Unlike Pink Floyd’s career-defining concept album of the same name, or the proverbial-soon-to-be-literal along the Mexican border, or the Matt Damon-helmed pseudo-epic, they did not build The Wall at 76 Tanjong Pagar Street on the premise of exclusion.
It neither explores nor celebrates personal isolation and abandonment. You don’t pay to keep yourself out. Nor do you have a lead who sticks out like an elephant in the room, and behind the bar for that matter.
Singapore’s fortunate to be up to speed when it comes to all things whisky, but even then, bars here are well aware that excessive niche meanderings are more likely to have customers Run Like Hell rather than face ridicule for their apparent ignorance. Leave those kids alone, man. It’s The Wall, not The Trial; it’s not a place to prove if you are worthy enough. You just want to learn how to appreciate the stuff better and have a good time.
At the same time, this isn’t some Vera Pavlovna-ish, hipster-esque joint. A little background: The Wall refers to the historical value of its two actual walls that run along the sides of the establishment. If anything, being housed in a beautiful two-storey conservation shophouse in Tanjong Pagar precludes it from being Another Brick in the Wall, run-of-the-mill dive bar. For one, these brick walls date back to the early 1900s, having seen all manner of history in its lifetime, though I suspect you’d prefer that trait for your whisky instead. No matter, and not to belabour the point, the bare bricks with their weathered textures and striations in part, do set the tone for the bar, complete with timbered ceilings and endless walls of bottles. The bottom line is that it is a picturesque watering hole and one that’s more impressive In The Flesh.
‘Hey You,’ the comely 10-seater bar beckons through the tall, looking glass, inviting you to say Goodbye Blue Sky and slake your thirst within its bosom of malted milk… A Young Lust, perhaps wanderlust of the spirit, call it what you will; the unmistakable call. Nobody’s Home anyway, you say. Why not take a gander? I’m having One Of My Turns. No need to cogitate. The halogen glow quickly wrests control from the twilight, and your willpower, casting its endless palette of golden hues far as the eye can see, enveloping – no, assaulting – your senses, overwhelming the macula with the hint of sweet, familiar nectar, under a smokescreen of the lingering scent of delectable smoked meats.
The Wall also serves up a proper sumiyaki menu, so you can Stop those dinner reservations and head straight down to business. For many whisky bars, the idea of having a proper kitchen on premises can be potentially tricky, not unlike pushing an elephant across The Thin Ice – cool but not without its pitfalls (metaphorically speaking). And yet, it’s a proven way to keep newcomers comfortable, instead of Comfortably Numb in their seats. Regardless whether you’re hipster or a cigar-toting aficionado chasing golden promises (terrible barley reference), or just moments ago, a mere someone Outside The Wall seeking Empty Spaces to rest your weary feet, there is something for you: good company, food, easy drinks, food pairings, and whisky flights.
With two levels of floor space, one need not be left Waiting For The Worms to be seated. If you’re not feeling the intimacy of the bar today, you can always adjourn to the lounge on the upper floor and find solace in the comfort of leather club chairs, away from the bustle at the bar. A private VIP Lounge awaits if the occasion calls for it – a luxuriously furnished room for celebratory drams complete with crimson drapes and a crystal chandelier for touch, with a minimum spend of $800 (lounge $100).
It has to be said that not many, if any, whisky bars have a bartender of Jeremie Tan’s calibre at the helm. Formerly of Jekyll and Hyde, The Wall’s new bar manager is able to demonstrate whisky’s versatility through his whisky-inspired cocktails – classic or bespoke. We enjoyed Jeremie’s twists on classics like Old Fashioned and Boulevardier, and we’re pretty sure that you’ll enjoy them as well. Whisky fans who aren’t familiar with whisky cocktails, give it a go. He’ll also be around to help you out if you’re getting into the business of learning how to appreciate fine spirits.
Traditionally, whisky isn’t paired with food, but these days it is explored with fervour, and with pleasing results. There aren’t many bars or eateries that offer this on a day to day basis. The Belljar comes to mind, and now you can add The Wall to that list. The Wall specialises in sumiyaki pairing sets that start from $49, or you can place your faith in the chef’s whimsies with the omakase pairing at $168 with a matching flight of six whiskies (half pour, 20ml
you can top up $12 for a full pour), or just $96 for the omakase. The food is certainly an unexpected highlight of the bar and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality and the experience. Give the Tebasaki, the Tsukune and Piman Niku a try. Goodbye Cruel World of dieting, and most certainly, your waistline.
However, if you’re here just for the whisky, prices start from a very friendly $14 per glass for a gentleman’s pour of 45ml, while whisky flights (half pour, 20ml, add $12 for a sumiyaki platter of four skewers) start from $37. The Wall has a sizeable collection of timeless old whiskies to count upon as part of its repertoire of 1,200 whiskies. Here you’ll also find stuff like 50-year-old Yamazaki, distilled in 1961 with only 150 bottles worldwide, the first edition (Crystal) Black Bowmore (29 years old), and The Macallan 1948 Select Reserve (51 years old), with only 366 bottles available.
Indie chasers will do well to note that they have a large collection from German bottlers Sansibar, so if you happen to be hunting for this relatively elusive label (in Singapore at least) you’re in luck. Co-owner Han Wen explains that their focus on independent labels stems from a desire to showcase the natural expression of a whisky, and hence a catalogue that’s heavy on cask strength indies as they display “the full flavour of the barrel and elements of the environment they were produced in.”
Despite its impressive credentials, you don’t quite get the sense that The Wall is pushing the agenda of becoming the Mother of all whisky bars, and that shows in the form of a laid back, approachable atmosphere, one where you Bring The Boys Back Home. Even the most ardent whisky nut needs a day off from serious nosing now and then because The Show Must Go On (the show that is real life). The Happiest Days of Our Lives? It could well be. We are certainly spoilt by the quality and availability here in Singapore, and that’s even before you figure The Wall into the equation. That being said, if the raison d’être of The Wall is to break down walls for new whisky drinkers, figuratively speaking, they certainly have something brewing here. Decisions, decisions…
Is There Anybody Out There?
Don’t Leave Me Now.
I’m stuck inside The Wall…
Address 76 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088497
Opening Hours 5 pm to 1 am, Monday to Saturday (closed on Sundays)
Tel (65) 6225 7988
*Apologies to Pink Floyd fans for the hack job references
**UPDATED: Individual servings start from $14 for a full pour (45ml), whisky flights start from $37 and are served in half pours (20ml). Whisky pairing flights with sumiyaki start from $49. There are no options to top-up for the whisky flights at the moment. Apologies for the confusion caused.