A graduate of ESSEC Business School in France, Thomas Bouleuc‘s career began at L’Oréal and McKinsey before joining Hennessy as the Director of Business Development for the Americas in 2003. This was followed by the role of head of Portfolio Commercial Development for Moët Hennessy and Marketing & Communications director at Moët Hennessy Diageo France.
In 2013, he was appointed Moët & Chandon Vice President for the US market and then International Director of Veuve Clicquot in 2016, in charge of leading the execution of the global strategy and overseeing the Veuve Clicquot brand activities across its French and international distribution network. This led to his current position of Managing Director of Moët Hennessy Diageo Malaysia (MHD) , the joint venture in charge of distributing and building brands in Malaysia for both Moët Hennessy and Diageo brand portfolios.
Here, the man with a zest for life and an appreciation for the finer things in life lends us an insight into how MHD is overcoming COVID-19, new industry trends and what his guilty indulgence is, amongst others.
How is MHD affected by the current pandemic?
The ‘lockdown’ has been a very challenging time for our teams and for our company of course. Most of the Wines & Spirits supply chain has been blocked in Malaysia and our office, warehouses, wholesalers were closed from 18 March to 4 May! The situation remains very tough for our on-trade partners, most of which are still not allowed to operate. Consumers can find our products in authorised channels such as Grocery stores or Chinese Medical Halls and now in restaurants, which are open under Standard Operating Procedure as you know. But we are confident things will normalise and we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel!
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Coming together in support of the local communities, Moët Hennessy Maisons and distribution subsidiaries take action. @belvederevodka and @woodinvillewhiskeyco are producing thousands of liters of ethanol to make hand sanitizer for their respective local healthcare facilities. Chandon and @chandonaus are supplying employees with hydroalcoholic gel. @hennessy is overseeing the donation of LVMH hand sanitizers to local hospitals and is providing additional protective gear for the healthcare workers. In Champagne, @veuveclicquot is donating thousands of masks, as well as, eyewear to the local hospital, while @moetchandon has lent one of its grape harvesters to the nursing staff and is delivering breakfasts to the hospital teams. In North America, the MH USA team is taking action to support people in the F&B industry who have lost their jobs. “Our teams around the world are stepping up to the challenge with admirable solidarity. All contributions, large or small, are invaluable, and together we will make a difference. Thank you to everyone for your engagement.” Philippe Schaus, Chief Executive Officer of Moët Hennessy. Learn more about their initiatives via link in bio. – #MoetHennessy #LVMHjoinsforces #lvmh #StayHomeStaySafe
What plans are there to overcome it?
We quickly adjusted and I am very proud of my team for their resilience. We have digitalised our processes and accelerated of strategic projects. We have enhanced Zoom trainings and swiftly adopted a team A/B set up at the office to ensure social distancing. More importantly we have prepared plans for the rebound, in order to redeploy support for our trade partners and to provide our consumers with the excitement and products they have been expecting.
How does MHD set themselves apart from competitors?
We are lucky because we inherited a truly unique legacy. We are a joint venture between the French LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) and the English Diageo. We are standing on the shoulders of giants: the personalities who have built those fantastic brands in our portfolio such as Richard Hennessy, the Irish soldier who established in France and founded the House of Hennessy in 1765; Claude Moët, who created the House of Moët & Chandon in 1743; and Madame Clicquot, the first woman ever to run such a global business, leading the way to female entrepreneurs with the development of the Veuve Clicquot Champagne House across the world; John Walker, son of Scottish farmer, who started with made-to-order whiskies and ignited the amazing Johnnie Walker success; and Charles Tanqueray, the creator of legendary Tanqueray London dry gin.
We are lucky to have such amazing products and luxury brands in our portfolio. All of them combine fantastic superior quality products – the starting point of our success, no compromise here – and unique brands. This is a big point of differentiation versus our competition.
What new launches are happening this year?
We have a lot of exciting new launches in the pipeline! For instance, we have amazing creative partnerships. After partnering with legendary movie director Ridley Scott, Hennessy X.O will be launching a new exciting initiative with a fantastic artist collaboration – stay tuned! We are also seeding Hennessy Very Special, with a unique ‘urban luxury’ positioning, in line with its global charismatic identity – which made it the official cognac of the NBA in the USA.
On the whisky side, we are launching a new expression of Johnnie Walker with Johnnie Walker 15 Year Old Cherry, an exclusivity for our market with a perfect taste profile for the Malaysian market place.
