Whether your drink of choice is whisky, wine or water, you’ll find something to suit your tastes in the Paragon Trading Asia catalogue. Here, we chat with the company’s CEO and Chairman, CHRISTOPHER LIANG, about his beverage distribution business. Among the products you can order are high-quality fine wines from New Zealand and spirits from Ireland; there’s also premium water featuring a new eco-friendly approach to packaging.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in the part of China that used to be Canton. I left for the UK at a very young age – my parents were scholars at Cambridge University. Since then, I’ve had the fortune of receiving an international education and becoming a bit of an “international citizen”; I have Canadian-Chinese dual citizenship. I came to Hong Kong in 2017, attracted by its status as a free port and its reputation as an international financial centre.
Tell us about your new beverage business in a nutshell.
Paragon Trading Asia is a premium producer and distributor of an eclectic range of rare and fine wines and spirits from New Zealand, Ireland and Southeast Asia. The company seeks to bring unique opportunities, stories and memorable flavours to customers in Asia who are open to redefining luxury, innovation and new ways to experience the world.
How did you first get interested in wine and the wine industry?
I’ve always been a social drinker, but I took a special interest in viticulture after reading about the growing interest in wine consumption in the Asia Pacific region.
Where is Gladstone Vineyard and what do you like most about its wines?
Gladstone Vineyard is located in the Wairarapa wine region, close to Wellington, the New Zealand capital. We’re very passionate about the consistently high-quality production of our wines, which all have a minimum of 90 Robert Parker points, and the increasing interest that we are receiving internationally as a leader of New World wines. As a single vineyard, we focus on a select few French grape varieties; these include pinot noir, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.
What’s your favourite wine from the vineyard and a favourite food to pair it with)?
I would recommend the Dakins Road Pinot Noir. This wine received a rating of 95 points from Rebecca Gibbs, a respected Master of Wine. It’s a rather versatile wine, which could pair well with game or chicken, as well as slow-cooked beef.
Tasting notes from Paragon for the 2019 Dakins Road Pinot Noir:
“Red, purple-hued with a dense nose of dark cherry and plum fruits. Subtle oak with typical Gladstone salinity. Rich but tightly woven on the palate. Dark fruit is fleshed out by toasty oak and firm fruit tannins. Great balance of acidity.”
Tell us about the spirits you carry – what can readers expect?
We distribute an eclectic range of premium whiskies and gins sourced from our own distillery from Carrick, Ireland. Although this is a relatively new entrant in Asia Pacific, your readers will be delightfully surprised at Silkie’s smooth texture, floral notes and overall drinkability. The fact that it earnt over 10 best-in-class awards in the World Spirits Competition last year was no accident! It’s testament to Silkie’s excellence and the value for those who buy it.
Interestingly, you also distribute premium water. Tell us about this.
We were introduced to Vietnam-based water brand beWater nearly a year ago and were instantly intrigued by the sweet taste of the drink and its naturally high pH value; we also liked the concept of packaging water in slim-line aluminium cans. This felt like it could be a massive game-changer in the beverages space.
The water is naturally sourced in Saigon. It’s then further reworked using Japanese and American technology from our partners Fujiwa and Ball. As their appointed brand ambassador for Hong Kong and Greater China, we’ve developed a new version called Phenomenal water, with an even better design; it’s ESG-friendly and, we think, will be popular in developed markets.
What are some of its eco-friendly features?
The packaging of Phenomenal water is made completely from recyclable aluminium. It’s an excellent alternative to plastic bottling from an environmental point of view and also reduces overall carbon emissions. We’re also fortunate to receive complete regulatory approval from Ball Corporation, a Fortune500 listed company, to fully support us in our vision to create a plastic-free future, starting in the APEC region.
Has it been a challenge to develop a new business during the pandemic?
Most F&B operators are ordering more conservatively in view of the dining restrictions and our deliveries are now mainly done by ship rather than airfreight. So, yes, the pandemic had slowed cash conversion cycles of our beverages and made us reassess our funding requirements and expectations for expansion. At the same time, we have learnt to adapt to the “new normal” by expanding our beverage sales via hotels and online.
The silver lining is that our products have a collectible value; there’s also a drinking window of around ten years for the wines, and nearly 50 for the whiskies and gins.
Moreover, we started an estate line for our wines in 2020, which comprises more entry-level bottles that can be sold through department store supermarkets, along with our water. So it’s business as usual for those products.
What are you hoping to achieve with Paragon in 2022 and beyond?
As a premium producer and distributor of a range of top-notch award-winning beverages, we would like to expand our sales and distribution channels throughout Asia Pacific this year and beyond.
What do you like to do in Hong Kong when you’re not working?
I like reading and hiking, and social discussions over a glass or two in my spare time!
For more information on Paragon’s range of fine wines, spirits and premium water, contact Christopher Liang on email@example.com.
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