“What will people want to drink tonight?” Grant Ashton, Founder and CEO of 67 Pall Mall, asked out loud. Within these four walls of paneled wood and wallpaper, it’s the million-dollar question every night at the exclusive wine club.
Taking residence at the Shaw Centre penthouse, 67 Pall Mall is the first in Asia, whose Singapore spot trumped the dynamic wine-loving country of Hong Kong. Ashton explained that it was simply the easy logistical processes to set up businesses in Singapore. “Singapore won on its own merits for being an easier place to open a private member's club devoted to wine,” he said.
He added that he sees a lot of the growth in Asia, prompting him to move to Singapore permanently by March next year. “Last year, I spent a lot of time in India and Tokyo. Four weeks ago, I was in Melbourne. Three weeks ago, I was in Sydney. Two weeks ago, I was in Hong Kong. Last week, I was in Shanghai.” His recent travels were not a simple case of fulfilling a wanderlust, but an aggressive expansion strategy.
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- BUILDING 67 PALL MALL
- THE TRUTH IN WINE
Building 67 Pall Mall
In fact, Ashton never meant to start a wine club. He was just trying to solve his wine collecting problem — he had way too many of them. “It got to a point where the entire collection became big, bulky, and heavy,” he said. “It costs even more money to put them all in storage. So, my friends and I had the idea to open a restaurant with a wine bar so that we can sell some wine. We found a lovely old building – guess what, on 67 Pall Mall – but because it was a designated street for clubs, we didn’t have the permission to open a restaurant. To get around that, we developed the idea into a private wine club instead.”
So what’s the Pall Mall person like? “It's simply people who love wine,” said Ashton. “Yes, the crazy rich buy lots of nice wine, but at the same time, who doesn’t want to be a fundamentalist? We don’t want to be terribly judgmental. However, if someone were to say, ‘I don't like wine, I just want to be a member’ then well, no, because that’s not what we’re about.” Ashton promises that there are no other prerequisites. The membership runs on a first-come, first-serve system, although Pall Mall isn’t taking any more members at the moment, while the Singapore club has an extensive waitlist.
- BUILDING 67 PALL MALL
- THE TRUTH IN WINE
The Truth in Wine
Formerly the ballroom of the residence of Tan Sri Dr Runme Shaw, the main room, measuring 15,000 sq ft, preserves the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, providing a panoramic view of the Orchard Road shopping district. Lunchtime is among the club’s busiest times, and the scene gathers members who either come by for a quick work lunch or to while away the afternoon.
“Everyone's on a different part of their wine journey,” reveals Ashton. “From Master of Wines and sommeliers, to the very curious, we’ve got every single kind right here.” Pall Mall’s standout feature is the central towering wine library, which contributes to the club’s total selection of over 5,000 labels. “It’s not about laying down wine that would still drink well in 10 or 20 years time,” said Ashton, on 67 Pall Mall’s wine curation. “Some of the old-school wine clubs in the UK would buy 25 different versions of a wine, accumulating yearly vintages to make sure it’s what they’d still want to drink in 20 years. We don’t worry about that. I work on the basis that it's got to be perfect for you tonight. And that could be a $20 bottle of Riesling, or a $20,000 bottle of a rare red. We buy wines worth tens of thousands of dollars a day.”
"When we first started, we thought there might only be 300 to 400 people in London that might care about this. Now we’re open in four cities and counting. We realized that people really do want a wine community."
Ashton points out the UK and Switzerland are two wine regions that are often overlooked, the first for its delicious English sparkling wines, and the latter as a wine region to visit. “The mountainous regions in Switzerland are really cool, considering how the other regions are affected by global warming. Especially in the Rhône Valley, the steep valley provides incredible height to plant grapes. Switzerland has very good wine that most people haven’t tried yet.”
If there’s anything Pall Mall has taught him, Ashton is humbled to stand corrected on the wine club idea. "When we first started, we thought there might only be 300 to 400 people in London that might care about this. Now we’re open in four cities and counting. We realized that people really do want a wine community."
“We do Pall Mall a little bit differently in other cities, for example in Verbier that has a boot room for your skis, and the option of a beer after skiing at the end of the day. 67 Pall Mall may be in different places now, but it’s the same club. So, you pay your fees in Singapore and you can go and visit the club in Melbourne or Sydney, and even in Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Mumbai next time. It’s only fair, right?”
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