the three drinkers

A Look at Cardhu Distillery

Cardhu at dusk.jpg

Speyside has many pretty distilleries. It also has some very large and very small distilleries. Distilleries which are easy to find and those which aren’t. Cardhu is none of these. It is a medium sized, not unattractive and slightly off the beaten track but not difficult to find. But find it is worth doing.

A little over five miles off the A95, Cardhu looks like a typical distillery. Large white buildings surrounding not one but two pergola roofs. This distillery was built in 1885 to 1886. But the story didn’t start there. The original Cardhu was built in 1811 by John and Helen Cumming at Cardow farm on the Mannoch hill. This was a very small still producing enough spirit to sell to the locals and travellers passing through the area. It must have become commercial enough as John took out a licence in 1824 under the new licence act. Cardhu continued under John and Helen until 1846 when John died aged 72 and his son Lewis took over the lease on the farm. The distillery remained with Lewis for another twenty six years, producing small amounts. The distillery itself was no bigger than a small cottage. In 1872 Lewis died and Helen’s daughter in law Elizabeth Cumming took over the management of the distillery. It is known that Elizabeth ran the distillery very well and was a well-known character in the whisky world at that time. Just two years after Elizabeth took over, Helen, who distilled the first batch died aged 97.

213286_Cardhu six stills.JPG

Such was Elizabeth’s success, that in 1885 a new piece of land was purchased and over the next two years a bigger new distillery was built. The old stills were sold to William Grant for £120, he was building Glenfiddich Distillery in Duftown.

With greater production, much of the whisky was sold to John Walker & Sons of Kilmarnock who were using it in their blended whisky. In 1893 Elizabeth and her son John sold the distillery for £20,500 to John Walker & Sons on September the 19th. Shortly afterwards in 1894 Elizabeth died. Her son John built a new home further down the Spey in Aberlour called Dowans.

In 1899 a new station was built at Knockando, this made the distribution of Cardhu much easier and cost effective. Two more stills were added to the previous two, a larger mash tun was installed and the building extended to accommodate more wash backs. A few years later more improvements were made by the Walkers. They added a building to dry draff in, a steam engine was installed as the boiler and condensers replaced the old worm tubs. The distillery ran smoothly until the First World War. In 1917 all distilleries were ordered to stop production to conserve stocks of barley for food. This forced closure lasted until 1919. The distillery began distilling again and continued for the next forty years with little improvements, but in 1960 large improvements were made. In June the majority of the distillery was demolished to make way for better equipment giving a higher output, and greater economy. The Character of the whisky reputedly stayed the same. In 1971 Two more stills were added to make six in total, and coal stopped being used when all of the stills were converted to internal heating by steam using an oil fired boiler.

DSC_2799.JPG

Little has changed since then. The name changed in 1981 from Cardow to Cardhu, The word "Cardhu" derives from the Scots Gaelic Carn Dubh, meaning "Black Rock" and The distillery is known as the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker.

As Cardhu was bought by John Walker & Sons to secure supply for their blend, so it is today under the ownership of Diageo that sbout 70% of Cardhu is used for blending to help create Johnnie Walker and 30% is bottled as single malt whisky. Cardhu is most popular in southern Europe, especially Spain and Greece. A visitor centre was built and opened in 1988 and is open all year around.

Regular expressions:

Cardhu Amber Rock Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 70 cl

Cardhu Gold Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 70 cl

Cardhu Special Cask Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl

Cardhu 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 70 cl

Cardhu 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl

Cardhu 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl

By Colin Hampden-White



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Drinkers team up with Rabbie’s to offer whisky tours around Scotland

three drinkers travel partner rabbies (1).jpg

The team behind Amazon whisky travelogue show ‘The Three Drinkers do Scotch Whisky’ have teamed up with the popular tour company Rabbie’s to offer whisky tours around Scotland.

“‘The idea behind the series was to inspire people to travel to Scotland and to taste whisky, perhaps even for the first time,’ says Helena Nicklin, one of the show’s presenters. ‘With the programme now in 167 countries and territories worldwide, it makes perfect sense to team up with Rabbie’s - the experts in their field for whisky tours - to offer a natural next step for our viewers.”

The partnership joins the dots for viewers inspired by the show, which is now streaming live on Amazon Prime, to easily book a wide range of whisky and tourism experiences from 1 to 8 days around Scotland from London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.

