste fruity,’” he revealed. “You then see the expression on their face change, as these words register with their palate. That’s the expression I’m looking for, and it excites me to help them make that connection.”

Gan brings home the same concepts he uses when traveling for work. Initially his family and friends didn’t understand how a career could be made out of alcohol. When he shared his vast knowledge about the processes behind alcohol, it opened their eyes to an unfamiliar world. Gan recalled, “The sense of smell and taste is based on familiarity. I try to use terminology that is relatable. When I introduced alcohol for the first time to my parents I brought a bottle of Champagne. I related it to soft drinks and soda. It is now their favorite type of alcohol.”

His family and friends now find themselves drinking wines or spirits as part of their celebrations, and Gan would like to use Möet Hennessy as a platform to put Asia on the map as a wine- and spirit-drinking region. He would like to see it on par with the United States and Europe, and hopes that through his encounters, people will walk away with a positive experience and a new curiosity for wines and spirits that have become his world.

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