Friday, 27 November 2015

Rather Nice Whisky Presentation Case from SHAWSTEPHENS

Suntory 25-year-old Yamazaki single malt Japanese whisky comes in a rather spiffin' presentation case, don't you think? The case was produced by Devonshire furniture makers SHAWSTEPHENS as a special project. The oak case also has leather work from our old friends Bill Amberg of London. We have a leather cover on the outer, then opening at the copper hinges we see a bottle storage block and leather coasters, and some sort of leather pouch for keeping the gen on the whisky. The case represents fine craftsmanship and attention to detail at every level, which anticipates a virtuoso level of quality for the water of life contained therein. 

With all the (Scotch, Irish, and even English and Welsh) whisky/whiskey on the doorstep of Tweed Towers, I confess to never trying Japanese whisky. I aim to rectify this, but I would be happy to accept this bottle just for the case.

Edmund (fantastic old-English name) Stephens graduated from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University in 2000 with a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Design and Craftsmanship.

Edmund established SHAWSTEPHENS in 2006 from a workshop in my favourite part of South Devon, near Dartmouth in the South Hams (with Agatha Christie's Greenway nearby). The business now employs four skilled cabinet makers (and is recruiting), a testament to a reputation built on the quality of their work using natural materials and traditional cabinet making methods.  

Space would be found at Tweed Towers for this rather splendid bedside cabinet lined with Indian rosewood, with handy slide-out shelf.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Bonhams - Hooten Pagnell Hall

300 Years of Collecting in One-Day Sale
You may have read about the auction of contents from Hooten Pagnell Hall on the 1st of December through Bonhams. The history of Hooten Pagnell starts around the time of the Norman Conquest, with the earliest part of the house dating back to the 13th century. The sale items are from a collection that spans three hundred years.

Placing my pince-nez at the end of my nose, caramels at hand, I leafed through the prospectus of the sale. I have earmarked a few items I think you will be interested in, chaps.

I'm particularly interested in the 18th Century Carved Oak and Gesso Lion above. That would send a clear message from the turret at Tweed Towers.

Happy bidding.

Duelling Pistols by Royal Gunmaker H.W. Mortimer & Co, London (circa 1800)

Settle an argument the old-fashioned way with these duelling pistols. Just opening the box in the middle of a heated debate should settle the matter.

Silver Owl Mustard Pot by Edward and Joseph Mappin (1865)

Give your Colman's the pot it deserves.

Scott's Last Expedition and Letters Relating to Edward Wilson

Fascinating letters relating to Edward Wilson, whose brother Bernard was a steward at Hooten Pagnell.

Victorian Silver-Rimmed Horn Beakers by Thomas Johnson (1847)

They say horn is great for hot toddies. Alternatively, I use one as a pen holder.

19th Century Silver and Horn Snuff Mulls

Store your powder in style with these handsome snuff mulls. Drinkers will be agog when you place one of these next to your pint in the local pub.

19th Century Tortoiseshell Tea Caddy

The best tea deserves the reverence and respect this fine tea caddy represents.

Cordings of Harrogate

Cordings March North
After 176 years Cordings are opening a second shop in genteel Harrogate, Yorkshire. Lucky Harrogate. The town has always been a nice place to visit, but this opening certainly pushes it up Tweedy's liveable cities index. As a rule of thumb, if you see a hat shop and a cigar shop you know you're in civilised territory. I forget what my other criteria are. Something about the percentage of ties being worn per square mile of population? Or was it the ratio of proper shoes to flip-flops? 

The Cordings shop opens today in Westminster Arcade. Manager Director of Cordings, Noll Uloth (below), thinks the location is prefect for Cordings, and the shop will be bigger than the famous Piccadilly landmark.

With all the Yorkshire mills on their doorstep, they will be sure to stock some good Yorkshire tweeds.  

What with Betty's Tea Rooms and now Cordings, I may have to rethink my (unlikely) move to the Northern Highlands and turn my fickle attention to Harrogate (momentarily).  

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

John le Mesurier - A Plea

The Lost Le Mesurier Album
Sometimes I put out a call and you boys deliver — deliver good — even when I'm not quite putting out a call. I mentioned that I was waiting for a reissue of The George Sanders Touch a few years back and a kind American lady responded and sent me a copy on CD. (That's not to mention the odd Earl Grey chocolate bar that comes my way and goes straight into the snaffle tin.)

This time I call upon your powers to see if we can locate an album made by John Le Mesurier called What Is Going To Become Of Us All? — an album of spoken word and song standards delivered in talk-song style similar to Dirk Bogarde's Lyrics for Lovers.

