Find out the story behind the man who developed an original drink offering sophistication, an easy taste and a hard alcohol feel.
Louis-Olivier Roy created SOON (Saving One Obsession Now) SPIRIT by taking traditional ice wine and turning it into a high-end spirit with its own identity.
Originally from Quebec City, Canada, Roy has lived in China since 2007 and has worked in the alcohol industry for 10 years. He knew he wanted to travel at a young age and never saw himself in an office working a regular 9-to-5 job. China made sense from the very beginning, and he said the time he arrived was perfect to develop a business. He did not predict he would create and sell a new kind of alcohol.
“I started representing some wine brands… I realized that traditional ice wine had three characteristics: it was in a very small bottle, it was very sweet and it was given as a gift. I thought here is my opportunity to sell something unique,” he said.
He focused on making ice wine less sweet with a higher alcohol content. He wanted to make a spirit that was more than a bottle which was gifted, but a drink that is enjoyed all night long. Roy contacted one of his friends, who owned a distillery in Quebec, and told him what he wanted. Now he works with three distilleries in Canada and imports to China.
With its apricot and honey notes, this is a drink that is enjoyed straight, on the rocks or mixed. Roy has worked with celebrity bartenders to develop cocktails, with the most popular being the SOON Espresso. The easy to make cocktail is an equal blend of soda water, espresso and SOON.
A lot of thought went into the arrangement of SOON, from custom-made glasses to a display tray with the name artistically shaped from metalwork.
Roy draws parallels between SOON and Baileys in the sense that it is the only one of its kind and has taken an old idea and created something new.
He moved to Dongguan primarily for its business location and opportunities, as well as the weather.
“I was in Dalian in Dongbei in northeast China… I’m coming from Quebec where the winter is like -30 degrees then I go half-way across the world and I’m still freezing… I had a good friend at that time, who worked for Samsung and he was having all kinds of plans in Dongguan… I just went to visit and thought that the place is so convenient. I can take a train; I can go anywhere,” he said.
He started selling SOON to five-star luxury hotels in China, knowing that selling to luxury hotels gave his brand credibility and ensured its authenticity. Of course, this made the question of his encounters with fake alcohol come up.
“We all drank, at some point, fake alcohol. Anybody who goes to a bar which is not your five-star hotel, and is a regular Chinese bar, their supply chain is corrupt… I’ve been working for about 10 years in food and beverage in China and have encountered it in almost every place that is not a high-end luxury hotel,” he said.
He added it is hard for the average consumer to tell the difference between real and fake alcohol, and people should have a higher level of awareness and traceability.
“You will see the label with a mistake, obviously that gives you an idea,” he said.
Roy plans to continue to expand his brand in China, as well as start selling in Canada and Florida this year.