London is an aficionado’s playground for exploring the finest things in life.
If I could paint a picture of the connoisseurs’ world in colours, they would be a palette of antique leathers, sparkling brilliance and burnished woods. To describe its sphere in people would be to tell a story of international adventurers, low-key sybarites, ebullient influencers and raconteur hosts. To traverse its settings would be to navigate the capital’s historied curios and gleaming, modern destination one-offs.
Edward Shakigan Cigar Shop
Connoisseurship – the appreciation and knowledge of rare consumables and taste – isn’t some flash-in-the-pan new phenomenon or social zeitgeist suddenly emerged. Rather it is a pedigreed veteran of the global cognoscenti existent since the dawn of ages. “It’s fantastic to be told about a fascinating product such as jewels and watches as you smoke a fabulous cigar and enjoy a wonderful dram of whisky,” says Ranald Macdonald, owner of Boisdale, the quartet of London
jazz and whisky pleasure destinations curating fine watch previews, cigar Olympics, jewellery showcases, wine dinners and blind whisky tastings whose fourth instalment opened in Mayfair
in Autumn. “We are for people who know what they like and appreciate the best things in life.”
By day you’ll find connoisseurs at the auction rooms of Christies and the humidors of St James, browsing the major fairs such as Masterpiece London and Frieze or galleries of Fitzrovia, Mayfair or the East End. They might be besuited at a boutique preview or private sale. Or, as happened last April, among the 32 obscure watch collectors who flew in from every corner of the globe to compare timepieces at a secret and heavily guarded convention in Mayfair.
Cigar Humdor at Boisdale Canary Wharf
By night they’re talking business and recounting global anecdotes over blind tastings, private views and invitation-only cocktail parties. They might be meeting friends old and new at the many wine dinners thrown at the capital's most exclusive restaurants on every given evening. Or competing in awed silence via smart phones at a vertical Champagne tasting, as I did care of The Finest Bubble
at 67 Pall Mall, ensconced deep in the cellars of London’s new and expanding wine members’ club, where the venerable attendees guessed rare vintages including an ethereal 1986 Jeroboam inspired by perhaps the 20th century’s most famous epicurean, Sir Winston Churchill. This season, world-renowned Parisian
wine collector Francois Adouze will host his legendary tastings in London. Bob Bob Exchange
, which promises to figure among the great openings of 2017, will hold wine auctions, joining the handful of new and exclusive members’ destinations whose raisons d’être exist in meeting the connoisseur’s predilections.
Seasoned connoisseurs – those whose relationship with the very finest indulgences (haute horology, art, cars and antiques, rare stones and diamonds, spirits, cigars, fine wines and Champagnes
) is expert and finessed – will know the touch of thick, embossed card announcing a private sale or gloved preview at Cartier, Christies or Van Cleef. Bona fide bon viveurs are au fait with that pit-of-the-stomach exhilaration at soliciting an electronic invitation subject line: ‘You are Invited’ or ‘Save the Date.’
It’s a scene that’s exclusive but not prohibitive. As one transatlantic Swiss
connoisseur I compared notes with over a rare Cuban cigar at a blind tasting at the Edward Sahakian Sampling Lounge, put it: “In this city there is something for the connoisseur on every single night of the week.” London isn’t just a connoisseur capital, but connoisseurs’ capital, in the most decadently social and financial sense.