Friday, 25 December 2015

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Did you enjoy the Carol's from King's yesterday? It's the no going back moment for Christmas, a time to embrace the traditions and the celebrations, or look like an utter party pooper.

Whether you are intending to use the break as a time for quiet reflection or you are arming yourself with a Christmas cracker and plunging into the festivities headfirst — or both, which is perfectly acceptable at this time of year — a firm handshake and our very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Cigar Strategy - Montecristo

Montecristo and Mince Pies
I said to my usual cigar lady that I wanted to tuck away something a bit special for Christmas. The cigar had to work with brandy, coffee and mince pies whilst sitting out what remained of Christmas Day listening to ghost stories in a semi-sleepy state and unable to budge because of the day's gluttony; and also out of doors whilst tearing up losing betting slips at a Boxing Day race meeting.

She pondered for a moment, and then opened up the walk-in humidors of her shop, training a gimlet eye on Montecristo's Open range of cigars. She knows I don't like to be knocked out by a cigar. I don't mind a bit of bite, perhaps a slight punch in the face, but I want to enjoy the experience not endure it, and usually with accompaniment. Montecristo's Open range is intended to introduce a lighter, more contemporary alternative to their stronger offerings, but with the same attention to construction and materials the brand is famous for. The range is identified by a second green band on the cigar. The brand and the range piqued my interest. I knew their Mini well — Fritz Lang's M and the Montecristo Mini — but could certainly devote time to something a bit more substantial over Christmas.

The cigar lady suggested the torpedo-shaped Open Regata, a medium-strength cigar. The size (46 gauge) is similar to Montecristo's famous No. 2, and aims to provide half an hour of clean burn, effortless drawing and lightly Cuban sweet spice and wood flavours. I took a couple and they have been resting in the humidor ready for their moment. Their moment has come.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Santamaria - Q & A

Closed Book Opens
We British are a closed book. We get on with things. We drink our tea and talk about the weather and skirt around how we feel. This should be considered a virtue, not a stigma. Just look at how tedious actors can be with their tell-alls and confessionals. If we do drop our guard and speak from the heart, it's with the quiet dignity of Celia Johnson at the railway station in Brief Encounter — out of earshot of strangers and on a need-to-know basis.

I did, however, get rather close to expressing an emotion myself in a recent Q & A with Santamaria Shirtmakers.

Read it all here >>>

In the Q & A, I recommend the Madrid ready-to-wear shirt (top) for its timeless appeal. The mid-blue colour will match most flavours of tie, and the stripes which will work in a casual or formal situation, such as a meeting in a railway platform refreshment room for a romantic farewell.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Secret of Happiness

Happiness is a Well Stocked Drinks Cabinet
It is only natural at this time in the year that you are giving serious consideration to throwing yourself into a box of straw and hibernating through the winter in a small cupboard under the staircase. Might I suggest an alternative? I suggest a rethink on your drinks cabinet. In fact, let's adopt an adage: happiness is a well stocked drinks cabinet. A carefully curated drinks cabinet that reflects the season will support you through any situation.

The drinks cabinet at Tweed Towers has been rearranged so that it's now ready for winter. The gins and clear spirits have been pushed to the back along with the Pimms and Aperol and all those summer flavours. They'll be back when we see a sign of sun. For now, the Christmas ales, the crusty vintage ports and single-malt whiskies rule the roost and form the front flank. These — and the possibility of utilising all that tweed in your wardrobe — will help you to see winter in a more forgiving light. When the fire is crackling in your hearth, and you are sitting in your favourite armchair in a Donegal tweed three-piece listening to what the elements are throwing at your windows, you will naturally reach for these winter warmers — and the midwinter will seem decidedly less bleak.