"From etiquette to the provenance of the ingredients, we love to help travellers discover Britain and Ireland's drinking culture,” says David Scott from Rabbie’s. “When we saw Three Drinkers, we knew this was a great opportunity to form a partnership. Their show introduces people to some of our country's finest products, and we help customers enjoy these flavours at their source without having to worry about the drive home!"

A competition to celebrate the partnership

Rabbie’s and The Three Drinkers are celebrating the partnership by giving away a series of luxury, 8-day whisky tours around Scotland in competitions for both Europe and the USA. Each tour will take in Speyside, Islay and Edinburgh, giving a true flavour of the country.

The first competition (Europe) goes live on Wednesday 15th May and runs for six weeks.

Prospective winners need to check The Three Drinkers or Rabbie’s social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) for details of how to enter. Competition dates 15th May - 21st June 2019.

See the tours on offer at https://www.thethreedrinkers.com/scotland-whisky-tours

Duke's Hotel Bar, London

DSC_0588.jpg

Caroline Hampden-White becomes a Bond girls for the night and joins Alessandro Palazzi, Head Bartender in Duke’s hotel bar, in London’s fashionable St. James’s. It’s an area of money (mostly old), power and influence and a famous haunt of Ian Flemming…

 “Can I smoke a cigar out the back?” was the question. 

With a smile and a small bow came the reply: “Only if it’s a nice cigar.”

Ok, I’d better check out what you’ve got.

“They’re all good here; they’re Cuban.”

This epitomises Alessandro Palazzi’s attitude towards the serous things in life, like family, food and fabulous drinks. At 57, this neat, compact Italian has seen more of life than most.  Alessandro’s career has taken him to the very best places in some wide-ranging locations.  He spent time in California, and though the experience meant he “could easily write a script for Tarantino!”, it also gave him itchy feet. He moved between the George V and a slew of top London establishments including the Berkeley, the Connaught and the Mandarin Oriental, as well as Perugia and the Ritz in Paris.  It was whilst working in this latter that he met his wife, who was working in another fine Parisian hotel, Le Bristol. 

He is a great admirer of British food and drink and passionate about Scotch whisky.  He loves the Isla whisky festival and goes whenever he can.  He has distilled his concepts about the best bars and how they should be run as carefully as he distils his signature amber Vermouth, exclusive to Duke’s bar in the eponymous hotel. 

Dukes Hotel

Dukes Hotel

He is something of an authority on Ian Flemming, whose association with Duke’s bar goes back a long way.  Post Second World War, Flemming used hard-won military expertise to bring his hero, James Bond, alive on the page.  Later, Bond began to appear on the silver screen also, but Alessandro says “I prefer the books.  In the books, Bond breaks the rules”.

Alessandro is not dissimilar, describing himself as a “black sheep” – breaking boundaries and beating the bad guys to become the best.  Bar tending is a cut-throat business you know; don’t underestimate the lengths to which people will go…  One such boundary was his appointment of the first female bartender at Duke’s.  Hitherto it had been a very well-heeled, but very male domain.  That’s a characteristic of Alessandro’s; he looks for the keenest talent and hires nothing but the best. 

Sitting beneath portraits of august gentlemen, including the current Duke of Kent, the atmosphere is part gentleman’s club, part society drawing room.  This place brings to mind some of the smarter, more private bars in which we find Bond.  After his wet shave around the corner in St. James’s Street’s Truefitt & Hill termed: “the finest traditional gentlemen's barber and perfumer in London for over two centuries”, Flemming would repair to the bar at Duke’s to start the day’s drinking properly with one of their superlative martinis. 

Peruse the menu, walk through the delights on every page.  When you’re ready, Alessandro and his custom-made drinks trolley glide over to mix your drink in front of you.  It’s reminiscent of Simpson’s on the Strand, where the glistening slabs of meat carved beside your table are placed in front of you before you can say Yorkshire pudding. 

The menu contains many good things cleverly designed in homage to Flemming and Bond.  Ingredients reflect the people and scenes in the stories.  Take “Le Chiffre”, which contains chilli vodka, hot like Bond’s anger while losing at the gaming table; cold like the tears from le Chiffre’s disfigured eye. 

