Safe Bubbles & Malt

 

Located in Hong Kong, this bar can easily be overlooked from a Taxi’s window, however, if one happens to be walking up the street, the entrance is extremely noticeable.  The large iconic “bank vault” style lock, signals that one has arrived at the safe.

 

The exterior décor is extremely suitable for this location, given the fact that its interior houses hundred of thousands of dollars worth of liquid gold (literally).  The expressions at this establishment range from simple Japanese and Scottish aged statements (discontinued 10 years) on up to the extremely rare and well sought expressions that are typically only found at auctions (closed distilleries).

Although it is a very small location, it has made excellent use of the space available, minimalistic Asian style bar, with presentation and technology at its core.  The evenings that I went, the atmosphere is extremely dimly lit.  As one enters, immediately in front of the door is the bar that gives way to high ceilings, with the mixologist’s ingredients being attained by modality of a ladder (similar to how books are archived in a library or bookstore).

At the bar, there iPads available that maintain an inventory of every drink in this establishment.  Although I have experienced this at several restaurants with their wine menus, i must admit that this is the first time encountering this at a bar.  One could potentially spend at least 30 minutes or an hour entertained by the depth of the offerings, with the staff being able to expand and compliment any further explanations that maybe required.

 

To the left of the entrance, encased in series of sliding glass doors are the “safes” or the vaults that contains over 600 expressions of extremely whisky.   Being the main showcase and attraction for this bar, the bottles produce an ancient attraction more so paralleling a museum than a bar, with the well-educated staff being its curators.

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In comparison to Taiwan, the prices here are extremely expensive (but this strain could also easily be attributed to my humble income), however on this island, set afloat by hedging and futures, one might find the “offering vs price” perfectly acceptable.

 

King Block Dean 

(El.Sin.Say)

Backyard Jr. (Backyard XinYi)

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My second encounter: I had been here before briefly by myself at the conclusion of watching My Little Pony (out with the family), so I wasn’t able to spend a long time in this location.  However, this time, it was the destination of a friend of mine which I had the honor of driving around for the night – founder of Whisky Live Manila – Johnssen.

The name, inherited as a sequel to the time honored bar Backyard, that was established by one of Taiwan’s (and the region’s) top drink expert – Steven Lin.  Knowing that I would take interest, she “allowed” me to go upstairs briefly to check it out, I stayed there a mere 30 – 35 minutes, therefore this review might not be giving it complete justice.

 

 

We arrived just before the mall was set to close and he was perplexed at the idea that the  bar would stay open later than the mall.  Coming up the escalator to the third floor (my first time, the mall was closed, but I was able to take the elevator up), we easily found the location of the bar at the end of the mall, and I was slightly impressed that it could manage to consume this much space, (not because of the amount of space, but rather, because I know that the opposite end of the mall is occupied by Cartier, Prada, Rolex and stores of this nature – therefore the rent must be expensive to sustain).

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Approaching this establishment from the outside, there is a large panorama window with a deep tint, that spans the entrance side of the wall with a series of Mortlarch pot stills located on the interior.  The tint on the window, combined with the lights in the interior of the mall, provide a perfect discrete nature for the occupants inside.

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This place conceals over 2,000 various expressions of spirits from around the world, that could be adds to the atmosphere, but could also be slightly overwhelming for a novice.

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The staff is extremely knowledgeable and professional, conducting themselves and customers with the most respect, speaking both Chinese and English.  This place is definitely, tailored to a specific crowd; those adults aspiring to taste various styles of whisky, those that gathered to enjoy a slightly luxurious social spot, or those merely stepping out for a date with the underling theme hinting towards upscale exclusivity.

Stepping inside, there is a wall of alcohol enclosed in gated cabinets to the left. and the bar is located directly opposite = of the entrance, spanning 3/4 the length of the room.  Behind the bar there is a large window, concealed by hundreds (if not thousands) of bottles of alcohol.  In front of the wood grained bar, there are the standard bar stools (where customers are able to sit and be educated about the bar’s offerings).

Just past the entrance, immediately to the right, there is a series of leather couches and tables, extremely suitable for long captivating conversations with an atmosphere that ushers in comfort, making it very easy for hours to go unnoticed.  In the middle of the room there is a support beam that is decorated with photographs and a wooden art installation.