A Midwinter's Night Dram
Make sure you keep space for late arrivals in your cabinet. You can now enjoy a distinctly Yuletide snifter from Glenmorangie. The Highland distillery has released A Midwinter Night's Dram (playing on A Midsummer's Night Dream), a whisky aged in bourbon and sherry casks specifically to create a flavour reminiscent of this time of year, with an aroma evocative of Christmas cake and a flavour combining warming fruits and spice.

Ring out these Solstice Bells
After a wee dram, let's lift the mood now with Jethro Tull's Ring Out Solstice Bells [Amazon]. The song will serve as the alarm klaxon on Christmas morning at Tweed Towers, so as to start the day in the right frame of mind.

If you wish to replicate Ian Anderson's look with the tattersall waistcoat and holly buttonhole this Christmas, Brocklehurts stock a Gurteen tattersall waistcoat in wool with horn buttons (below). You just need to find a bit of holly.

Neckerchief or cravat? — it's up to you.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Tweed Pin-Up - David Adams

David Adams - Tailor
This is a sort of pin-up offering in absentia. I was in touch with David Adams, then out of touch, then lost touch.

During the 'in touch' period David supplied the photo above, I think. I have it anyway and with that fabulous moustache it was always going to be used. David was in the process of setting up his Quirkessential label offering hand-made accessories and bespoke tailoring. Quirkessential, I am pleased to report, is up-and-running.

More Dandier than Ever
David said at the time: 'I am working all manner of hours towards the goal of giving David Adams Quirkessential Tailoring a complete make over, and it is becoming better and more dandier than ever!'

Then the communications dried up and I've been sitting on the paltry information I have. Hopefully, we can come full circle with this post and I can provide more gen on David's activities.

From Quirkessential's accessories range, might I steer your gaze towards the British-made reversible self-tie bow tie with suiting fabric on the front and liberty print on the reverse, which can give four different combinations. Effectively, you get four bow ties in one.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Songs for a London Winter

Christmas with Croydon Municipal
Croydon Municipal is the record label run by Bob Stanley of the pop band Saint Etienne. The label specialises in carefully curated compilations of pop's hidden gems and curios. Just in time for the Festive Season, out on Croydon Municipal we have Saint Etienne Present Songs for a London Winter — tunes selected by Bob and fellow Saint Etienne members Pete Wiggs and the delightful Sarah Cracknell.

Bob says of the label, 'Croydon Municipal is an attempt to make sense of the analogue pop era in a digital world. It digs deep to find wonderful old pop music you may have never heard before.'

The tracks on Saint Etienne Present Songs for a London Winter are all UK recordings from the 60s, a bit of easy listening, a bit of rock n' roll, a bit of jazz — all a bit different from same old Christmas songs blaring out of every available speaker right now.

The introductory track on the compilation by Nina and Frederick, Christmas Time in London Town, sets the mood splendidly. But my favourite track might be Give Us a Kiss for Christmas by the late, great Lionel Bart. Of course, this doesn't mean I'm condoning open displays of affection over Yuletide. There's a time and a place — and there's nothing wrong with a firm handshake under the mistletoe.

Christmas Pudding at Rules

Rules - British Dining History
Any London Christmas shopping trip is incomplete without a visit to Rules, London oldest restaurant. Rules serves traditional British food, and quite simply the best steak and kidney pudding (steamed with oyster) to be found anywhere. The restaurant is a hub for lovers of game, much of it supplied by its own estate at Lartington in the High Pennines. The estate and restaurant act as stewards and guardians of traditional British produce and dishes — like pigs cheeks, shoulder of hare, braised pheasant — that are just not seen enough in British restaurants. Rules is rightly referred to as a heritage restaurant, part of the soft culture of Britain that can die away far more quickly than a building, and is harder to preserve.

Rules takes care to select their meat carefully, choosing breeds for flavour and provenance, and low-intensity farmers who value traditional husbandry over agro-chemical shortcuts. Slow food, basically.

