Nathan Louey is Private Client Director and Consultant for the “King of Cognacs”: Remy Martin, Louis XIII.
While studying at Oxford Brookes, you spent a year at the Mandarin Oriental in London. How useful was that for you?
It was a challenging and fruitful year. I learnt a lot and gained some invaluable experience. Working in the management sector, I got to know all the different departments that contribute to the smooth running of a luxury hotel, everything from housekeeping to maintenance to F&B… I came to appreciate just how labour intensive a job it is. From there, it was a natural move into wine and spirits distribution with Telford International, one of the largest such businesses in Hong Kong.
How important for you is it to feel continually challenged?
Very important indeed. I think everyone needs to be challenged. When you become very complacent in one role, then you know it’s time to move your life on. You need to excel, you need to progress, and you need to find a new ambition, find new challenges and stay interested. You have to enjoy what you do. If you don’t enjoy it, then there is no point doing it.
Can you give us an insight into your future aspirations?
Like everybody else, I have to do something I enjoy. Accumulating wealth as a thing in its own right is never a good thing. As they say, you can’t take it with you. You have to enjoy what you have.
To that end, we make brandies that we know people will enjoy and, equally importantly, we know that will endure. It’s great to have a sense of heritage, something you get from some 100-year-old spirits. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really is best to both work and play hard. That’s just how life should be.
What are your interests beyond work?
For me, as I’ve said, it is all about enjoying life. It’s good to enjoy the occasional drink and to get to know great food. It’s also good to go on holiday and experience the world. You have to continually look to increase your knowledge and be mindful as everything evolves around you. Stay up to date. Keep vibrant. Be as joyful as possible. Happiness is all important.
Do you have a travel destination that is a particular favourite?
I travel to a lot of places, and some of them – such as Lake Como – are truly special. Although I do like the urban lifestyle, Lake Como is one of the few places that could woo me away.
Is there one bad piece of advice that you have been given that sticks in your memory?
There are probably a few pieces of bad advice that I have been given over the years – anything from suggested investments to mooted partnerships. In the end, you have to be wise enough to work out just what is good and what is bad. Take advice from everyone – your secretary, your friends and your staff – then analyse it yourself.
How practical are you? Can you, for instance, change a fuse?
I can. I wouldn’t necessarily be sure where I could buy one though.
What were your parents’ jobs?
Well, my father was a kind of stockbroker and worked for a securities firm. He also managed the family’s property interests. My mother was a housewife.
What is the scariest situation you have ever found yourself in?
It was one time when I was on safari in South Africa. It was quite a while back and we were in Sabi Sabi and Mala Mala Game Reserve. We were in an open jeep driven by a British driver, out on a night hunt – or a “night drive” as they call it. We were driving through the woods when, all of a sudden, we saw two eyes gleaming out of the dark. As we were on safari, we decided to drive right up to them. It turned out to be a leopard.
It started to track around us, slowly circling about our open(-topped) Land Rover. It was at this point, our guide told us he only had three bullets – one to protect him, one to protect the driver and one to protect the car itself. There was none to spare to protect the obviously more expendable passengers. Needless to say, we were a little worried. At this point, the jeep stalled. The driver struggled to start the engine. All the while, the leopard was circling around us, howling as it went. Our worry levels, understandably, went through the roof. Eventually, he managed to start the car and we moved off. Looking back, we survived and we managed to see one of Africa’s Big Five close up.
Do you have a tipple of choice? In your game, you surely do.
Other than Louis XIII, it would have to be a gin and tonic. I think a G and T is more of a day-to-day drink, whereas a Louis XIII should be reserved for a particularly successful day, a time you want to relax or even celebrate.
And is there a book you would particularly recommend?
Lately, I haven’t really read anything new, but I do like reading autobiographies. You can learn a lot from people’s histories. I particularly like reading about failures. You can learn a lot from that – often more than you can learn from reading about successes. Success is always about hard work, but the factors behind a failure are something you can learn from. For me, everything is about learning. It’s only by learning from your failures that you can come to appreciate just what you have achieved.
When was the last time you were really ill?
It was not all that long ago actually. I was sick back in April. I had a very bad flu. I don’t know what kind of flu it was, but I was really quite ill. Up until then, I had never been ill to the point that I couldn’t go to work. That was the first time. In all my years of being a student, being a kid and being a university student, I had never skipped a day of class or work until April. For the first time, I took a few days off because – literally – I didn’t have any energy. I couldn’t even walk. It was that bad.
What keeps you awake at night?
It’s usually CNBC or WhatsApp, with people from around the world texting me. When you are in Hong Kong and you are settling in for the night, people in the UK are still up and about, wanting to ask you questions. So, while it could be CNBC, WhastApp or even emails, it’s never stress. I can always sleep soundly. I guess I have never really done anything bad enough to merit me having sleepless nights.
Sometimes, though, if I think of something that I think could be important later, I get up and write it down straight away. I always go immediately back to bed then and soon fall asleep.
Do you have a favourite style of cuisine?
Generally, we drink as a way of helping us to appreciate food. We shouldn’t drink alone as that can be a sign of depression. You have to drink with friends generally or, at the very least, with a cigar as a way of alleviating any gloom. In terms of favouring a particular cuisine, well I don’t know. I like many different kinds of food. While I consider myself a very adventurous person, I wouldn’t go as far as to eat a scorpion or anything like that. I am adventurous, though, to the extent where I would try most things. Being in Hong Kong is fantastic for that – we are free to try a host of different things. A lot of people say “eat to live” but I live to eat. For me, that’s the best way of approaching it.
What’s the best birthday present you have ever been given?
That would have to be feeling the love of your friends all around you. I would say it’s never anything materialistic, it would have to be something more heartfelt. Material things only offer short-term happiness. The very best present you can ever have is having all your best friends and family around you. It is the best way to celebrate your birthday.
Do you believe in aliens?
I believe there is someone out there, but I am not sure what. I have heard that, apparently, Obama is going to make some kind of statement about extra-terrestrial life before the end of the year.
Did you learn anything at school that has never proved useful?
My parents told me one thing – they said: “We can give you anything you want in this world, but nothing will be as long lasting as education.” Education is the best gift you can ever be given without a doubt. This is especially the case if you have a chance to go abroad and learn about other cultures. At the time, you might not realise how much you are benefitting, but further down the road it will all come into focus.
When was the last time you went to the cinema?
I tend to go every Saturday. That is pretty much a weekly ritual with me. I like to get really immersed in a film for two hours or and so, imagining I am James Bond or someone. It’s great to be so entertained that you don’t even think about checking your phone. The last film I saw was the latest X-Men, but I always enjoy my cinema at the end of the week.
What do you look for in an ideal partner?
Love, understanding, the chance to have a heart-to-heart, passion. They’re all things that are hard to find – especially in Hong Kong. When you live here and you are sort of well-known about town, it’s very hard for you to find that other half, that person who is just right for you. You never really know whether there is an agenda or not. When I am overseas, then I can really enjoy myself because no one knows who I am. I can be free and have fun.