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Although the ceiling is decorated with anywhere from 50 – 100 hanging light bulbs, these used to give the effect of the room being lit by stars in the nighttime sky, as opposed to illuminating the room like a photography shoot.  On the wall which is all the way to the right, there is a large flat screen television, with aptly placed mural underneath.

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To be honest, if you are entertained by the television while at this location, I fear that you selected the wrong place to solicit.  I don’t imagine that they would actually show sports or any television series on the TV – although, if one were willing to pay the money, I am certain that this entire might be rented out for a specific occasion, and the TV could then potentially be used as a screen for a slide show or something of that nature.

Over all, the environment has a nice earthy feel, the combination of wood, and glass accented by the dim lights, with a private outdoors balcony, helps create a distinct atmosphere that has stands alone with its own personality in this domestic market.

An additional offering in this bar includes the private Mortlach tasting room camouflaged behind a functional curtain, large enough to fit 10 – 15 people easily, but yet secluded enough to feel like someone has escaped to a den in a newly renovated antique estate, complete with a replicated fireplace, worn, leather couches, matching arm chairs and a table centered in the room.

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Johnssen, finding it curious that the place would be bustling for a Tuesday, late night, decided that we should proceed to our next destination (for this bar was merely a pit-stop in the first of a series that we would attempt to enjoy that evening).  Great conversation, solidifying a newly established friendship.  Taipei -> Manila connection

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King Block Dean (El-Sin-Say)

 

 

 

 

4Play (Premier Location)

Although they bare the same name and logo, are located on the same street and same plot of land, their contrast is night and day.  If you are standing across the street and looking at the building, the one on the left is significantly different from the one on the right.  I was fortunate enough to visit the establishment on the left prior to the one on the right, and I am glad that I had  was lucky enough to have done it in this sequence, or else I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to visit the other.

P1040498Walking in, we were asked if we had reservations, the answer was no – didn’t know that we needed any (and as I have revisited this bar, I would suggest that one makes reservations prior to going).  We were a bit fortunate, it was a Saturday night and it was still relatively young when we arrived, around 10:30.

Stepping through the door, I was taken back by the entrance display, and old fashioned bathtub surrounded by Hendricks Gin and several other antique / vintage trinkets with just enough space for about two tables, slightly separated from the rest of the venue, but still just inclusive enough to enjoy the overall ambience (a nice spot to sit and seduce that person you plan on taking home later and putting the bar’s name to use – 4play)

As I ventured further past the threshold, it opens up into a well organized, densely populated, dimly lit room.  A food menu in large chalkboard style writing on the left hand side of the room, and exact opposite is where the artists create their work behind a fully stocked bar, complete with televisions and tool and machines I’ve never seen prior to this night.

Adjacent to the bar, there is the cash register, with what appeared to be a clock located behind it.  The digital clock I soon noticed was keeping incorrect time, over the course of the night, I came to the realization that this was a digital counter, counting the number of drinks served – very impressive numbers.

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fourplay cocktailcocktail 4playWe were sat in a corner, at a high rise table, with barstool style seats.  There are no drink menus at this venue, patrons merely express the flavor profile which they like (or dislike), and the cocktails are made to order.   As is customary, I merely ordered the signature cocktail from the head bartender (which also happened to the be the owner – Alan) – essentially a surprise.  Paralleling the entire environment, the drink went well beyond satisfying the basics in evoking my sense of sight, taste and smell.

As the night progressed and the establishment became crowded with people fulfilling their reservations, we were eventually moved to the bar, whereas I was able to see these artists create their work first hand.  Although its typical to see men bartenders in this industry, my eyes were curiously drawn to the only woman behind the bar.  Her professionalism in the manner in which she executed orders and seamlessly complimented the actions of the owner clearly intrigued me (noted by the fact that she wore black gloves as if she were worked at a luxury jewelry shop).

