Bespoke Life: 1983 Brandy by Domaine Charbay

There is nothing like the “art and lore” of brandy distilling and more you pay, the more refined & honest the spirit… one would hope. And that brandy should have a story.

The Perfect Drink

THERE’Sbrandy‘ and then there’s Brandy. Made from the distillate of wine and then aged in oak (where it gets its amber color), Brandy (and it’s cousins, Cognac and Armagnac, made in region of the same name in France)  is all to often overly-processed, artificially colored and drastically underwheling.

Enter the Karakasevic family, from a long line of master distillers, who settled in the ‘highlands’ of Spring Mountain in Northern California to churn out some of America’s most unique and cherished spirits.

This brandy was hand-distilled by Miles Karakasevic (Madter Distiller) andfrom a base wine of ‘Folle Blance” then aged in Oak Barrels from Limousin France for an unfettered clarity and an almost incomprehensivble complexity.

Top notes of mulling spices with caramael and a tlight floral toast with a dollop of blood orange marmaled. In essence: this stuff is good!

Distiller’s Notes: “Launching the Brandy program in 1983 with a 1,000 gallon Pruhlo Alambic was a long term commitment to distilling in California. I wanted our brandy to reflect my heritage of hand distilling.  Little did I know that we would distill so many spirits in between but I was determined that the premiere would be how I envisioned it should be: full bodied and elegant.  That my son apprenticed by my side and learned to distill whiskey, rum, pastis, flavored vodkas and more while the brandy aged…well, that’s how my people carry on. For me, distilling isn’t a business; it’s a way of life.

— Miles Karakasevic


About Charbay Brandy N0. 83:

“The most interesting thing I tried at WhiskyFest was a brandy of all things. Tasted like what I imagine a Christmas rum raisin cake tastes like; juicy allspice…” Camper English/SF /WhiskeyFest

100 cases made of 750ml and 95 cases of 375ml. Get it at

Index of Superfluous Necessities: The Spirits Decanter

The mark of a true gentleman is best illustrated in the details of how he carries himself, dresses himself and adorns his surroundings (and/or chooses to do away with frivolity while doing so).

TAKING a cue from this we shall visit the gentleman’s private bar, the place where he chooses to store a small but carefully curated selection of spirits for the Gentleman to enjoy at his leisure.

It is important that the gentleman carries a selection of spirits that suit his tastes (not a message or image he wants to convey) as well as those friends, colleagues and individuals whom imbibe with him in the pleasures of a Scotch or cocktail.

The Drink...

[TGG Hint; for more on re-stocking you bar see The Spirit’s “6 Upgrades to your Bar”]

In keeping with this notion (of doing away with unnecessary frivolity) a gentleman must eschew any possible show of pretension, unfortunately such avoidance is at times difficult as spirits producers have worked diligently in developing eye-catching labels which are as self-announcing as the shape of the bottles themselves.


Enter the Spirits Decanter.

The Decanter

Unlike a wine decanter which primarily serves to air a wine (in addition to separating sediment from the w2ine in older bottling) the spirits decanter hails from an era where a gentleman may have had his favorite local distiller bottle the spirit, straight from cask, into an often ornate decanter from his collection. These decanters were often made by the lead craftsmen of the day, many still recognized today: Christofle, Baccarat and in the Americans, Tiffany’s.

The crystal decanter

Today the spirits decanter, although made somewhat irrelevant by the lighter and more transportable bottle, serves as an elegant touch to a gentlemen’s bar an does away with the unnecessary affectations of recreating a gaudy tavern, with rows of labels, in what should be an elegant pursuit of pleasure… one sip at a time.


What to look for:


Look for a decanter which suits your tastes and sorroindings; cut glass is not a taste all enjoy equally. Should a Gentleman’s personal style lean more towards minimalist, then find a decanter which expressese the same kind of lean simplicity.

The most important part of a decanter is the stopper: it must create and air-tight seal, otherwise its contents will evaporate. Although plastic is popular, sanded glass, which requires a slight twist once inserted, is far superior.


