The Woman Whisky Tale
9 years in the industry, Lee Yim Theng - Marketing Manager for the first whisky retail chain Single and Available, saw the growth of the Malaysian market from rare to the now booming appreciation for single malt whisky. Yim Theng shared with us her experience as a woman in a male dominant industry and her private life as a mother of two young and energetic children.
1. How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I started working in Single Malt Sdn Bhd since 2003, so that makes 9 years!
2. What got you into working for Single Malt Sdn Bhd?
It was quite simple really. I got attracted to a very interesting recruitment advertisement at the newspaper that says ‘Are you SNIFFING for a position in the whisky industry….’ At that time and during that age (when clubbing dominated my social life), I bet you would also agree that working for an alcohol company was a really cool thing! It was also really timely because at the same time, I also wanted a change and a new challenge in my career. I was previously working for an FMCG* company for 5 years and craving for a drastic change. No regrets.
3. What is your role in the company?
I am the Marketing Manager for Single Malt Sdn Bhd. I market and promote the Single and Available whisky retail chains as well as the range of single malt whisky brands that we hold exclusive distributorship in Malaysia. However, because there are not many of us in the company we tend to share our roles in the office. I really do prefer it this way because a small business unit allows me to work closely with my colleagues as a team.
4. Who came up with the tagline “Single and Available” for the whisky outlets?
The tagline and logo of the Single and Available brand were the brainchild of the founder of this company, Ms. Shareen Yew.
5. How did you develop your nosing ability for whisky?
Having a sensitive nose is a prerogative! It certainly gave me an advantage during the learning process. Constantly nosing and tasting whiskies helped me to begin slowly pick up the individual characteristics and distinctive aromas, and I did it over and over again even til today. I also have the privilege to get valuable tips from our visiting principles, malt masters and brand ambassadors from different distilleries.
6. What is most rewarding for you of your current role in the whisky industry?
Experiencing the big growth of the Single Malt Whisky category now compared to when I started 9 years ago. It’s phenomenal. It’s also great to be able to visit the distilleries in Scotland and impart the passion of making whiskies to our drinkers here. It’s rewarding to see that people are beginning to appreciate what they are drinking and become passionate about it. It certainly fuels what I work for.
7. Being a female in a male-oriented industry, what are the obstacles you have to encounter in your job?
I think there would be no obstacles if you enter this industry with an open mind, set aside all the female sensitivities and turn it into an opportunity instead.
8. What was the biggest challenge when you first started the job?
Overcoming the fear of standing in front of a crowd at a pub and teaching them how to appreciate whiskies!
9. Your role in the company involves a lot of travelling and late nights, how do you balance that with your personal life?
I definitely would have to prioritise my schedule and plan really ahead. It’s great to be also working in a company that is flexible enough and closely with my superiors and colleagues. Not to mention a very understanding husband who gladly takes over the role of babysitting our kids when I am away!
10. How different is the Malaysian whisky market now compared to 10 years ago?
It has become more dynamic with more whisky brands coming into the market. 10 years ago, it is really difficult to find even a bottle of Glenfiddich displayed at pubs, restaurants and hotels. Nobody knew what you were talking about when you told them about single malt whiskies. We are certainly glad to be the first one building this market in Malaysia.