Grand Prem1ere

Written by The Stallion

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of WGM.

86, Rua Direita Carlos Eugenio, Old Taipa Village
+853 2882 7109
17:00 to late

Macau has no shortage of luxury items on offer – particularly in the food and beverage sector – but to find something truly unique is another matter altogether.

Such was the inspiration behind PREM1ER Bar & Lounge, a brand new artisan bar in Old Taipa Village where guests can sample rare and exceptional products from around the world in comfortable and elegant surrounds.

“PREM1ER is a distribution company first and foremost so we wanted to bring in very unique and high end spirits, wines and beer to Macau that weren’t previously available,” explains owner Niall Murray. “We also wanted to make our bar unique and get people to do tastings so for a long time we were looking for somewhere that worked as both a retail premises and a bar. We were very fortunate that this property came onto the market. Now people can come in and find a very stylish, elegant, neutral bar.

“In other words, when you finish your shift working at a casino at night, you don’t want to stay at your own property – you want to go off property. A lot of casino executives have had a hard time finding a place to go and relax so we wanted to create that place.”

Situated in the premises formerly occupied by Portal Wine Bar, the location of PREM1ER Bar & Lounge is an important part of its appeal. Macau is hardly overwhelmed by quality nightspots where you can relax away from the bright lights and hustle of the casinos, but the old world charm of Old Taipa provides the perfect escape from day to day life.

It was also with this in mind that Niall poured his heart and soul into the furnishings with plush leather upholstery on the chairs and couches – all of which are dangerously comfortable – and soft brown colorings that make you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

“It’s the ideal place for someone who wants a very relaxed and hospitable environment,” Niall explains. “They’re not really looking for a sports bar, they don’t want somewhere with loud music. They want to come and enjoy a very good drink in a very relaxed atmosphere. You can still talk to your friends. It’s a good place to really enjoy your time with friends.”

As pleasant as the surrounds are, however, it is the drinks themselves that place PREM1ER Bar & Lounge a level above.

Needless to say, Niall isn’t simply paying lip service when he says the products on offer at PREM1ER are unlike any you’ve ever tried before.

“We uniquely represent and distribute over 150 products through our beers, wines and spirits,” he says. “In most cases we deal directly with the manufacturer. For example, we have craft beers from Ireland that have never been outside Ireland before. We did deals directly with those companies.

“We do shipments from their breweries in Ireland all the way to Macau – door to door temperature controlled. We can actually bring draught beers here for the first time ever in Asia – even these breweries have never exported from Ireland and we’re helping them export overseas.

“With our spirits, these are award-winning companies winning double gold and triple gold medals. We specifically look for craft artisanal producers making very small batches of very high end product. They are small companies and we are a small company – we work hand in hand in a very bespoke and personalized way to bring their products to market.

“Often they are worried about bringing their products to Asia because they have heard horror stories about products being counterfeited, but we guarantee them we will look after their product and preserve the integrity of their brand.”

Which is not to suggest PREM1ER Bar & Lounge is only for those with plenty of cash to spare. In fact, it is because of Macau’s low tax rate on alcohol – combined with the fact that PREM1ER is a distribution company and can therefore cut out the middle men – that the bar boasts a little something for everyone.

“I have learnt this over the years working in the food and beverage industry and in hiring sommeliers – our job is to bring people on a journey,” Niall offers. “Find out what they like and take them there. Don’t just go for the most expensive thing on the list because of the commission. That doesn’t build loyalty.”

But for those with the means, there are a few select options for when only the very best will do. Taking pride of place on PREM1ER’s beverage list is a rare 48-year-old Scottish whisky recently released by Last Drop Distillers Ltd – the company founded by industry legend James Espey OBE.

Among his incredible list of accomplishments, Espey is the man who created Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Classic Malts and Chivas Regal 18-year-old and is Founder and Chairman of the Scotch whisky leading society, The Keepers of the Quaich.

“I’ve managed to secure 10 bottles of the 48-year-old,” Niall says proudly.

“If you come in and you want to enjoy it here you can. If you buy a bottle and want to have a sip, you can do that then leave it here and come in later with your friends for another sip.

“We’ve got a bottle bank here and we will hold it for you. But it’s quite expensive because it is rare and rarity comes at a price. It’s MOP$88,000 a bottle … but it’s worth it!”