Belted Galloway beef was recently introduced to the menu at Rules. The beef is supplied exclusively to Rules from Paul Coppen's herd in Gilmonby in the Pennines. Paul's herd has made a positive impact on the survival of this rare, indigenous breed. Belted Galloways are slow to mature and their beef is renowned for its excellent flavour.

If you reserve time at Rules to take a break from the Christmas madness, do try one their house cocktails. Kate Middleton's 'Royal 29' is a rather butch-sounding mix of No.3 Gin, Pinky Vodka, Lillet and crystallised violet petals; A Kiss for Lillie is a thirst-quenching blend of King's Ginger, Cocchi Americano and champagne.

Personally, I am perfectly content with the draught Guinness served in silver tankards.  

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Famous Pheasant

Pleasant Pheasants
An old friend of The Tweed Pig recently got in touch to discuss the autumnal end of the tie spectrum. Any wintry tie collection will tend to include a game bird, being the season. Our friend's collection was no exception:

I have a very similar red pheasant tie in my own collection (seen above with Turnbull & Asser shirt, E. Tautz mac and Alan Paine tweed jacket — all UK made). The tie was made in the US by Brooks Brothers from an imported silk and wool twill, quite possibly from England, or maybe Italy — somewhere they produce good tie cloth anyway. Out it comes for country pubs and farmer's markets and other suitable occasions requiring squire-like drag.

Pheasant 'Flinks
If you are looking for a pheasant-themed accessory, the only reasonable option to a tie would be cufflinks. The Pheasant Head cufflinks below are made in London of hallmarked solid silver by Hersey Silversmiths (1955). The oval backs can be monogrammed.

The Famous Pheasant
Sticking to the pheasant theme, in whisky terms it's fair to say that the bird is not quite as famous as the grouse. But that might be changing. In 2014, the Cotswolds Distillery was established — their logo being a pheasant preparing either for fight or 'treading', by the looks of it, though I'm not wearing my glasses.

American Daniel Szor founded the distillery in order to produce natural spirits — gin and whisky — from the barley growing around him in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds Single Malt 2013 Harvest is the first ever whisky made in this area of England. Currently ageing in casks, the whisky is available on pre-order for delivery in 2017. If you can't wait to try it, a test batch is available (below) to see how the ageing is coming along, which shows great confidence in the whisky.

If you are feeling particularly thirsty, they can set aside a full barrel for you.

The distillery is worthy of a diversion if you find yourself in the Cotswolds. And they have a very cosy-looking tasting room decorated in English country style that they would have great difficulty evicting me from.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

St. James - Side-Laced Boot by Edward Green

Innovative 1909 Design
Please forgive my shaky typing. I'm just a little stirred up having borne witness to quite possibly the finest boot in all Christendom. The St. James by Edward Green of Northampton, England, has the sort of sui generis beauty that can end marriages and induce fist fights amongst hitherto respectable types. Like many of the craftsman pieces we cover in The Tweed Pig, they wouldn't look out of place in an art museum. (Actually, they might against some of the uglier, artistically redundant pieces that pass for art.)

The boot is inspired by Edward Green's 1909 patent for a side-laced boot; the year Tel Aviv was founded and the sensational Ballet Russes began performing in Europe. The side-lacing has a practical purpose, similar to the spats (or spatterdashes) used to protect shoes from the elements that were popular around that time.

The boot comes in black calf and suede, burgundy (nightshade) and navy suede or dark oak calf and mink suede — all on a durable oak bark tanned sole. One can picture the scene of foggy London streets and the sound of cane and boots tick-tacking on the pavement as you wend your way home from an evening of Russian ballet and a nightcap of absinthe.