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Impressed with everything, my friend phoned a female he was talking to and when she arrived we totaled 3, at this point, we began to ponder whether this will be our final destination or should we change locations – we opted to stay.  We were moved to a table of 4, as others migrated to other destinations, where we sat and spoke until the bar closed.  Upon realizing that it was about to close and the night was still relatively young (I can literally stay at bars all night – not clubs – bars), I went to the bathroom located on the wall at the opposite end from the entrance, where as it was fully stocked with miniature take-away mouthwashes (perfect in the instance of a casual breathilyzer).

P1040402 - Copy (2)The three of us left together and walked up the street to a nearby 7/11, bought a few beers (not me) and a bottle of vodka, whereas we began to extend an invitation to the female that was with us…..

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Closet Bar

P1170159Rather easy to find by the GPS and parking isn’t that difficult – of course I am always referring to a car when I mention parking.  You can check your own route for MRT or scooter, but in Taipei its never too difficult.  Basically its walking distance from the old Luxy (club Omini), not too far from the Adidas Original store, or at least on this particular night we walked there from that that location.  It is on a corner, in a back ally between two main streets, its easy to overlook because because the building itself does not stand out next to the sidewalk, but rather, it is slightly offset from the sidewalk, and there are parking spaces directly in front of the bar (although they are not designated for patrons).

Stepping into this place, there is a small podium where the greeter meets people to ensure the number of patrons to be seated.

Immediately to the left there is a stair case that leads downstairs to the bathroom which is hit up full of last goodbyes and names tagged in the stalls.

This spacious dungeon also has its own bar (albeit smaller than the one upstairs) and is well suited for larger groups of people.

From the upstairs entrance, straight ahead there is a large seating area where images are projected overhead.  At about 3pm (using a clock as location), the bar is prominently situated off-centered in the room, and to the right of the bar is a small fridge that stocks a few select beers.

Directly in front of the bar, are the majority of the seats, tables that accommodate 2 – 4 that can be pushed together to accommodate larger parties.  Behind these tables is the rear wall, that houses a few tables that are set into the wall (similar to a private cave).

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The first time I arrived at this bar, I was with a few friends, one from work and another that was marketing Micthers with his guest bar tender from Hong Kong (John Ng).  I had had his signature cocktails the week before at a different venue (MOD II), but thats a story for another write up.

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The second, and most recent time I visited this lounge, I was fortunate enough to meet the regular bar tender (Pei-Pei), and as we sat at the bar she greeted us in English.  She asked about my drink preference and I told her that I would take what she thinks she makes the best.  Then, I proceeded to tell her that a common friend (Paul) said to tell her hello.

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That pretty much summed up the answer of what I was going to order to drink.  Of course, I went with her signature cocktail, and she used Paul’s Koval as the base.  Not to simplify the process, but I was already feeling better than good:  she ignited some sort of fragrant natural material on this wooden slab, then covered it with the tumbler I was to drink from.  After the glass filled with the smoke, she turned it over, allowing the fumes to escape as she poured the cocktail she had created moments before into its contents.  At the conclusion, she squeezed then placed an orange peel in the cup – Exquisite to say the least.

 

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As we engaged in conversation, I asked about her favorite drink, and she asked me whether I drink wine.  “Of course, anything with alcohol content, aside from beer.”  So we discussed various styles of red and white which eventually led to fortified wines.  Whereas she pulled out a Pale Cream bottle, ironically, I had been studying this style of expression for my WSET exam I had just taken about two weeks earlier.  We drank and talked a bit more until the lights came on.

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The night started off rather hectic, making stops in Tao Yuan before going to Indulge Bistro (another day another write up) to drop off some glasses, then sitting in the car, hesitant about meeting up with this coworker, or another coworker – both equal time distance away.  Opting for the initial plan, I drove to Closet (as opposed to Revolver)…now feeling relaxed and departing, I was pulled over by the police…..another day, another adventure….

 

 

Carbon Dating -Pre Recorded History -Hong Kong – Intercontinental Stanford Hotel / Tiffany’s Bar –

Mindlessly dwelling in an era when it was unclear that our actions and decisions would have an impact beyond the scope of our existence for years, decades, centuries and even generations to come.  The second congregation of a nomadic pack contrived from brave members of different tribes spread throughout the terrestrial plain, that migrated to the middle of the ocean, ultimately forming a hub of common differences.