Where to keep them:

The Setup

Keep decanters in an elegant setting on a bureau or in a corner table on a tray. Otherwise in the confines of a cupboard.


What to keep in them:


You’re go to spirits: Scotch, whiskey, gin, rum, etcetera. Cream-based liqueurs are best

The letter should reflect the spirit therein

in their bottles. Other items such as triple-sec or vermouth could also be kept in a decanter; but these are better-off kept stored in their own bottles.

While monogramming with one’s initials is a silly affectation having a single letter, that of the spirit  enclosed, is useful if all the decanters are the same style so that a “G” would denote Gin while a “S” is Scotch.



[All the decanters pictures in this post can be found at or at as part of his “Home Collection” the ‘modern’ decanters can be found at Crate & Barrell]




The Almanac of What a Man Needs to Know: Winter Cologne

To many, winter and its smells, are more associated with the celebrations, rituals and foods of the season than with any other particular thing.

THIS, of course, differs depending on your particular cultural and ethnic background, but for most winter means musky tones; burning wood, pine, cinnamon, spices, etcetera. Throw into this mix, a healthy does of celebratory food which can range from the scent of masala and fish sauce, to jerk seasoning and roasting goose and, well, you get the idea… it’s a whole lot of smells thrown in together. So why add more?

The Difficulty of Choice…

Most men’s fragrance-choice gets dictated by 1) what their father wore 2) what they have worn more or less since high-school or college and/or 3) what their partner, girlfriend, wife etc has bought for them. Gentlemen; is this any way to truly choose anything that defines you as a person? We think not.

Man meets Fragrance.

The Ritual

As we covered in the “In an Out of Summer Colognes…(here)” there are some basics in the world of men wearing cologne which we will paraphrase here:

1- You should, but don’t have to, switch-up your cologne/scent two to three times a year; if anything, keep it simple: a scent for when it’s cold, and one for when it’s hot. Also, should a long vacation or trip be in the schedule, don’t be afraid to pick a small bottle of something up to wear during this time—say a Turkish inspired cologne for a month in Istanbul and the Bosphorus… it will always bring back great memories every time you smell it.

2- Buy small bottles. The smaller the better- most scents perform at their peak for 2 years or so, especially those with more natural compositions which bring us to the second:

3- Don’t buy scents at a drug-store: these are often left-over dregs which have been stored carelessly and are often years old. Stick to (yes, annoying) department stores perfume counters (insist you know what you like) or check out where you can browse by scent, producer and even order up as many samples as your heart desires.

4- Wear the stuff- to go to the drug-store, for a date, to lounge around the house: consider it aroma-therapy.

And remember:

5- You’re not supposed to smell cologne several feet away; in fact if a someone with their eyes closed can tell you’ve walked into a small room because of the smell of your cologne you’re wearing to much.

How much is enough (and this goes for the ladies too, a lot of women out there wear waaaay to much of the stuff…)? The idea is that only when someone gets close to you, enough to kiss you, then only then can tell you’re wearing a cologne. So that it is an integral part of you, an integral part of your presence, not an entirely different being that announces itself by its smell. No she (or he) is supposed to smell your cologne as a symbiosis between the perfumer’s art and your own chemistry.

Right! On with it!

Winter perfumes should not smell like a Christmas tree, nor remind you of Santa. That’s not the point- but because of the festivities, food, cold, and associated minutia encircling the winter season fragrances for this time tend to be a bit more substantial: woods, spices and musks.

The Winter Archetype: Brown Spices

Here we may hear such scents are “Orientals” which imply Indian sandalwood, star anise, and coriander, let’s say. Animalist scents, as uncouth as this may sound, is popular during this time, it gives you, its wearer, a bit of erotic mystique. These are namely ambergris (the best way we can put this… think of it as fermented sperm-whale honey), musks (most are synthetic…) and civet (a wild-cat… nuff said).

The Raw Ingredient: Sandalwood (Santal)

Moreover, whereas “fresh” citrus scents are apt in summer, winter (and fall for that matter) call for more cooked, roasted, and/or caramelized flavors: baked apples, burnt orange peel and the ever popular and fragrant bergamot (the orange which flavors otherwise ‘standard black’ earl grey tea.

