Latest trend for men thrives on whisky and cigars

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Latest trend for men thrives on whisky and cigars


Top: Arnaud Mirey demonstrates how to taste single-malt whisky. As a regional brand ambassador for Moet-Hennessy Asia Pacific, Mirey hosted the first Gentleman’s Club last Thursday at the Grand Hyatt Seoul. Provided by the hotel Top left: The barber shop within the State Room, the nation’s first men’s only social club. The club is promoted as being for upper class men in the 0.01 percent income bracket. Bottom left: The Cheongdam-dong branch of French shoe manufacturer Berluti has all the trappings of a social club for men, including a spacious living room adorned with comfortable armchairs. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Slowly but steadily, the number of men’s only clubs has grown over the past year, with clubs opening in hotels, office complexes and retail shops.

The latest addition to the list is the Gentleman’s Club at The Paris Bar, located within the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

Its first event was held last Thursday night and was hosted by Arnaud Mirey, the regional brand ambassador for Moet-Hennessy Asia Pacific and the whisky ambassador for the Gentleman’s Club this month.

The event operates on a rotating schedule and offers a selection of fine wine, single-malt whisky, cigars and gourmet food served in a relaxed yet refined environment.

On Thursday, Mirey started the evening by providing guests with an overview of the rise and fall of whisky in Europe in the 19th century. He then introduced the approximately one dozen guests in attendance to three single-malt whiskies from Ardbeg Distillery, famous for its smoky flavors.

Ardbeg is owned by Glenmorangie Company Limited, which is a subsidiary of Moet-Hennessy.

As each whisky was introduced, Mirey also explained how each whisky was different from the next. The evening ended with a Glenmorangie Signet and a premium cigar.

“Glenmorangie is known for transferring its whisky into different barrels,” Mirey said during a brief interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily before the beginning of the event. “They create different flavors by using oak barrels, some of which used to contain port wine. We’re creating different flavors by playing with the barrels.”

In Korea, sales of single-malt whisky are increasing, while sales of blended whisky are on the decline. According to statistics released by local whisky importers and distributors, sales of blended whisky fell 4.8 percent last year compared to a year ago, but sales of single-malt whisky rose 8.1 percent during the same period despite its high price.

“Korea is becoming a mature market and people are paying more attention to the pleasure of taste. It’s a trend not only in Asia but all over the world,” Mirey said. “In fact, single-malt whisky is doing very well in these kinds of bars and fine restaurants. And [the Gentleman’s Club] is one of the best platforms for presenting single-malt whisky.”

The next Gentleman’s Club will be on May 24 at 7:30 p.m. with different pairings of single-malt whisky and cigars. Admission is 180,000 won per person, excluding a 10 percent tax and a 10 percent service charge.

“We’re planning to have a new host at each Gentleman’s Club and will also introduce a new single-malt whisky from a different distillery,” said Jeannie Kim, a public relations executive at the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

If the Gentleman’s Club at the Grand Hyatt Seoul is marketed as a casual and open event, the State Room, the nation’s first men’s only club, is much more exclusive.

With an annual membership fee of 30 million won ($26,548), the State Room is promoted as being for upper class men in the 0.01 percent income bracket.

According to the club’s PR agency, most members are CEOs at companies in the State Tower Namsan building in Hoehyeon-dong, Jung District, central Seoul, where the State Room is located.

Opened in October, the State Room offers everything from a bar, cigar bar and pool hall to a library, a barber shop, a tailor shop, a medical clinic and an anti-aging spa. It is operated by the Westin Chosun Hotel and Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management.

The hotel industry is not the only one offering exclusive services for men as a way to entice male customers to linger, thereby boosting sales.

The Cheongdam-dong branch of Lansmere, a shop operated by Cheil Industries, offers a mini-bar at its flagship store stocked with single-malt whisky, wine and coffee.

Berluti, a French shoe manufacturer in the same neighborhood in southern Seoul, has all the trappings of a social club for men, including a spacious living room adorned with comfortable armchairs and sumptuous wooden furnishings.

“Some of our VIP customers stay here up to three or four hours, sipping tea as they talk to friends or other customers,” an official from the company was quoted as saying by the JoongAng Sunday.

Hyundai Card operates the House of the Purple. Although the lounge is open to both men and women, the company said it has seen an increasing number of men drop by the venue to use the library and listen to music.

By Sung So-young []
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