I want them. You want them. Let's form an orderly queue. This isn't mass-produced and over-marketed rubbish that people seem willing to fight over given the right amount of hype, so there's no need for pushing and shoving outside the doors of Edward Green's Jermyn Street shop okay? That sort of thing just won't do in Jermyn Street. Leave that to Oxford Street.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Choosing a Game Pie for Christmas

Fair Game
I look forward to tucking into an average of three traditional Christmas lunches over the festive period, what with family visits and (mostly) general greediness, but I always try and leave room for what's pushed out on the tea trolley for elevenses or supper. A game pie will certainly make an entrance at some stage. Like choosing your Christmas tree, you need to select your game pie carefully to avoid any disappointment. It needs to earn a place at the trolley.

Winners at the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire — home of the famous Melton Mowbray pork pie (which has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status) and part of Stilton country — should provide a clue as to where to concentrate our efforts.

Truly Traceable 
Truly Traceable, the Suffolk pie people, won the Speciality Meat Pie class with their venison pie. That's their game pie at the top and it looks eminently trolley-worthy. Truly Traceable is the husband-and-wife team, Suffolk born-and-bred, of Lynn and Steve Tricker. They do pretty much everything to get these pies to your table — Steve stalks and butchers the venison and game himself, hence 'truly traceable'. You need to be located in East Anglia to up your chances of securing one of those beauties.

Don't Forget the Piccalilli
Wherever you source your game pie from, you can't leave it on your trolley without piccalilli. Our dear old friends at Tracklements do a Particularly British Piccalilli, which is more than up to the job.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Peter Scott Camel Sweater

Domestic Camel
Cashmere is understood to have excellent properties for use in textiles; and used it is, perhaps to the point of ubiquity. It is light, strong and smooth. But there is good cashmere and poor cashmere, the stuff that bobbles and pulls and generally lets the side down.

It's worth considering the properties of other wools and hairs: Mohair is light, lustrous and smooth, and suitable for summer suiting; alpaca is light, soft and strong; pure camel hair is insulating, soft and comfortable yet hard-wearing, so excellent for coating (Minnis) and sweaters.

This is a very thick vintage camel hair sweater in two tone stripes from Peter Scott, and comes out every winter — never losing shape and giving unparalleled warmth. Close up you can see the downy fibrousness of the hair; it's very tactile. I feel somewhat like a cuddly teddy bear when I wear it, even though I am actually rather spiky and unapproachable — just like a camel.

Military Camel

As well as providing excellent fibres for our sweaters and coats, the querulous camel has a proud military history too. I've been reading up on the Imperial Camel Corps, a brigade of camel cavalrymen that fought in Egypt in the First World War. The camel was well suited to desert operations, being able to cover long distances and carry heavy loads. The brigade comprised troops from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India with nearly 5000 camels that would form a column eight miles long. Imagine the noise. Stealth operations would have been entirely out of the question.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Penelope Cream - Hand-Knitted British Ties

Knit One, Grab One
Penelope Cream of London, creates hand-knitted ties from hand-dyed wool. The nature of the wool selection and knitting process results in something rather original, and as far away from the look and feel of a mass produced tie as can be possible  — as big as the gulf between a hand tied bow tie and a clip on bow tie, say.

When you wear one of these ties it looks unmistakably hand made. Fortunately for Penelope, her devotion to such intensive craftsmanship also means a factory in Hangzhou would not be able to replicate these ties in their millions. I mean, just look closely at the pattern and knobbly knitted texture here:

Above we see the Ripplesnake Grey tie, with colours that mimic the grey and green shades of a snake against a rock, I believe. Below we have the Deep Ochre Moss, inspired, they say, by the colours of moss against a stone wall. All ties have a shot silk lining at the neck. The ties have a relaxed, natural look that will look smashing with that tweed jacket of yours.

Penelope also takes commissions for bespoke ties if you are feeling inspired. Perhaps you could take a photo of something that has colours that appeal and work from that. A pebbly beach would throw up some nice shades. You could make a day of your 'tie colour hunt' — take a coffee and brandy decanter and a couple of pork pies, visit a local National Trust property. Perhaps you could stay at a nice little hotel.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Gregory Peck and Huntsman

Peck Fond of Huntsman
Did you know that Gregory Peck was a big fan of Huntsman? He patronised the famous Savile Row tailor over five decades, ordering over 160 pieces.