Leathers have also become popular in fragrances as has, thanks to inroads made into perfumery, smells such as “smokiness”, all of which add a little bit of mystery and anticipation to the wearer, and that’s what you want!

Coming up: Smell’s like 2011 – Gentlemen’s Winter Fragrances

Index of Superfluous Necessities: The Smoking Jacket Revisited

The reinvented classic

We here at TGG get more hits a day from gentlemen all around the world for our post on the Smoking Jacket (here) than for anything else. This tells us that there is a real pent-up hankering to know what the smoking jacket is all about. To be sure the Smoking Jacket is not a summer thing, although a light silk one could be quite comforting in a cool summer night. Its origins, like so many other things sartorial, lies in the English noble tradition. British patricians thought it rude to expose a woman’s delicate (and we contend superior) nose to “off odors” and so therefore when the gents took their leave from the ladies to have cigars and cognac, they exchanged their jackets for one used exclusively for smoking. If you were born after Star Wars (A New Hope, not The Phantom Menace) chances are you have never seen this fine specimen in the wild; instead it is relegated to pretentious types in movies and t.v. shows. Fear not; once upon a time madras was for geriatrics.

We say; Get your smoking jacket on!

Traditionally the smoking jacket is made of velvet and silk; a silk body with a velvet shawl-collar; although padded silk collars and full velvet ones exist; and although most old-fashioned smoking jackets are three-quarter length. The more modern renditions fit like a blazer.

Can’t remember Ford administration and have no idea what Russian dressing is? Then stick to a blazer-length smoking jacket; especially if you plan to wear it out. Moreover, smoking jackets now a days come in an array of colors; the most elegant being black and deep midnight blue, although fabulous renditions can be found in off-white and black. Stay away from greens, ambers and greys unless you wan to look like a pimp. And definitely no animal prints. Being summer, now is the perfect time to buy one as many retailers and haberdasheries alike have steep sales of “winter” items during summer time.

Here are The Young Gentlemen’s Guide picks for your superfluous needs:

The Classic

Full length and luxurious in classic burgundy color with satin lapels, three pockets and full Bemberg lining; great with a long cigar or your favorite book (we recommend a Davidoff Millennium Series stogie). This is a robe more than a jacket. From Paul Stuart $797.00

Gearing up for Fall/Winter 2010/2011 is a choice selection of smoking jackets from various designers including Armani, Ralph Lauren and, our favorite maker of what has to be the hippest and most fashioned forward of all Smoking Jackets: Dolce & Gabbana. (Prices vary).

Ultimately a smoking jacket is about you- your individuality, your taste and personal flair; your “esprit des corps” as the French would say or in ‘Merican “mojo.” There are many fantastic of the peg shirts, suits, blazers and shoes out there. If you get something made, get something unique.

The Billy Reid Smoking Jacket

You want a great smoking jacket that speaks of your own personal style and taste? Get one made. Bespoke Life IF there is ever an item to get made to exacting custom specifications (delimited by non other than yourself) a smoking jacket is it. Shawl collar or peak lapels? Are they velvet or padded silk? The length? Lined? Etc. Saville Row is the classic choice (Gieves & Hawkes, Henry Poole, or Huntsman) as are a number of American establishments such as Phineas Cole, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Laurent amongst others. In Europe choices are aplenty and in Asia Ascot Chang or Singapore’s Raffles Taylor can work wonders.

TGG’s New Look

New Look, New Attitude same great dedication to the “Bespoke Life.” Check us out on Facebook as well as give us your feedback at tell us what you want to hear, what you want us to cover and what you want us to explore.

New Features:

– The Question guy: ask questions, food, love, clothes, gadgets- get answers; the new column will be released in July; send us an email us at with the subject title “QG”

– Continuing Coverage of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage

– Conslusions of Fragrances of Summer

– Gentlemen’s Wardrobe

– New Editions of Superfluous Necessities