They keep bottles of gin, vodka and other necessaries in the freezer, as well as the glasses.  A giant bottle of Snow Queen, appropriately encrusted with ice, returns to its frozen throne, ready for the next person in need of its restorative powers.

Alessandro prepares for me a “Baron Samedi”, so named for the villain from Live and Let Die.  About to touch my lips to the glass before me, an American gentleman a few tables away rises, bows and addresses those sitting around him.  His request is easy to fulfil – that we join him in toasting his wife on their thirteenth wedding anniversary, that very day.  She isn’t actually there; he’s surrounded by a genial group of what look like business men.  Perhaps he’s a modern day Felix Leiter.  I do hope the lady in question was enjoying a martini half as good as the Vesper in her husband’s glass, for martinis are the speciality here and they serve around two thousand of them a month.  Of course, that’s not the only drink they serve and the bar holds approximately 50 people.  You do the maths.

A Vesper

A Vesper

A tang of ginger, accompanied by one of orange and a delightful freshness from the Dalwhinnie.  Baron Samedi and I are joined at last and I’m under his spell.  It’s a deceptively light, fragrant and aromatic cocktail and the more of it you drink, the more you detect the subtle tones of the tiny amount of chocolate vodka used in its preparation. 

Playing further with quasi-religious themes, the Vesper martini is joined on the menu by another wonderful Bond-themed whisky cocktail: the “Evensong”.  It’s strong and tangy; the slight bitterness is very refreshing.  The Gaelic Italian is a rainbow of flavours as vivid as the pairing of those two cultures.  It uses classic Scottish and Italian ingredients including Coal Isla distiller’s edition and Passito di Pantelleria, a Moscato wine made from dried grapes grown in Italy's most southerly territory, the island of Pantelleria.  There are citrus notes in the background and the peat from the Coal Isla goes all the way through the drink from the first sip to the very last. 

The Gaelic Italian

The Gaelic Italian

I’d wager Alessandro’s clever concoctions would rival anything that Flemming drank at Duke’s and my instinct says that what’s served now is probably even better. 

With his love of booze, service, the UK and Japan, Alessandro has much in common with Bond.  Bond might be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; we can delight in the understated theatre of Alessandro’s service, and that of his team, in this swanky establishment where they blend of glamour and sophistication, so that the best of Bond can live on. 

By Caroline Hampden-White

Deanston: Creators of organic whisky

In recent times, a few distilleries have been making whisky with organic barley. Benromach have an expression from 2010 which they bottled this year. Laphroaig bottled one for the Highgrove estate and Bruichladdie have an organic whisky from 2009. There is even a distillery which has only just opened which is 100% organic, the Ncn’ean distillery. But there is a distillery which has been thinking about and producing organic whisky for longer than all of these. Deanston has a 15 year old organic whisky, which means they started making organic whisky as long ago as 2003 when whisky was only just starting to grow in popularity in the way it is today.

To make organic whisky, the barley or course must be organic which is more expensive. The casks also must be organic, the casks have to be scrapped and charred deep enough so that the spirit doesn’t come into contact with an non organic material, and the easiest way to make sure of this is to use virgin oak casks, so Deanston finish the organic spirit in virgin oak casks so give the spirit extra sweetness. Virgin oak casks are made from American oak which have not previously held any other liquid before the new make spirit is placed in them. Lastly, and by far the most difficult part of the process is the cleansing of the distillery itself. To be certified as an organic whisky, the spirit can not be created in the stills if a non organic run of spirit has been passed through them. The easiest way to manage this is to make organic spirit directly after the distillery has been cleaned during its maintenance period. Usually over the Christmas period. But they make organic whisky at other times of year which impacts on the main production. Asking Dr Kirsty McCallum, Deanston’s master blender why they make organic whisky, she tells me there are two reasons. The distillery was founded in 1967 by entrepreneurs and creating organic whisky continues this entrepreneurial spirit going, but mainly it is because it tastes good. It has a slightly different character than their other whiskies, being more floral and delicate.

Ideally, Deanston would like to have their organic barely grown in the local area giving the whisky an even stronger sense of place. One thing is for certain though, if they manage to create such a whisky, it is going to be delicious.