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Their common physical and mental obstacles:  imaginary national geographic positions, language barriers, and environmental considerations  – were the concrete laid atop of the alluvial plains,  cementing a bond that would later be the composition for the foundation, of the beginnings of a path yet discovered by Freemont.

After 10 years in the wilderness, a single migrant departed from his caravan to diverge into this unique island oasis of earth, granite, clay and schist to partake in the extraction resources from a newly discovered oil field – the modern day gold rush that has the potential to maintain.

Advanced architecture skillfully crafted from the most elegant materials: lumber, wool, silk, and minerals was an indication that these inhabitants had gained knowledge from the civilizations predating them.  Roman marble and high ceilings, Greek sculptures and tapestries, African mahogany and precious crystals, Asian silk, lotus flowers and spices.

Evidence suggests that early humans lived in nomadic packs, working together, hunting prey, gathering vegetation, occupying the same habitation.

Primitive tools fashioned from stone, wood and metal assisted in the evolution from an agrarian to agricultural society.  The release of servitude and constraint from the land, ushered in by a surplus of food induced a manifestation of an industry of artisans.   The requirement of substance farming for self sustaining survival became obsolete, the new focus was creation.

Bred domestication, the deliberate alternation of the core structure of the pineal gland’s fight or flight instinct, permitted a herd mentality that enslaved mammals to subconsciously  till the soil, and cultivate the land for their masters, awaiting the dream in which a savior would arrive and create them equal.

Expansion  of the population equated to dense living conditions which compromised natural water supplies.  The advent of wales, aqueducts and  irrigation prolonged the inevitable – preservation through distillation.

With the table set for progression, harnessing the elements of earth, wind, water and fire – proved to be a perfect blend of elements that would continue to attract foreign nomads to invest in future meals.P1050107P1050091P1050189P1050074P1050063

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Contrary to what historians collectively believe, there was existence of humans prior to recorded history which is evident in the carbon dated ancient pictorials.

 

The next era … The Untold Asian Renaissance

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– King Block Dean (El.Sin.Say) –

2nd annual Hong Kong International Bar and Whisky Show – Tiffany’s New York Bar / Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hotel (May, 2017)

 

 

Langham Hotel / Artisan Bar – Hong Kong (24 hours in the spirit realm)

 

 

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A glance at a thumbnail in an online article was attached to a hand that grasped my subconscious heart; intrigued, as I it were a spiritual connection from my soul to this piece of literature.  It wasn’t necessarily the words that were substantial, but rather, the idea and accompanying images which spoke a million words.  I saw the combination of two life long hobbies that have created the initial chapters of what would shape the foundation for the subsequent novels that would be titled “my life,” there peering at me from a thumbnail, formulated in a glass vessel.

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The heart pondered the ridiculous notion of venturing to another country for a matter of hours, or what could easily be viewed as seconds in eternity, to become acquainted with the creator, although the rational mind rejected it.  The duality of existence was at odds with each other once again; satisfaction vs responsibility, wealth vs knowledge, death vs life.  My rib cast her vote, similar to Chinese wishing stones, and I lost my mind – we chose life.

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Dredging lost through the dark pathways in this unfamiliar realm, I found myself at the entrance of a glass gate, encased in shiny gold lettering, standing before the throne.  One unlike any I had seen constructed by man, seeded from the most valuable elements in the materialistic physical realm – gold and currency suspended in air.   Receiving confirmation of what has always been known, “material is a method to obtaining continued knowledge, those that perceive it as an end goal will remain ignorant.”

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Petrified in awe, I uprooted myself deeper into the wilderness of this field.  The branches shook as the faint idea of learning from the architect softly wrestled in my mind.  Already being acquainted with my name, as if he heard me speaking through our virtual connection, he asked me to sit in his place of work and handed me his book of life – his creations, the things that drew me from there to here.

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Upon inquiring trivial questions pertaining to his existence and subsequent work, for the next several hours, I was cast out, returning dredging dark pathways of Osiris’s underworld until I was able to return to my celestial vessel, only to reunite my heart, mind and rib 24 hours later.

King Block Dean (El.Sin.Say) + Rush “Raj”

The Langham Hotel / Artisan Bar – (Hong Kong – Last day of his artwork display- 2016)

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