This Holiday Season, Reach for the Top Shelf

scene-stirsOn a recent Thursday afternoon, I found myself in a suite in the Mandarin Oriental, surrounded by two kinds of decision makers: luxury resort beverage buyers and local bartenders. And for the task at hand, they were equally matched. On the agenda, a sky-high-level tasting of Johnnie Walker products. This time of year, interest in ultra luxury spirits—both for gift-giving and consuming in celebration—skyrockets, leading to one-off showcases such as this one led by Dr. Thomas Turner, Master of Whisky (and the Indiana Jones of it, too) for Diageo brands.

That afternoon, in the sprawling suite’s splendor, we began with Blue Label ($350 retail)—yes, that’s where we started—and proceeding through Odyssey ($1,000) and King George V ($570) before finishing with The John Walker ($3,300). Dr. Thom routinely proclaims King George to be “the Hugh Jackman” of whiskies (think muscular). Of The John Walker he says, “This is Sofia Vergara.”

So, how can you get into the lap of luxury this gift-giving season? Start with the Johnnie Walker Blue Label—even self-proclaimed single-malt die-hards can’t resist it. And if you’ve got the dough, here are three more ways to put on the Ritz.

The Rare Spirits Cabinet at Bound

Renowned barman Salvatore Calabrese has amassed one of the finest spirits collections in the world—1,000 bottles!—at the Playboy Club in London. And the rare spirits cabinet at Bound in the Cromwell now holds his boutique collection. The bar’s third entrance has been converted into a cabinet, the shelves of which boast The Macallan M; Highland Park Freya; Frapin Cuvée 1888, which spins like a top; and the Dalmore Constellation Collection, the 1979 being the most expensive at $1,100 per pour. A year ago, Calabrese broke the world record for the Most Expensive Cocktail, but Calabrese’s signature Breakfast Martini—will set you back just $16.

Louis XIII Black Pearl Anniversary Edition Cognac

There’s one bottle you won’t find in Calabrese’s cabinet—well, yet. The second release of Rémy Martin’s Louis XIII Black Pearl since 2007 is an anniversary edition, just 775 bottles from a single tierçon (blending barrel) belonging to the Hériard Dubreuil family, owners of the house of Rémy Martin. It’s somewhat similar to a single-barrel whiskey, but instead, this is a single lot of blended, 40-100-year-old eaux-de-vie. The bottle retails for $16,000 and is headed for the Mansion at MGM Grand, Aria and the Venetian. The draw here is really the prestige, so for a more affordable luxury (and nearly identical juice), a serving of Louis XIII will run you between $350-$550.

Hardy Perfection Cognac

At a recent dinner at Sage in Aria, fifth-generation Cognac maker Bénédicte Hardy was on hand to guide lucky diners through an opulent Cognac and Champagne dinner featuring Hardy’s ultra-luxury marques. After a tasting that included Cognacs aged a minimum of 30, 50 and 60 years, we got a pour of Hardy Perfection, distilled by Antoine Hardy in the 1860s from 100 percent pre-Phylloxera Colombard. Perfection out of reach? Aged 25 years, Hardy XO Rare is an ideal “beginner’s Cognac,” selling for about $130.


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