It’s a pretty grandiose statement, Best of the Best. Almost tautological, it’s praise heaped on praise, acclaim layered on acclaim. Who or whatever wears that crown must be beyond extraordinary. Can such a title be warranted? Isn’t being simply the best sufficient—was Tina Turner just not aiming high enough? Is it just journalistic hyperbole?
That’s something I pondered while we were compiling the list of winners for this, the 33rd annual Best of the Best issue. But then another thought occurred: Within the luxury world, so many products, experiences and people are world-class. At the finest end of the spectrum, exceptional quality is a given. Many luxury brands have a right to call themselves “the best.” What makes something stand out are often the smallest details, executed perfectly. It might be how the light catches the razor-sharp finishing on the hands of a watch, or the beautifully engineered yet subtle thunk of a car door closing. It could be the way flavors reveal themselves on the palate as the wine leaves your tongue, or how jewels can seemingly float on a finger, their casing almost invisible.
It’s that level of precision and thought that elevates the few from the rest, even at the top of the tree. Because some really are—if I may again reference Ms. Turner—better than all the rest. The Best of the Best.
So who or what have we gathered together on these pages, and how have we come to these conclusions? In 15 categories—cars, boats, planes, travel, style, watches, jewelry, food, wine, spirits, art, design, cigars, gear and, new this year, real estate— the editors and I have discussed and debated, occasionally quite heatedly, the brands and leaders that have truly excelled over the last 12 months. And as the past year was unlike any other in living memory, this presented significant challenges in a number of sectors.
Take dining, for instance: How do you judge restaurants when the lucky ones were closed for much of the year; the less fortunate closing permanently? The answer is, you don’t. And so culinary editor Jeremy Repanich and I decided to do things differently, honoring the people within the industry who made bold decisions based purely on the desire to help the chefs, waitstaff, and front-of-house and delivery people who found themselves furloughed for long stretches or, worse, unemployed. Their stories are examples that out of darkness can come great light. They are genuinely inspiring, and I felt humbled to read them.
Travel, of course, was also hugely affected. There were hotel openings, just far fewer than in previous years. Fortunately, some were of exceptional quality, which we’re happy to recognize. Others treated the forced shutdown as an opportunity, renovating or revamping their offerings. We’re cheering the finest among them, too. But our editor at large and travel expert, Mark Ellwood, and I agreed that, again, it was the people who led from the front who deserved the spotlight this year. So for the first time we have compiled a directory of the elite specialists who shone even brighter these past months. They worked endlessly for their clients to provide safety, security and, where appropriate, the opportunity to see the world again, meet its people and revel in what we once took far too much for granted: the chance to experience new destinations, embrace old favorites and marvel at it all.
Whatever the category, this year’s winners deserve their “Best of the Best” titles. They’re the result of years and years—and, in some cases, decades and even centuries—of an unflinching pursuit of perfection married, it’s probably fair to say, with a little good fortune. The fortune to have survived, and even thrived, in this last year should not be underestimated. Congratulations to all of them.
Enjoy the issue.