Life has this funny way of teaching us that “sometimes you have to come back to be able to know how to leave.” It’s a life hack, a lesson in revisiting your roots before making a move.
Dr. Michael Rosen’s journey embodies this idea — a man whose journey through academia, banking, real estate, and community building took an unexpected turn into the world of Vietnamese spirits. From surviving the aftermath of the World Trade Towers attack to navigating the Fukushima disaster, his path led him to Vietnam.
But what ties an accomplished figure like Dr. Michael to the world of spirits? Picture him atop a Manhattan building, lying under the stars with a bottle of single malt — his first love for whisky ignited. This passion eventually led to the creation of Về Để Đi, a brand now we know that’s redefining Vietnamese spirits and disrupting the market with a modern perspective.
Về Để Đi, which he co-founded with Quân Nguyễn in Hanoi in 2020, is the brainchild of industry experts committed to crafting Southeast Asia’s leading independent spirits brand. Dr. Michael’s relentless commitment to distilling from scratch is reflected in their pursuit of definitive versions of spirits, from new whiskies to refined gins.
The essence of Về Để Đi embodies the perfect disorder of Hanoi, an unstoppable energy mirrored in their dedication to creating world-class spirits. His extensive background as an entrepreneur, CEO, and investor converges in this venture, aiming to establish grain-to-bottle single malt whiskies and gins.
Here, we’ll learn more about Về Để Đi’s mission, its products, and collaborative efforts through the words of Dr. Micheal Rosen.
What inspired Về Để Đi’s founding and its mission to redefine Vietnamese spirits?
Being real. That means not building an identity based on myths and cultural costumes but on real life in real Vietnam. The contemporary vibrancy of our cities is exciting. We see Vietnam at the forefront of Southeast Asian creativity. In music, fashion, cuisine. We are here participating in this creativity. Some Western brands have movie actors and rock stars as their frontmen. Some brands decide to mythologize historical figures, others to create Disneyland simulacrums of Russeauian agricultural Edens. Those brand identities aren’t real. We’re real. We’ve put together a team of real people making stunningly good liquids.
Can you share with us how your co-founder, Quân Nguyễn, has shaped the brand?
Quan is a poet. Born in Russia, raised in Vietnam, and educated in the US, he is fluent and fluid through cultures. He has a heart of gold, the deepest foundation in morality, and a shockingly good palate and brand understanding. He remains true to the brand. And he knows and is respected by more people than anyone I’ve ever met. Anywhere. So authenticity, authenticity, and authenticity.
Your tagline, “Sometimes you have to come back to be able to know how to leave,” is intriguing. How does this philosophy shape Về Để Đi and its commitment to world-class spirits?
This is Vietnam’s moment in our cities, particularly in Hanoi, and that's why we celebrate being here. If someone is fortunate, they have the chance to repeatedly define who they are, what matters to them, and why they invest their heart and soul into a job, a craft, or a way of life. They encounter opportunities to affirm that their past decisions were right and continue with them or choose to change course if needed.
Many of us, with Ve De Di, have committed significant efforts to produce world-class spirits right here in Vietnam, in Hanoi. We aim to showcase this pride, distinction, and excellence to the world because we believe Vietnam can create the best. Success often follows previous failures. Some may conceal it, forget it, or use the lessons learned to fortify the resilience of their inner selves.
To paraphrase James Joyce, these experiences contribute to forging a stronger soul. Excuse the literary reference, but it holds true. Now, off to make our future.
Về Để Đi is known for disrupting the market with a modern perspective. How do you approach this disruption, and what makes the brand stand out in the spirits industry?
We tell you who we are. We show you the rice we start with for our gin and liqueurs. We show you the barley and corn we use for our single malt and corn whiskies. We show you our people. We are pioneering whisky in Vietnam and, from there, in Southeast Asia.
Tell us about your flagship product, Good Gin – how do you make it, from picking ingredients to the special distillation process?
We start with Red River Delta fragrant sticky rice from Thai Binh. Which provides a rich, sweet, balanced mouth feel. We use hand-peeled, sun-dried Buddha hands for a subtle citrus. Tea tree flowers from the world’s oldest tea trees provide a subtle body. Italian juniper is prominent but not overpowering, exactly in the middle as it should be if one is outside London. We offer a smack of spice through mac khen and hat doi. Cinnamon gives a touch of dance. But it’s our balance that sets us apart, a wonderful balance.
Each product features unique Vietnamese ingredients. How do these local elements contribute to the distinct flavors of Good Gin, Crème de Cacao, and Triple Sec?
Exquisitely! Is that enough of an answer? Because it’s true. We’ve created a Creme de Coconut and a Creme de Coffee that we are waiting to introduce. Our focus, as it should be in a local independent distillery, is on local ingredients, celebrating the here or here. A fantastic amount of Marou Lâm Đồng cacao nibs makes our creme de cacao the best in the world. We use Hà Giang green oranges in three ways to give an orange twist that comes to a crescendo on a luxurious high note. We’ve not yet introduced our coconut and coffee, so we’ll have to be invited back to speak more about them.
Exciting collaboration with MAROU for Crème de Cacao! How do these partnerships add to Về Để Đi’s story, and why is connecting with local producers crucial?
Our work with Marou is particularly important. Quan established and ran Marou’s Hanoi business for three years before we created Ve De Di. We were both close with Samuel Maruta before he died too young. We are close with Vincent Mourou, Samuel’s partner, and a range of others in Marou. We were excited when Samuel, Stephanie, and others at Marou supported our Creme de Cacao, agreeing to collaborate with us. We are open to the future and particularly proud of the Marou partnership. They are, arguably, the first Vietnamese luxury brand to establish themselves strongly outside Vietnam. We hope there are many more that the world comes to know and love and that we are among them.
How does the spirit of Hanoi influence the creation of your spirits, and how do you capture the city’s energy in the crafting process?
Hanoi is a unique city. It’s somewhere between an enormous quilt of historic villages and a modern city moving boldly into the future. It’s an ancient capital with regal traditions and a modern place asking, “What’s new?” Listening to the past, forging the future. The same is true in making world-class spirits.
How do you want people to enjoy Về Để Đi products, and what takeaway do you hope they have from the experience?
Firstly, we hope people will love the flavors. Seeing someone taste our Good Gin and watching their realization of the whole range of flavors. Watching someone smile, experiencing the explosion of cacao in our Crème de Cacao. That’s enough, and if there’s more, it’s realizing the authenticity of everything we do.
Lastly, any exciting projects or new products coming up for Về Để Đi that you can share a sneak peek of?
We’ve started offering private full barrels of whisky in our Founder’s Club. People will be able to gift their own personally labeled bottles of Vietnam’s first single malt. Can you imagine being able to give away your own single malt for Tet? That’s history being made. And we are coming close to launching our unique Bottle Club Membership, an opportunity for a new generation of whisky lovers to build a valuable, totally unique collection of 9 personally signed and numbered whiskies from a family of barrels aged under the watchful eye of our Master Distiller. We are working on exciting projects with a new generation of whisky leaders here. Learning to go further.