“Sometimes you have to come back, to be able to know how to leave,” Michael Rosen explains about the phrase that became an international award-winning gin and creme de cacao brand name: Về Để Đi.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
It’s Về Để Đi’s invitation to come along on an enticing journey inspired by Vietnam’s traditions, while giving them a decidedly modern outlook, one that takes us through the bustling streets of Hanoi while stirring up some creativity and igniting excitement along the way.
We’re meeting at the launch of the Về Để Đi installation at Capella Hanoi, a “magical mirrored cube” called Infinite Reflections that’s as modern and nostalgic as the spirits brand itself. “We wanted to add to the hotel’s excitement with some Về Để Đi cocktails, and a chance to socialize…and take a few photos,” he smiles.
The First Large-Scale Whisky Distillery In Vietnam
Michael, who over the years has been an entrepreneur, business executive, investor, property owner, writer, banker, real estate developer, and professor, had spent 30 years in New York before relocating to Hong Kong in 2010 to work for an energy company and two years later to Vietnam, where, in 2018, he founded another made-in-Vietnam gin made from botanicals unique to the mountains, jungles and terraces of Vietnam.
He left not long after, and true to the spirit of Về Để Đi, returned to the industry in order to ‘leave’ with an exciting new range of spirits.
Today Về Để Đi, is part of a much bigger project. “We’ve built the first full scale whisky distillery in Vietnam, and as far as I know, in Southeast Asia,” Michael adds. There they are producing both single malt and corn whiskies.
It’s a quickly evolving and diversifying industry where distilleries in places beyond Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the US and Japan are creating their own regional, new world and terroir-driven whiskies.
But the growth of distilleries around the world belies the difficulties in creating whisky. It’s a serious undertaking, especially in tropical and subtropical countries. “It’s certainly more complicated than in temperate regions of the world,” Michael explains.
In high temperatures and high humidity, whisky ages faster and differently. For distilleries, this can be a challenge and a benefit. As the aging time shortens, the distiller has to skillfully marry a series of processes to ensure they come together at the right moment.
“It’s a unique challenge to manage aging spirits in our subtropical environment. How to bring unique flavors into the whisky, the dance between the liquid and the oak, letting them talk for themselves,” Michael elaborates.
The Về Để Đi team, he tells us, aspire to elevate Vietnamese spirits to the ranks the world’s best. And it starts with their Good Gin and Crème de Cacao.
A Generous Helping Of Hanoian Attitude
But calling it ‘Good Gin’ seems to downplay the whole endeavor. “It’s actually really, really good gin, but we wanted to keep the name playful, honest, and with a touch of pride,” Michael smiles.
He has some justification. Về Để Đi Good Gin is distilled from scratch in its Hanoi distillery. That means, unlike some gin companies that buy their base spirit then flavor it by adding in botanicals, Về Để Đi starts at the very beginning by distilling Red River Delta fragrant sticky rice.
“From the start, Good Gin needed to be ours, meaning we would do everything ourselves from creating the base spirit to choosing botanicals that offer a different taste of Vietnam,” he explains.
That unique flavor comes from a “magic mix” of botanicals. “We’d won’t reveal them all,” Michael continues, “but of course there’s Italian juniper. We hand peel and sun dry Buddha hand, we use lavender, cassia, green cardamom, mắc khén, and hạt dổi, and flowers from the world’s oldest tea trees. And we add a touch of Hanoi attitude.”
Về Để Đi’s Crème de Cacao Collaboration
Despite not inserting an adjective into the name, it’s clear Về Để Đi is equally satisfied with its second product, Crème de Cacao. It was something of a coup for their fledgling company, working with Marou Chocolate, a brand responsible for putting Vietnamese cacao on the map.
In 2010, Vincent Mourou and Samuel Maruta famously took a trip through Vietnam’s jungle. They quickly decided to leave their corporate jobs behind to create delicious chocolates as their now famous Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat brand. And last year Marou agreed to work with Michael, his co-founder Nguyen Hung Quan and the team, on a delicious and now international award winning Về Để Đi Crème de Cacao liqueur.
There was an obvious meeting of philosophies; Marou’s local ingredient-driven artisanal brand collaborating with an upstart spirits brand proudly based in Hanoi with a similar dedication to quality and consistency. “They’re recognized as among the best chocolate in the world for a reason,” Michael nods.
And so, in June 2023, Về Để Đi received a gold medal from London’s Global Spirits Masters for the Về Để Đi Crème de Cacao in the ‘Liqueurs Made In Asia’ category. And their Good Gin received a gold medal in the ‘Gins Made In Asia’ category.
“We entered because we’re passionate about our spirits,” Michael says. “Of course we’re proud that the quality of these spirits is recognized. And, just recently, at the Global Spirits Masters competition, we were awarded gold medals for both our Crème de Coffee and our new make corn whisky. We were also, perhaps most importantly, awarded the very highest honor, the Master award, given only to one spirit in each category, for our new make single malt whisky. So Vietnam single malt is already a bit on the world’s map,” he smiles.
And on that positive note, Michael has to return to the Về Để Đi distillery. But, you suspect, coming back each time helps him to know how to leave – with more award-winning spirits, including, before too long, those much-anticipated made-in-Vietnam single malt and corn whiskies.