Stephanie Mee meets Alistair Toyne, Bali’s man with the brands when it comes to top shelf liquor. Portraits: Dasha.
Alistair, can you tell us a bit about your background? Where are you from and how did you spend your formative years?
I was born on the Northern Beaches in Sydney in1971 then moved to Vancouver, Canada, at three years old with the family and was raised as a Canuck. I moved back to Sydney at 21 and spent 20 years back there.
How did you end up in the luxury bottle game?
By fluke really – I worked at a well-known retail liquor store on the Northern Beaches, became interested in wine and general business with premium beverages. I had a very good grounding of business from the owners of the outlet which you can’t learn in any normal schooling. After three years in retail I was fortunate to land a job with a group distributing Louis Roederer … that’s when the fun began.
Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) is a prestigious French company with over 70 high-end houses focusing on everything from wine and spirits to fashion, perfumes, watches and jewellery. What’s it like working for a world leader in luxury?
Well … it’s like having the best job in the world! It’s an amazing company filled with very talented people across the globe, all different from each other. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel to incredible places, enjoy excellent wines, Champagne and restaurants and gain knowledge from inspiring people.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
That’s a hard question, there are quite a few. Of course the world travel, and the events and perks … a generous wine allowance is always handy – and there always seems to be a bottle of Belvedere in my freezer! But it’s the people I’ve worked with over the 12 years at the group who have been the most inspiring. I also enjoy great relationships with our trading partners, our customers, most of whom I would call friends. My success comes from our customers who are custodians of our very special brands, and I’m very grateful to be able to work with such amazing venues and their teams.
You worked for LVMH for 10 years in Sydney before moving to Bali. What brought about the move?
I’d been travelling to Bali since 2003 for holidays about three times a year and could always see opportunity for our brands. I began adding it to my yearly review under the title “Three-To-Five Year Plan”. One day someone read it and before I knew it I was on a plane … Lotto! So here’s some very good advice … dream big.
What were your first impressions of Bali in terms of both work and the social scene?
At first I found the social scene here never-ending. Every night is Saturday night, you need to be careful not to get trapped in the vortex of Bali nightlife because it’s a feast of amazing restaurants, nightclubs, bars and new people … all my favourites. As for work life, you need to go with the flow, it’s challenging at times if not highly frustrating – internet speed, language barriers and general day-to-day business … it takes time to adjust.
How does the drinking scene here differ from Australia?
It’s much more relaxed here in Bali than Australia – bottle service is big here which is almost non-existent in Australia. Wine and Champagne consumption is increasing here with people wanting more choice and high-end service. Taxation is high on alcohol for various reasons, which can be tricky. It will be interesting in the coming years to see how it’s managed.
Have the recent hikes in alcohol tax affected business here?
Yes indeed – as I mentioned above – it’s not being made easy. I have my own feelings on this but at the end of the day … this is Indonesia, and rules are rules.
Where do you see the biggest growth on the island?
Night trade is pumping with our brands, late night especially. There is fast growth in luxury villas and hotels, which is no surprise. Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and surrounding islands are also growing as people look outside Bali for holiday fun.
When you’re not getting down to the bottle business, we can find you getting down at …?
I do love an organized dinner with friends at either a villa or restaurant. I have been known to enjoy a night at Jenja as well.
If you were throwing a party, what bottles would you definitely want on hand?
Belvedere in the freezer, Clicquot in the fridge and Terrazas Malbec on the table.
Can you let us in on some of your favourite food and wine (or spirits) pairings?
Beef Rendang and red wine … can’t get enough of it! Belvedere and local coconut water with mint – very fresh.
Where can we find LVMH products in Bali?
In quite a few places really, we have partnerships with leading venues from Kuta to Canngu and beyond – Metis, Sarong, Mama San, Jenja, Mirror, W Hotel, St Regis, Sky Garden, Old Man’s … I’d hate to leave anyone out. We’re all over.
Is LVMH planning any exciting events or collaborations that we should know about?
Moet Ice will be in Bali soon – quite a bit of buzz on this product. Our new partnership with Honda McLaren and Chandon should see some exciting things in the near future.
Finally, how do you see the future unfolding for you? Will you become a familiar face in the long-term Bali expat scene?
I will be here for some time – I am just over a year in and there is a lot of opportunity to capture. So . . . see you around.