Leisure: Rare Finds

<< Back to Robb Report, October 2003

Long after the age of Al Capone and the speakeasy, when well-heeled imbibers would pony up for cheap bathtub gin served in teacups, the very best spirits continue to elude the worthy seeker who does not know where to look. Procuring vintage cigars proves an even more trying task. Following is a short list of some of our favorite sources for the world’s rarest and most sought-after brands in both realms.

Located in the heart of Manhattan at One Rockefeller Plaza, Morrell & Company is a consummate resource for a range of coveted spirits. Hard-to-find American small-batch bourbon whiskeys, such as Van Winkle’s sensational 20-year-old bourbon, are definitely worth seeking out, as are eye-openers like the deceptively smooth 18-year-old Sazerac rye from Buffalo Trace. 800.969.4637, www.morrellwine.com

Rum has been associated with America’s great maritime tradition since colonial days, and true to form, the Spirit of Hart-ford, in Hartford, Conn., is as reliable a resource as a Yank-ee Clipper. Heave to here for two premiums from Barbados: Foursquare Spiced Rum, rare in the spiced category because it starts from aged product, and Doorly’s XO Fine Old Barbados Rum, a dark rum aged six to 12 years, then laid down for an additional two years in sherry casks. 860.404.1776, www.spiritofhartford.com

An institution in the Bay Area since 1882, Beltramo’s has a cache of more than 140 varieties of single-malt Scotch (cult favorites like Bruichladdich and Aberlour’s Abunadh are readily available). Vintage Armagnacs from 1939 to 1980 are also finds, as is a broad selection of liqueurs. Also, look for top tequilas here, such as Herradura’s Seleccion Suprema, which features mature agave aged in French oak barrels. 888.710.9463, www.beltramos.com

Du Vin is un petit part of France transplanted to Los Angeles. Owner Rene Averseng can boast 10 different types of pastis alone, including Ricard, Casanis, and Granier. Du Vin’s Gallic credentials also include an array of vintage cognacs, Armagnacs, and Calvados, such as a very exclusive 1940s Darroze Armagnac and a 1960 Hine Cognac. Patrons will also find the most esoteric French liqueurs, such as Oscar Wilde’s favorite quaff, Absente (the newer version is minus the wormwood) and Chartreuse V.E.P. ($118). 310.855.1161

Thank the Brits for having the foresight decades ago to save—not smoke—all of the available cigars. But curse the cigar boom of the late 1990s, whenthe cache of aged smokes proved to be too good a marketing tool.“The market really took out most of the cigars,” says Tim Cox, manager of London’s James J. Fox & Robert Lewis, the venerable cigar specialist in operation since 1787. “Demand outstripped supply.” Most of the aged cigars in the store date to the early 1980s. Older cigars, says Cox, are like a 1936 Ferrari or Rolex Daytona: “They were made, but you don’t just go buy one off the shelf.” +44.20.7930.3787, www.jjfox.co.uk

Cigars from the early 1960s are among those in private storage at Alfred Dunhill in New York, but the collections are rarely made available to the public. Dunhill’s procurable selection, however, is one of the world’s most extensive, with a current humidor that includes 15 25-year-old Dominican Partagas 150s. Easier to come by are current Montecristo Churchills and Fuente Fuente OpusX No. 2s. 212.753.9292

Every year, usually in November and April, Christie’s hosts two cigar auctions in London that feature aged Cubans. Because the United Kingdom levies a high tax on tobacco, a box of aged cigars at auction can cost half as much as a current box of the same brand. A new box of 25 Romeo y Julieta Churchills, for example, costs nearly $600 in England, but a 10-year-old box may sell for $300. www.christies.com

Photograph courtesy of hotel Matlali
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