By Colin Hampden-White

How to Invest in Whisky

Casks at Lagavulin distillery

Casks at Lagavulin distillery

As we finally recover from the colder weather in the UK, there is a parallel with the chilly investment market. Whisky warms not only the cockles on a cold day, but as the market for alternative investments has heated up, whisky offers potential in this arena too. Colin Hampden-White gives us the lowdown on how to invest in whisky...

Investing in whisky

There are two principle ways to invest in whisky: one is to invest in bottles. These can be old or new bottles, and the brand or distillery of bottle is important. Then come casks of whisky. In the case of casks, the distillery from which the whisky comes is of lesser importance. A good return, between 10% - 15%, can be made from whisky casks from almost any distillery, as the blended whisky market always needs them.

Investing in bottles of whisky

The challenge with bottles is that it’s difficult to invest serious money as you need an awful lot of them to make it worth investing at all. Finding the right bottles, at auction or new releases, takes time and expertise and even then, a return is not guaranteed and you really need to know your shallots from your onions.

Balvenie-38.jpg

Investing in whisky casks

Casks are a different prospect. As blenders will always need whisky, there is a stronger market for casks. Scotch whisky casks are a simple asset, held in bond in Scotland and no duty is levied whilst it stays in bond. As whisky is considered a depreciating asset, there is no capital gains payable on its sale. So how does one buy the right casks? Diversity is the key to good investment portfolio. Casks can be bought freshly-filled to well-aged. A cask at zero age is called a ‘new fill cask’. The liquid is called ‘new make spirit’ and will legally become whisky after three years and a day. Casks can also be bought at any age beyond. The casks become more expensive as they gain maturity and the rate of return grows exponentially the older it gets.

Another consideration is the type of oak the whisky is stored in. Whisky can be stored in what is known as a first fill a refill or a rejuvenated cask. Think of the cask like a tea bag. The first fill is like an unused tea bag which gives out lots of flavour. The refill is a lightly-dunked tea bag. This takes longer to impart flavour to the whisky. Whisky in a first fill cask may be very good for a return on a young whisky, say up to twelve years old. When buying an older cask, a refill will be much better. An old first fill cask may make the whisky taste too woody.

Casks.jpg

There are blended whiskies that like to have a good percentage of rejuvenated casks. These are much-used casks whose surface wood has little flavour left, so a couple of millimetres are shaved off the inside to expose active wood, ready for reuse. They have a different flavour profile, impart flavour at a similar rate to a first fill cask, so blenders can use the whisky earlier and they are less expensive.

Lastly there are two types of oak cask: European oak and American oak, providing the whisky with different flavours. American oak gives vanilla, coconut and sweeter flavours whilst European oak gives spicy and nutty flavours. European oak casks are much rarer in the industry and are more sought after. They are more expensive, but can give a great rate of return. Around 90% of the Scotch market uses American oak casks and 90% of Scotch sold around the world is blended whisky. So whisky from a European oak cask (ex-Sherry for example) is a sound bet. If the whisky is sold to an independent bottler rather than for blending, and perhaps further maturing before bottling, then a first fill European oak cask would be more desirable.

How do you find whisky casks to buy?

In general terms, the best investment would be a range of casks including new make and aged casks in a mixture of American and European oak. If you’re buying a very old cask or wanting a longer term investment, I would suggest a re-fill cask. So how and where do you find and buy casks? You can’t just rock up to a distillery and pop a cask in the boot. Whisky brokers only deal with the industry, however there are companies who can buy from brokers and do deal with private investors. Of course, you can find brokers on the internet. But for reliability of service and quality of product, you might look at The Whisky Market Ltd. I have been in the whisky industry for many years and have consulted to them for over five years, so they understand the market well.

So settle down one evening with a dram that’s old enough to vote and contemplate owning more than just a bottle or two. Here are some specialist recommendations:

Retail: thewhiskyexchange.com

Auction: scotchwhiskyauction.com & www.whisky.auction

Cask sales: www.casktrade.com

 By Colin Hampden-White

Once & Future Wines with Joel Peterson

Joel Peterson is known affectionately in the wine world as ‘The Godfather of Zin’. He’s the man who gave Zinfandel its iconic status in the US, having co-founded Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma back in 1976. It was from here that the expression ‘no wimpy wines’ was born and Peterson became the poster man for rich, concentrated, figgy Zinfandel wines that packed a huge, alcoholic, tooth-staining punch.

