Adrian Cheong, the Entrepreneur and Artisan Behind The Apothecary

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After getting familiar with The Apothecary’s products, we were intrigued by the person behind the brand — in comes Adrian Cheong. He is a man who wears many hats; from being a business manager for Kakiseni to making his own foods like cheese and siew yoke from scratch to just recently creating solid colognes for the modern man. You name it, Adrian’s probably ventured into it. He believes his strength is in identifying business — what will work and what won’t. When he realised he could create a new lifestyle specifically for men — because they are often left out in the game of skincare — he grabbed the opportunity by the balls. This is a metaphoric term, of course. No actual balls were hurt or damaged during this process. So, we spoke to Adrian about The Apothecary’s concept, meth labs, and what JUICE readers’ cologne name would be called – it’s a pretty rad name.

Why did you decide to name the brand The Apothecary?
It happened while I was researching potential names online. The Apothecary came out almost immediately — it’s another word for ‘pharmacist’ before that existed. These were the guys that were probably responsible for the creation of the substances we use today — from Coca-Cola to medication and alcohol.

Ah, our favourite.
Exactly. Every decision made by apothecaries was based purely on observation. They were salesmen, medical professionals without a certified medical background, they were entrepreneurs — they were everything. In the past, some of the items that they sold were of crap quality but they managed to persuade people to believe it was the best thing, which in turn made them purchase the product. That’s how good they were, and we want to bring back the similar spirit of creating new experiences and products.

Hold up. The Apothecary is inspired by uncertified pharmacists who created crap quality products – does that mean you are selling the same thing too?!
I might be but you may think it’s the best thing ever.

Very misleading, man. We read that you’re a domestic God — making cheese and chee cheong fun from scratch — so how did making your own food progress to your creating a series of solid colognes? Did you smell bad in the kitchen?
(Laughs) No, my love for food started after wondering why no one in Malaysia made anything crafty themselves. It’s always the same answer; “It’s too hard,” “Too complicated,” or “The condition in Malaysia isn’t suitable.” So I did some groundwork and found out that we could make our own cheese here — all we need is lemon to make the normal white cheese but if you want to go create other kinds, you’d need some rennet and all the bacteria. Everything is about step, procedure, and the right amount of ingredients. While I was doing research on another recipe, I stumbled across an American company that produced solid colognes. The company was only a couple of years old, and I thought that it’d be a great opportunity to introduce this to our market.

So you weren’t actually interested in colognes before?
This wasn’t a passion-hobby, no. But I was curious, so I found various recipes for colognes to try but anything a person gets from the internet is not 100% accurate or applicable in our country — usually because our climate isn’t suitable — so I had to try multiple times. It also helped that I was able to communicate with people that were willing to point me in the right direction and share a generous amount of tips — the “trade secret” as they say.

How long did it take for you to get The Apothecary up and running?
It took me about six months to begin operations.

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What was your first objective for the colognes?
I wanted something that wasn’t too strong or hard. I experimented with as many oils as I could get my hands on — avocado, peanut, you name it! Then, I found virgin almond oil. It absorbs in under a minute, which was what I needed — something that wouldn’t take forever to dry up. What people don’t realise is the fact that Malaysia is a goldmine for herbs, spices, and craft-related materials. One of my suppliers has his own lab, right – it’s sorta like a meth lab…

… um, Is it?
I hope it’s not, although… He doesn’t allow anybody to go inside.

See, that’s suspicious.
Yeah, and he has lots of greeneries too.

HMMM.
I know, but I’m sure it’s not like that. It’s easy to grow stuff in Malaysia because our soil is very fertile.

Before someone gets incriminated… let’s talk about your products. We know you experimented with various recipes before narrowing it down to these three so why did these ones make the cut and how did you go about naming them?
When I smelt them I immediately knew that these were likely to be accepted. First there’s ‘Cornerstone’, I thought the scent was recognisable and strong, something for a leader. The word ‘cornerstone’ is for the first rock that’s laid before the rest of the stones are laid during a building’s construction, so it’s technically the leader among all the stones. Plus, it’s a safe option because it is what I’d imagine many men would wear. Then there’s ‘Hotshot’, when I mixed it, there was a fresh cooling scent which was a convenient coincidence since a hotshot is a smart guy who’s a person that’s cool all the time ‘cos they’re so good at something. Lastly, there’s ‘Maverick’, which means a rebel, the scent itself is strong — it has tobacco, leather, and star anise, and it just reminded me of something a badass would wear.

It’s an interesting process to come up with names. So, if you had to come up with a name for JUICE readers, what would it be? Our Editor described them as “fuccbois gotta hype.”
It would be The Bobberchopper. It represents the bike that removes all of the parts which do not contribute to speed and performance. Much like JUICE guys today, minimalist and back to old school coolness.

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We like that – way nicer than what our Hate Lord Editor came up with. Now to find a way to let it stick… Let’s talk packaging.
I wanted it to be easy. Something that was convenient for men to carry around. This case met all my requirements; it wasn’t two-piece, it’s a slide case, it’s small enough to fit in your pockets — it even fits the smaller pocket in a person’s jeans — [and] bags without it weighing you down. The embossing acts as a grip as well. I basically want it to be easily accessible, and cool.

It does have a nice aesthetic. It’s about time for guys to have packages that are designed properly! Why did you decide on doing solid colognes instead of the traditional liquid ones? Besides the fact that these weren’t available in Malaysia.
I don’t want to bring something that’s bulky or fragile with me when I travel. One time I went on holiday, I had left my bottle in the bag and you know lah, some people would throw your luggage everywhere, so it broke.

Oh god, the smell must’ve been great.
It was amazing. So that was one factor, then I also realised that men in Malaysia don’t use colognes, they’re more dependent on deodorant. So, my aim is to kickstart fragrances for men. Each box is priced at RM59.90 — which is a reasonable figure for middle-income men. In terms of scents, I think it’s comparable to a lot of fragrances that retail for hundreds of ringgit. It may not last as long as the ones in liquid form (generally around six to eight hours) due to the concentration but ours lasts four [hours], so I guess it’s perfect for men who do not want to smell like a walking flower.

What are your plans for this year?
We’re aiming for global recognition because I don’t want this to just stay in Malaysia. We’re going to start with countries around the region and see where it goes from there. I’m also working on a scent for females.

Sweet! Alright, last question, what’s your favourite JUICE?
My family and my beautiful wife who has never failed to support me cause I know sometimes I am not the easiest person to be with. I love them to bits.

Aww.

Purchase The Apothecary’s line of solid colognes here.