Last month, we had the pleasure to sit down with Co-Founder of Phuket’s favorite rum, Thibault Spithakis, who created the well-known Chalong Bay Rum back in 2012. We couldn’t resist but ask him a few questions.
Tell us a bit more about yourself
Thibault Spithakis: I was born in the south of France, near Marseille, where I grew up in the countryside, helping my grandfather and father in the grape growing and wine making. My parents really pushed me to get out of the countryside to study, so I ended up studying business administration in France, specializing in Finance. Once I graduated, I wanted to travel the world to experience different cultures and ended up pursuing my work experiences in England and China, before landing a job in Russia, where I lived with Marine, the Co-Founder of Chalong Bay Rum, for over a year.
After an 18-month trip to the United States to study my MBA, I landed a job in Corporate Finance, but I was worried the impact on my soul would be too much, so we decided to move to Thailand and try our luck there, as we really loved the country from before. Before leaving the US, we did several market studies to find out the best way we could implement our beverage into Thailand and took a flight to Phuket.
How did you come up with Chalong Bay Rum?
Thibault Spithakis: When we moved to Thailand, we thought there was something to be done in the spirit business. Marine’s background is in biology, and both our family were working in the wine and spirit industries, so we were familiar with the many processes needed to produce alcohol.
We chose rum because Thailand is one of the top producers of sugar cane in the world, not just by size, but also by quality, and we wanted to create a product that uses ingredients from local farms.
Self-sufficiency, empowerment of local farmers, and strong support to the local communities are the foundations of Chalong Bay Rum, and we ensure our sugarcane partners receive all the tools and training they may need and receive a higher value for the sugarcane and their work than standard market rate.
What activities do you offer to visitors and Rum aficionados?
Thibault Spithakis: We started with a simple visit of the factory, where people can learn how rum is produced and the different stages of the distillation process. We opened our bar and restaurant later on, which we have now rebranded to Cane Crush, and made a partnership with Suay Restaurant to provide our guests with a festive experience around cocktails and interesting food concept.
We also offer cocktails workshops, and run several events every week, including our famous Latin nights on Thursdays, and our newly-launched BBQ & Burgers on Saturdays, and our special Taco Tuesdays with Reggae music.
What is the future of Chalong Bay Rum?
Thibault Spithakis: We are currently building a new indoor space at Cane Crush to launch “Suay at Chalong Bay”, a dining experience where we will develop further the culinary side of our venue. As usual, we will keep pushing for international awards, as it gives our brand a strong recognition, both in Thailand and internationally.
In addition, we are preparing a big surprise coming soon, though I can’t reveal all the details yet; make sure to stay tuned and follow us on our social media!
Finally, you have been an expatriate in Phuket for a long time; tell us one thing you absolutely love with the island, and one thing you wish could be changed or improved.
Thibault Spithakis: There are so many things that I love it would be difficult to make a list, but if I had to choose, I would say that I love the Phuket culture and the fact that Phuket managed to keep its identity and traditions alive.
For something that could be improved, the air conditioning at the airport needs some fixing (laughs). More seriously, I believe public transportation could be so much better, and it would help with tourism, too.
The restaurant, Cane Crush, is opened daily from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm. You can find the restaurant on Soi Palai in Chalong. To find out when the visits and workshops are available, make sure to visit their website at www.chalongbayrum.com or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/canecrushth.