Fast forward to now however, and Peterson’s focus has shifted. He sold Ravenswood to Constellation in 2018 and has gone back to his roots, literally, to embark on a much smaller project where we gets to make tiny quantities of fine wine from vines that are often over 100 years old. Gone are the jammy, powerhouse wines made in huge quantities. Say hello to concentrated, yet fresh, lean and perfumed wines where often, only a couple of hundred cases of each are made. This new project is called Once & Future.

“I never want to produce more wine than I can physically make myself,” he tells us at a recent tasting of wines from the just-released 2017 vintage. “Once & Future allows me to get back to what I always wanted Ravenswood to be: a small project with old vines and a keen sense of place.”

Joel looks for forgotten vineyards with old vines with grapes that should have had more of a legacy than the ‘blight’, as he calls it, of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. From the sandy soils of Oakley Vineyard where 117 year old Mataro (Mourvedre) vines stands on their own roots to 129 year old Zinfandel vines in the famous Tuscan Red Hills Series soils, these Once & Future wines, while a new project for Joel, showcase a real snapshot of Californian viticultural history.

The Once & Future Wine Range

We taste through the range of six wines and it becomes apparent immediately that this is not Ravenswood mark two; these are wines in a totally different league. Grapes that traditionally have made juicy, boozy, inky fruit bombs are graceful, light on their feet and silky, mineral smooth. All are incredibly bright, supple and fresh. Still so young, but incredibly drinkable, it will be exciting to see what happens to this with a few more years of bottle age.

On the table

Coming soon to Hedonism Wines and Harrods.

2017 Once & Future Oakley Road Vineyard Mataro from Contra Costa County. RRP £56

2017 Once & Future Oakley Road Vineyard Zinfandel from Contra Costa County. RRP £48

2017 Once & Future Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley. RRP £48

2017 Once & Future Teldeschi “Frank’s Block” Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. RRP £48

2017 Once & Future Sangiacomo Vineyard Merlot from Carneros. RRP £56

2017 Once & Future Palisades Petite Sirah from Napa Valley. RRP £56

By Helena Nicklin

Meeting Jackson & Seddon

IMG_9871.jpg

Rob Seddon, appeared on BBC 2 in a reality tv show called Second Chance Summer, and has started a wine importing business with organics and Italy being the key factors.

Second Chance Summer was about starting a new life on a farm in Tuscany. Rob loved Italy so much he felt he had to start a business which would allow him to stay in the country as much as possible. Rob started Jackson and Seddon, a UK based importer dealing in organic wines. Organic wine growth in the UK was more than five times greater than non-organic wines in 2017.

The business was started by crowd funding, he has no business partner as the name of the company might suggest. Jackson is the name of his dog. The idea originally came to him nearly five years ago, but it wasn’t until his time last year on the tv show that he decided it was possible to make it happen.

The crowd funding idea came into being as Rob wanted to give people the opportunity to pre-order from small runs of wine of outstanding quality. The funding was a huge success and the target set was easily passed.

The farms he buys wine from a small and don’t produce enough wine to be of interested to any of the big importers, they also have little or no money for marketing making running these small farms and creating such good wines very difficult. Rob sees his business as helping these small mainly family owned businesses to make the best wines they can and in turn he is able to sell them to the UK.

With the small quantity produced, the wines on offer vary, but the quality of the wines does not. Having tasted a few of the wines on offer, I have liked them all. There were two wines I particularly liked and were excellent quality.

Forgiadita - 70% Sangiovese 30% Cab Sav.  Made in hills behind Siena by a called Nicola who studied to be a lawyer, then after 5 years he gave it all up and took over his grandmother farm and started to produce wines. This is his first real vintage of wines, of which he made 6000 bottles.   

Capolino Perlingieri - 100% Fiano from Campania.  This is produced by Alexia who now runs the family estate, which took her and her bother over 10 years to buy back, after it had been given away in a mad Italian ‘workers living on the land’ law many years ago.  All of the berries are hand selected to offer only the best quality of wine.

Given the over all quality of the wines on offer from Jackson and Seddon, I can’t imagine there will be many people letting their subscriptions slip, and I would thorough recommend having a subscription, whether you already know you like Italian wines and which ones, or if you are wanting to discover something different from Italy.