Want to Hear Songs for the Lovely Lady?
Dread a visit from Dr. Dre? Bored of a ballad from Beyoncé? Brain addled by Adele? Don't worry, I've uploaded Songs for the Lovely Lady here at Tweedy's soundcloud. And don't be concerned for your street cred. Nowadays it is square to be hip.

If the plea pays off, I will add the album from Le Mes too.

Monday, 23 November 2015

At the Beat Concert

Back to the Beat Concert
It is 1982  and you're just back from barber's freshly suedeheaded. The Beat are playing at the Victoria Hall this evening. You have a ticket and you want to look your best. Strangely, your wardrobe comes from the future — 2015 to be precise — but it is all timeless so no one will notice.

The central feature is the Yardie Cardie (top) in baby goatskin suede (made in Italy) from Connection Knitwear. Around which you spend far too much time selecting the rest of the outfit whilst listening to the best from the Two Tone record label. If these clothes are anything to go by, 2015 is going to be just fine. You wonder if The Beat will still be playing then. One thing you know, you will certainly never tire of listening to Save it for Later [Amazon].

Tom Smarte - Pork Pie Hat in rabbit felt with satin band (Made in England)

Black - Capriana Cravat in silk twill (Made in Italy)

Alexander MQueen Wool Mohair Trousers (Made in Italy)

Alfred Sargent - Carroll Oxblood made to order loafers (Made in England)

Fox Umbrella - Whanghee Crook Handle telescopic umbrella (made in England) — also useful in self-defence should any punks or rockers be looking for trouble.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Saint Cecilia's Day - Our New National Holiday?

Welcome to all the Pleasures
If the powers that be are said to be looking for a new national holiday, I propose Saint Cecilia's Day on the 22nd of November. No one should be opposed to a pleasurable day of musical celebration for the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

As luck would have it, we have an anthem for the day by Purcell — well anthems, as Bach, Britten and Handel and others celebrated Saint Cecilia in music too. Henry Purcell composed his first celebration of Saint Cecilia in 1683 with Welcome to all the Pleasures —and built on the success of this with his Ode to Saint Cecilia in 1692 (his best known Cecilia work).

The Deities Approve
For the 1683 composition, the 24-year-old Purcell composed the magical and strange Here the Deities Approve — performed below by the Henry Purcell Society of Boston (Massachusetts not Lincolnshire) and counter-tenor Reginald Mobley.

I propose a live breakfast performance of Here the Deities Approve from Westminster Abbey to welcome our new national day of celebration...

Here the Deities approve
The God of Music and of Love;
All the talents they have lent you,
All the blessings they have sent you,
Pleas'd to see what they bestow,
Live and thrive so well below.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Huntsman - UK Ready-to-Wear

Take-Away Huntsman
You may know Huntsman for bespoke and tweed, but they can also dress you more casually with their classic ready-to-wear range.

This season they use a Brummell-like palette of greys, blues and browns in their winter collection. Here are a few items that are manufactured around (most of) the United Kingdom that may tickle your fancy.

Made in England 
Hand-cut silk Navy Stags Head Tie tie with Huntsman stag motif, lined with silk for a stable heft. Made in London, England.

Made in Wales
Navy Three Twist Cable Crew Neck sweater made in Wales from 5-gauge fine cashmere with a micron count of 16, which equates to soft, soft. 

Made in Scotland
Tasselled Camel Cashmere Scarf made in Scotland.

Sadly, I didn't spot anything from Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Art of Vickermann & Stoya

Craftsmanship is Art is Craftsmanship
The world hyperventilated when we first posted examples of the exquisite shoes made by Vickermann & Stoya a couple of years back. Time to revisit our German chums over at Baden-Baden to see what they've been up to recently.

As the shoes they create are like works of art you wear on your feet, it was a natural fit that they should begin a collaboration with Cologne-based art gallery Hammelehle und Ahrens to show artworks at their manufactory. So when you go for a shoe fitting you may well be walking out with a geometric composition by Jens Wolf (which would work nicely in my favourite Czech house) or an oil on canvas study by Ulrich Lambsfuss (see top — which would work nicely at Tweed Towers) under your arm.

V & S say this is the start of a programme to create a focal point for art and craftsmanship at Baden-Baden. German artists and craftsmen take note.

And the Shoes?

Reacquainting ourselves with the shoes of Vickermann & Stoya, we are reassured to find nothing has changed. (Why does anything have to change?) The shoes are still produced in the time-honoured fashion, with great skill and materials.

