THE SENIORS CHRISTMAS LIST
I've been told I'm a difficult man to buy for. As if to prove this belief wrong here are my picks for Christmas gifts for the Senior and seniors-alike. Containing everything for the champagne-imbibing, cigar-smoking, scarf-wearing, dog-walking, caviar-enjoying, dice-rolling, Negroni-quaffing, hip-flask-carrying, train-journeying, gentlemen’s-barber-shop-scented bibliophile (and audiophile) in your life.
SAUTTER CIGARS - DESKTOP CIGAR CUTTER
If a hobby is worth taking up it should be pursued with enthusiastic research. As a result I would expect that if cigars are even a passing interest that you’re well acquainted with the Sautter YouTube channel. With his online reviews Laurence Davis has perhaps done more to promote cigars than any denizen of Mount Street; this seems innocuous enough until one considers that Churchill himself once resided in the building that Sautter now occupy. In terms of cigar enjoyment, watching Laurence review a cigar is perhaps second only to smoking that same cigar itself. The only thing as robust as Laurence's opinions is the solid steel desktop cutter that features in many of the videos.
FLORIS No. 89
Ian Fleming was one of the first writers to truly understand and utilise the power of brand identity in conveying information to a reader.
Legend has it that Fleming himself was a customer of British family perfumer Floris and wore their popular Floris 89 aftershave. Given Fleming's reputation for seeking the very best in any field I can think of no better recommendation.
If you’ve read Bursting Bubbles or Peter Liem’s tome then you will be familiar with the rise of grower champagne. With a natural focus on small producers - and in turn the small single vineyard bottlings that go with it - the grower movement looks set to recast the champagne region in a more Burgundian model. With this in mind Egly-Ouriet becomes champagne's answer to Arnaud Rousseau.
Comparative to Burgundy, and considering the labour intensity that goes into getting those bubbles into the bottle, the best grower Champagne (which anything from Egly-Ouriet certainly is) is undoubtedly undervalued. Egly-Ouriet possess Grand Cru vineyards in some of the best areas for Pinot Noir. This includes a single parcel of vines planted in 1946 which is perhaps their flagship release and rivals almost anything in champagne. Interestingly too, for anyone with an interest in the various characters that each of the three champagne grape varieties impart, they also offer a rare bottling of 100% Pinot Meunier.
2019 saw the 25th Anniversary of the restaurant St. John. As part of those celebrations St. John launched the Fergroni, a pre-mixed Negroni, in Fergus Henderson’s honour. Sadly too 2019 saw the death of perhaps the person who had done more than any to promote the Negroni - the bartender and cocktail expert Gaz Regan. So buy a bottle of Fergroni and both celebrate the lives of both icons of creativity. Give it a stir with your finger upon pouring.
PURDEY HIP FLASK
Every man needs a hip flask; if he has one already he needs another. I don’t think you can pour a drink from a flask without conjuring up images of heathland and tweed with a Purdey pressed against your shoulder, what better then to do so with a Purdey symbol pressed against your palm. Like the guns that grace the walls of Purdey’s Mount Street store this is an item that will only improve with age. Like a luxury watch this really is an item that you can look after for your children - without the maintenance and servicing costs too.
Available from Purdey online and in store - starting at £55
RU EDITIONS VELVET BACKGAMMON SET
I haven’t been able to enjoy backgammon since reading that Mark Birley ordered his notable tapestry faced version from Hermes so as not to be disturbed by the sound of dice against even the finest timber. Rose Uniacke, perhaps my favourite designer, and herself a fan of board and card games, has recently released a version in velvet which, similarly to Birley’s version, overcomes acoustic disturbance with aplomb.
Available from Rose's website and Pimlico Road store - £480
As my wife will express (to my detriment) I'm a great collector of second-hand books. This is the confluence of three of my passions – reading, design and collecting.
Like many I expect, my passion started with Fleming. Whilst I'm still unsure about the iconic Richard Chopping covers, from an aesthetic perspective, there is no denying their authentic brilliance. I'm a fan of Jonathan Cape's Hemingway printing in colourful jackets too.
I'm currently eyeing Anthony Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" with the Mark Boxer illustrations and, as photographed, Peter Benchley's "Jaws" which I spotted whilst in Heywood Hill.
Jaw's by Peter Benchley - Available, in typically fine condition from Heywood Hill - £185
BEGG AND CO.
Begg and Co - Scotland’s answer to Brunello Cuccinelli and Loro Piana. Their logo of a teasel, so vital in cashmere production, bearing a serendipitous resemblance the Scottish thistle. Begg scarves have been the best Scottish imports into the Senior house since Lagavulin - they last significantly longer too. I've owned two scarves which have already served me for a number of years - a wonderful light wispy cashmere version for Summer and a blanket-sized Angora/Lambswool mix for Winter.
I think that perhaps the only people who don’t like caviar are those who balk at the cost. Here I’m reminded of the response in the series Frasier to the claim that $100 an ounce was rather a lot to pay – “To you, yes. To the fish who gave up her life so you could spread her unborn children on a cracker, it's not so much.”
Regardless of cost who doesn’t want to enjoy something that provides the sensation of “being kissed by a lusty mermaid”
BELMOND BRITISH PULLMAN
This time of year we're often reminded “don’t buy things, buy experiences".
Whilst I’d argue that all of the above are just that — whether that's the experience of enjoying a fine cigar, or the moment of enjoyment that comes from sharing Champagne amongst friends — if well-mannered pastimes mean something to you, and you want to take the recommendation literally, then an experience on a Belmond British Pullman is perhaps the perfect ticket.
It’s easy to misinterpret history as a march of progress but this isn’t always the case. As civilisation rushes to its uncertain destination, doors can close behind us just as easy as others are opened. Take the wrong route and we risk losing civility itself along the way. Belmond stand as a proud bastion against this and provide enclaves steeped in tradition where we might find the best of ourselves anew. Ensconced in comfort aboard a Belmond British Pullman never has the quotation "it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey" been more relevant.
WILSON AUDIO TUNETOT
This year I heard what may have been the best pair of loudspeakers I’ve ever experienced – the Wisdom LS4.
Unfortunately however, neither their size or cost is conducive to my current lifestyle. Fortunately the experience hasn’t dampened my love for other brands too and Wilson Audio remain one of the speaker manufacturers that I continue to long to add to my collection. The Wilson aesthetic is completely against my normal taste and yet I there’s something I find incredibly appealing about it. It has a retro-futuristic feel which allows me to imagine that if I do ever build my family's equivalent of Thunderbirds' Tracy Island that these would fit right in.
Wilson Audio TuneTot - £11,000 per pair
A dog like all the best gifts is for life not just for Christmas.
The dog photographed however is mine and he's not for sale
The Senior wine list will continue in the New Year alongside many other articles already in gestation. I'd like to wish all my readers and their families the very best wishes for the holidays and 2020.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the Senior in it's inaugural year.