By Colin -Hampden-White

Sofitel London: A Ten Year Reunion

Colin Hampden-White revisits Sofitel for a rather special anniversary.

Ten years ago, I stayed in a fabulous hotel in central London, with my new wife Caroline. We had wed that day in the beautiful Westminster Abbey and partied until the early hours at the House of Lords, so to stay a stone’s throw away in St James’ in absolute comfort was perfect. We arrived very late and slept well. The stay was perfect for the occasion, but it didn’t give us time to enjoy what the hotel had to offer, so for our tenth anniversary we organised to go back and do exactly that.

We arrived early in the afternoon to check in. Like the day after our wedding, the weather was glorious, and we wanted to walk around St James’. The Sofitel is perfectly placed for everything the west end has to offer. Being a short walk to the theatres on Shaftsbury avenue, the bars and clubs of Soho, the bars and private clubs of Pall Mall, and of course, the shops. It would have been remiss of us if we hadn’t taken a browse around Fortnum and Mason and perused the shelves at Berry Bros and Rudd. With more time there are the numerous galleries to visit including the Royal academy on Piccadilly. 

Having built up a thirst, we came back to the hotel to relax in our room before experiencing the cocktails and the bar. The bar is sophisticated without being pretentious as so many London hotel cocktail bars have a tendency to be. The cocktails are easily explained and have a clear theme which is both entertaining and informative. This year’s theme is music, and the menu arrived like a CD case with the “playlist” inside.

We delved straight in with a Marley inspired “Catch the Fire”, and a Candle in the Wind inspired “Lady D”. The first being a rum based cocktail served up in a Caribbean style bottle which had elements of a sour cocktail balanced by some sweet fruity rum. Lady D being a long style drink including Rhubarb Vodka and liqueurs, Pothecary gin, homemade macaroon and cassis syrup, rose water and Angostura bitters. It was refreshing and floral with lots going on on the flavour front.

Space Cowboy

Space Cowboy

Having settled in, we had our second pair, a “Space Cowboy” with gin and absinthe in the mix and Jamiroquai shaped horns emblazoned on the froth, and a “Losing my Wings” after REM. Both well balanced with the REM cocktail being particularly decedent using Woodford Reserve, homemade dried fruit honey, cinnamon and citrus infused Madagascar vanilla liqueur, lime juice, Abbott’s bitters, rhubarb bitters and egg white.

Having thought we had found the best on the list, our bartender suggested we try “Drunk In Love”, which seems wholly appropriate, so we gleefully accepted the suggestion, and we were so glad we did. Inspired by Beyoncé, it was thick and creamy with Rémy Martin 1738, Coconut milk, salted caramel syrup, roasted pineapple syrup, lemon juice and a vanilla foam. It was hedonistic and warmingly alcoholic but never out of balance.

Drunk on Love

Drunk on Love

Feeling all warm a fuzzy we moved to the Balcon restaurant. With a good look at the menu and our courses decided upon we had another choice to make on the wine. The sommelier made it so hard to choose, so we decided to have a different glass of wine each to try one another’s. So with our first courses of Foie gras ballotine, sourdough, fig, pomegranate, Marcona almonds and Beef tartare, burnt onion egg yolk, balsamic potato crisps, we had a glasses of Gewurztraminer, Cave de Hunawihr, vin d’Alsace, and France Viognier, “Les vignes d’à côté”, Yves Cuilleron, Rhone Valley, France. Both went well with the dishes, and each respectively even better with their correct partners.

For the main course we had a bottle of Rauzan Segla 1998 breathing, and we matched it with Whole lemon sole meunière, pea purée, shallots and capers and one of the best shepherds pies I’ve had. 

Made at the table the desserts were not just a spectacle, but a flavour filled moment of guilty pleasure. Sweet, hot caramelised fruit with crepe or sorbet, and a heady dash of spirit was a real treat. These desserts being classics concocted in a different age, are still wonderful today and thank god they have been brought back to fine dining.

An evening at the Sofitel is a complete experience, there is no need to go out to a cocktail bar, find a fine dining restaurant elsewhere, and al the end of the night one simply has to ascend to your room and slumber in a hugely comfortable bed, only to wake to fresh coffee, a homemade breakfast and approach the day feeling well looked after and revitalised.

By Colin Hampden-White