Have a paper bag at the ready in case your breathing becomes short and arrhythmic at the sight of this magnificent boot.

A boot comes in very useful when it is tipping down with rain. You can also take the trouser hem a little higher and at an angle with a cavalry cut. Gentlemen, we need more boots in our lives.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Chartreuse with the Ghosts of the Monks of Cleeve

Cleeve Abbey
Travelling through Somerset towns constructed from Blue Lias, I made my way to the Cistercian abbey of Cleeve, Washford; an appropriate setting to stock up on Chartreuse. Good for English Heritage to have Chartreuse available at quiet and secluded Cleeve. And poor Cleeve. We can admire Henry the Eighth for his enjoyment of sport and the good things in life, but feel a little miffed at the destruction of art and architecture he wrought through the dissolution of the monasteries. Cleeve was closed by Henry, the church was eventually demolished and the abbey buildings converted into a country house. Still, it's a beautiful spot for lovers of English history.

The History of Chartreuse
Chartreuse is a liqueur made by Carthusian monks — do the Cistercians and the Carthusians get on? — since 1737, which is not that long in monastic terms, I suppose. Anyway, we should be grateful that this enchanting green (or yellow) inebriant is still being produced. Smashing things come out of monasteries. Remember the Caldey Island Lavender Water?

Green Chartreuse is concocted from 130 herbs, plants and flowers. If you like a herbal taste, this is a drink for you. It makes for an excellent digestif or cocktail ingredient and is also good when added to hot chocolate for an après-ski pick-me-up. Green Chartreuse is a strong 55% by volume. The recipe has been around since 1605 when the drink was reputed to be capable of prolonging life. The Green Chartreuse we drink now was refined in 1764.

The recipe very nearly disappeared. The monks were expelled on a couple of occasions (1793 and 1903) from their Grand Chartreuse monastery in the Chartreuse mountains of France. But the recipe survived and when the monks were able to return to their home they resumed production to support their order. The herbal mixture is only ever known to and prepared by two monks.

English Heritage also stock the even stronger (69%) Élixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse tonic at Cleeve, which comes in a very nice little medical-looking bottle (below). This version certainly does look as if it could prolong life.

Anthony Blanche on Chartreuse
Anthony Blanche is a keen fan of Chartreuse (and Brandy Alexander). From Brideshead Revisited:

"Real G-g-green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It is like swallowing a sp-spectrum."

Friday, 13 November 2015

Quiet Spain - Oviedo

The Unobtrusive City
It's always better to visit cities that don't have significant landmarks to attract tourists. If you don't count its statue of Woody Allen, Oviedo is one such city. As such it's somewhat off the radar and remains something of a hush-hush destination favoured by Madrileños escaping the summer heat on the plains of Spain (where the rain doesn't fall, mainly).

What can I tell you? Well, the centre is small and easy to navigate on foot. Cities that require a car to navigate are generally intolerable. You will find fantastic and thriving independent shops for clothes, and good restaurants for fish and meat. Like all Spanish cities, the residents stay up late, and there are excellent bars that still provide tapas with your drinks to keep you sober without charge.

Oviedo is a quiet and unassuming city, not a city that feels the need to loudly proclaim its progressive or competitive credentials constantly. Oviedo just quietly goes about the business of keeping alive the commerce, tradition and culture that gives it an attractively unique sense of identity.

Oviedo, rather Asturias, even has its own award ceremony. The Princess of Asturias awards was established in 1980 by Prince Felipe to recognise people and bodies that do good work. Francis Ford Coppola was awarded the prize in the Arts category when I was visiting. The Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God succeeded in the Concord category. Bagpipers in traditional dress were all over town (and in the cider bars) to celebrate the event.

I've made a few notes for your visit. As always, it's about the unchanging, timeless aspects, not the here today, gone tomorrow stuff.

The city is cider-loving and has its own cider alley — La Calle Gascona — with back-to-back cider bars (sidrerías) where the traditional pouring method for natural Asturian cider is employed to bring air into the drink.

For dining, the traditional Llagar El Pelegrín in Calle Luís Braille 7 is worth a look in the centre of the city. Out of town, the Castillo del Bosque La Zoreda has a lovely setting and dining room.

Rice pudding is on nearly every menu.

Being so close to the coast, you will find excellent seafood available. And plenty of (nearby) Galician Albariño to accompany it.

For coffee and cake with the locals try La Mallorquina.