Here he is stepping out of Huntsman sometime in those five decades:

Gregory was partial to the house tweeds in particular. Some of his suits were exhibited at Huntsman and served to inspire a recent collection.

Speaking of particular, Gregory would never be seen in denim. Nor could we picture him in denim. He doesn't look the type. His son Anthony thought otherwise. He once bought his father a pair, thinking he would be filling a gap in his father's wardrobe. Somewhat predictably, the jeans never saw the light of day. What are your thoughts on denim? Do you follow the Peck code? Personally, as a material I find denim too cold in winter and too hot in summer. It is hard wearing though, you have to give it that.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Christmas Stocking Fillers for Men

Writing to Father Christmas
The decorations won't be considered till half past Advent at Tweed Towers, but we need to dispatch our letters to Father Christmas a little earlier in order to give him a fighting chance of delivering the goods, do we not? I am wholly convinced you've been nice this year —all our readers are nice — so you should be on the appropriate list (not the naughty one). You might want to emphasise just how nice you have been, with worked examples, to help your case. It's a Christmas meat market out there. Here are a few requests you may wish to sneak in amongst the auto-hagiographical bargaining.

Roullier White - Pewter Cigar Holder (Top)
A timeless cigar holder in pewter for 2 x 8" cigars — administer one after the Christmas Day lunch (around the time of the Queen's Speech), and one at the race or hunt meeting on Boxing Day.

Toscanini Sumisura - Monogrammed (Male) Jacket Hangers
You hear about people buying presents for their pets or even their aunts for Christmas, but never their suits. Why is this? For the pleasure a good suit can bring, this should simply not be the case. Happily, the remedy is simple: Marcello monogrammed hangers for suits and jackets in walnut by Toscanini SuMisura. They also produce matching hangers for trousers and shirts. Perhaps you should consider those too. You don't want them to feel left out on Christmas day.

Pantherella - Cashmere Fair Isle Socks
Pantherella plus Fair Isle plus cashmere equals the ultimate Christmas Day sock. The Duke of Windsor would heartily approve of these socks, which is reason enough for us to pester Father Christmas about them. And just think how good these will look with your grained leather country Derby shoes with Dainite soles when you go for that pre-lunch Christmas walk to open the appetite.

Drinking for Chaps - Gustav Temple and Olly Smith
Father Christmas can purchase a signed copy of Drinking for Chaps from The Idler. The Chap's Gustav Temple and that jolly wine man from the television, Olly Smith, take us on a guided historical tour around the drinks cabinet, explaining the great drinks and drinkers — there's an amusing diversion on Legend of Libation Oliver Reed — and advising on choosing a drink, when to drink it, and how to mitigate the consequences of drinking too much of it.

Quote from the chapter on champagne, The Bubbly Balloon: 'Sparkling wine was, of course, invented by an Englishman in England and is, in some ways, the most English of drinks, mimicking our eccentricity with effortless effervescence.'

Skandium - Finn Juhl Clock
The original Finn Juhl Clock is part of the 1952 design for the Trusteeship Council Chamber of the UN Building in New York. This clock is made to the same specification as the original from the Danish architect and designer but at half the size. Perfect for keeping precise time in your own chambers.

Trumper - Lavender Moustache Wax
Christmas is all about tradition —the goose, the Christmas pudding, the crackers, the egg nog and the moustaches. Yes, moustaches, let's make them part of the tradition. Keep your Christmas moustache respectably neat with Trumper's Lavender Moustache Wax, and have the adorable scent wafting up from your whiskers for the duration of the festive period.

Linley - Aston Chair Paperweight
A replica of Linley's Aston chair as a bronze paperweight. I think we may be too late for this one as they may have sold out, but don't trust me — do check. However, consider this a warning about getting that letter in too late.

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