What are the trends you foresee in the drinking culture?
Premiumisation will continue to happen. Cocktails will continue to develop. Wines also. Consumers will be increasingly curious about trying new experiences. They will remain loyal to brand they trust and products they like but with a wider repertoire and spectrum of occasions.
What is success to you?
Success means long term and sustainability. It is what you achieve over time.
If not sustainable, wins and victories are useless and even counterproductive. We want to win in the long run in a sustainable way. This is why Moët Hennessy has launched ‘Living Soils’, a comprehensive programme with multiple initiatives to protect our environment, with a particular focus paid to our precious vineyards.
How do you overcome failure?
Failure is the opportunity to assess our leadership. First of all, if there is no failure, this means we do not take enough risk. And when we fail, what matters is the way we handle it and learn from it. This reminds me of Winston Churchill’s joke: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”.
What determines a great drink to you?
A great drink is a great experience. It goes beyond the liquid itself. Of course it starts with the quality of the liquid, which results from the quality of raw materials, soils and terroir, savoir-faire and craftsmanship and time. But it goes beyond: What glassware? Which shape? Crystal or glass? What temperature? What light? What music? What moment of the day? What pairing? Our mission is to craft these experiences for our consumers.
What is your favourite drink?
Champagne is a great way to start the sparkle and the evening. You never go wrong with Dom Pérignon. I also like the pairing between the crisp Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and oysters. I would end my dinner with an old Cognac like Hennessy Paradis or a fine scotch such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label with chocolate.
What is the best accompaniment with your drink?
To be in good company! I do not like to drink alone. For me, drinking is cultural and social.
Most memorable drinking experience you’ve had?
I was fortunate to have a few… Toasting with Moët & Chandon on the red carpet at the Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood. Or enjoying Veuve Clicquot at the Polo Classic event in NYC with a view on the magnificent Manhattan skyline. Sipping Hennessy Paradis Imperial at Château de Bagnolet, Hennessy family mansion in Cognac, in front of the Charente river in France, with my friend and colleague Maurice Richard Hennessy.
And the Crozes-Hermitage we enjoyed with my friends last Saturday with a view over KL was glorious!
Most overused phrase or word?
The New Normal.
What do you think is people’s biggest misconception about you?
Never had that question, interesting – I will use it in interviews! I look upset (which I am not) when I think too hard!
What do you spend the most money on?
The education of my daughter in England 😊
What do you spend the least money on?
First thing you do when you wake up is….
Check the news from other time zones!
Are you a morning or night person?
I like to be alone in the morning and in good company at night!
Best present you have ever received?
A testimonial video from my family and 50 best friends for a milestone birthday – director’s cut from my talented, kind and beautiful wife.
Favourite travel destination?
Shutters on the beach in Los Angeles. Batu Batu resort in Tengah Island, Malaysia.
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Freedom to unwind and reconnect with yourself. Come and stay and discover your own piece of paradise. Only a couple of hours from Singapore we are perfect for a last-minute escape from city life and this February we are taking 20% off all our villa prices. Who’s joining us? . . . . . . #intothewild #islandlife #escapetheordinary #tranquility #paradise #beachlife #conservation #ecolifestyle #sustainabletourism #waterlust #instatravel #travelstoke #travelphotography #islandvibes #escape #explore #adventuretravel #passionpassport #awesomeearth #natureaddict #paradiseisland #travelgram #tropical #wonderfulmalaysia #islandgetaway #travelislife
Favourite way to unwind?
With a big steak and a glass of Terrazas Malbec.
What’s your hidden talent?
I prefer to keep it hidden 😉 . Transparency is a good thing. But secrets are good as well.
Luxury – This is when time stands still. The opposite of impatience.
Indulge – The respect of tradition. The Eternal Return of what you love.
Success – What you achieve over time. The story of one’s life. Beyond the stats and the results, success is a matter of style!
Business – Under promise, over deliver.
Love – One!
Relax – Sunset and Soundcloud Aperomix playlist from my friend DJ Emrik.
Taste – Without salt, life is tasteless.
Celebration – Champagne! Bubbles are here to celebrate memories, to toast about the future, and more importantly, to seize the day.
UNRESERVED – In life like for fine wines and spirits, there is no shortcut. It needs talent, time, work and dedication to bring something or someone to its fully blossomed expression. I will not speak about people, but I invite you to enjoy Krug Grande Cuvée or Hennessy Paradis Imperial.