Chocolate wizardry happens within the hallowed walls of Peñalba, an Oviedo institution since 1928. The shop has an attention to detail with its products and packaging that you rarely find these days — and you are ecstatic when you do.

Oviedo is a smart city (in the old sense), so pack smart if you are visiting. And take a wodge of Euros to splurge in gentlemen's shops like Argaro (1946) and Blazer, which was well-stocked with William Lockie sweaters.

And the tailor's shop of Arsenio Suarez.

For Next Time
I sampled a day trip's worth of Santander whilst staying in Oviedo. Timing was bad, so I couldn't stay long; just time for a plate of cochinillo asado — always worth seeking out in Spain — and high tea in the rather pleasant Café de Pombo.

Clothes-wise, Santander has promise. I didn't have time for a good look around, but I did spot a Barbour shop, which is always encouraging. The Spanish love their wax jackets.

I intend a longer return visit to this fine looking city.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Black Tie Event

Black for Accessories
Our friends at Black are experts in accessories. Since 2006, Black has been on a mission to source the best materials and manufacturers of those essential finishing touches that complete an outfit, and in doing so Black is keen to help preserve 'unique skills passed down from generation to generation; skills which risk being lost in a world of mass production and cheap merchandise'.

As a consequence Black is able to offer you pocket squares and driving gloves from Italy, cashmere ties from Scotland and fur-felt Fedora hats from England. (Whisper: they have some excellent classic crochet-backed driving gloves going for a song right now.)

Sober and Elegant
I was looking for a knitted tie in black to bring some gravitas and self-restraint to my wardrobe. A black tie can be serious. It's also very useful if a friend dies and you need to attend a funeral. But it doesn't have to look too serious or like you are about to cascade white lilies on to a loved one's coffin. If it is knitted or you are not wearing it with a very dark suit, a black accessory can add a nicely sober and elegant touch. And who better to supply a black tie than Black?

I know black and I haven't got on so well in the past, but I wanted to bring in a black knitted tie to incorporate with navy cashmere woollens, grey jackets, pink shirts — colours that can tame black — and also the corn-coloured hopsack jacket from Maurice Sedwell that makes the occasional appearance (as with the origami wallet piece), and is hard to combine.

The Black Knitted Cashmere Tie, made in Scotland, arrived nicely packaged. It was good to see that it came in a protective cotton pouch. Knitted ties can easily be caught and pluck if not stored safely. And the pouch has room for a couple more, which makes it useful when travelling too.

The tie has a tube construction to hold the shape and is very solid, which means years of service. The narrowed neck section is backed with satin.   

As you can see from the photo below, the black tie brings harmony to the ensemble — like the U.N. of accessories. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Alan Paine - Innovation Meets Loden

Alan Paine - Rich in Heritage and Tradition
We all know about the fine country wear that our good chums Alan Paine of Surrey produce. But they don't stop still; and neither does my wardrobe as a result. No sooner had the tweed field field jacket made its way into my affections (and cupboard space) than I spy AP's Loden field jacket — part of their new Loden Collection.

Loden is a classic Tyrolean pre-shrunk woollen fabric, that has a soft, dense and spongy pile similar to the boiled wool used in traditional duffle coats. The Loden Collection comes in the classic loden green — quite rightly.

I quickly established a convenient maxim that 'no man can have too many field coats'. Move over tweed field jacket — you've got company,

The Loden Collection features the now-traditional Alan Paine 'classic-tech' approach. When you combine traditional loden fabric with a 'specially engineered AP-EX breatheable waterproof membrane' magic happens — and you can brave the inclemency-disposed British weather. Living in Britain everything needs to be waterproof, and (overstating for effect, though it's largely true as it rains a lot) I mean everything.

The Loden Walk
My jacket-shaped chum and I took a country stroll one morning and got on famously. I loaded his ample pockets with a Scotch egg and a hip flask and off we went.

The pictures speak for themselves, except the weight and smell — lighter than it looks, smells like a tweed jacket. The jacket got all the attention from the cows and farmers.

From the looks on their faces (cows and farmers), I believe they were admiring the practicality combined with the good looks of the jacket.

As a general impression they would notice the reinforcements in the right places, and the padding for warmth.

Getter closer they would see the details: the cartridge pockets that can be secured open (for easy access to that Scotch egg), the waist adjuster for figure-hugging comfort, the moleskin trims, the storm cuffs, the beautiful gold lining that I would flash coquettishly to them.

At this rate, my taste for field jackets threatens to engulf my love of trench coats. (It's that dramatic embellishment again.)

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