I can’t wait to go abroad again. If you’ve seen the latest poll on The Dapper Chapper’s Instagram, you’ll know it was about the ‘ultimate getaway’. From Japan and the Maldives, to the slopes of Verbier and the Amalfi Coast, this poll got me hankering for a holiday. Big time. But while travel restrictions remain, I decided to have what I like to call a “head holiday” by reading Nick Hammond’s ‘Around The World in 80 Cigars: The Travels of an Epicure’.
Nick is an award-winning writer and has worked on some of the most prestigious titles for both travel and cigars – two of his great loves in life. I had a chat with Nick to discuss his inaugural book, the hilarious (and at times dangerous) encounters assembled to make it, and just why he decided to break the norm by making a gin to partner cigars…
Nick loves a challenge. You’ll learn that pretty quickly from the first few pages of his book; book writing is no easy feat, nor is coming face-to-face with a great white shark in South Africa, avoiding landmines in Bosnia, or dealing with crippling appendix pain in the rainforests of Borneo – all of which are meticulosity described from cover to cover. But Nick seems to take any challenge in his stride – dare I say it, seek them out – whenever possible: “It’s probably been the story of my life that, ‘just do it and see what happens,’” explains Nick. “There’s always a million excuses to stop yourself from doing things. A bit like me delaying myself from writing this book. But I quickly got fed-up with myself and just thought ‘get it done and see what the response is.’ And it’s been great so far.”
This highly entertaining read took me on a quarter-century journey across the planet, all from the comfort of my living room sofa. Nick paints a vibrant depiction of his travels, all of which are neatly underpinned with the reference of a cigar per chapter. But you must know that this is a travelogue of “cigar-related scrapes”, and by no means constructed solely for ardent stogie smokers. It’s for the epicurious. It’s a nod to cigar lovers. It’s a celebration of what this earth has to offer. Which is probably why I consumed the book in a matter of hours, mentally traveling the globe with each enchanting chapter. It was just the head holiday I needed.
Nick is also soon to release an audiobook version, in which his very charming voice narrates you through each escapade. I’ve actually had a sneak preview of the audiobook and here’s the scoop: it makes for a great addition to any lockdown walks or runs you may be going on right now.
“The audiobook was always in the back of my mind,” adds Nick. “I understand that reading isn’t for everyone, some people struggle to read, don’t have the time to sit down etc, but the audiobook is giving people another option to enjoy it, which I love. It’ll be on my website so people can download it from there – I hope it’ll be well received.”
If you’re like me and prefer the feel of a well-bound hardback – grab a copy. It has become a pretty addition to my bookshelf with it’s fresh, aquamarine coating and bursts of zesty orange for the font and page-marker (not that I ever needed that latter).
While Nick remains travel bound like the rest of us, that hasn’t stopped him from taking on a new challenge. And when I heard about it, I thought he’d bitten off more than he can chew with this one: a gin that partners cigars.
The Oriental Cigar Gin – a world first
I think it’s fair to say that when most of us think of a person smoking a cigar, the tipple of choice usually evokes some dark liquor, a golden rum over crushed ice, or even a punchy, piping-hot espresso. So what made Nick think a cigar-complimenting gin would work?
“I almost felt bad doing it if I’m honest,” Nick explains. “I am in no way an expert taster, but from my time travelling and writing, I do feel like a have a broad and decent plate. I know what I like and I feel I know what’s good.
“A few people asked me what on earth was I doing, even rubbishing the idea before I’d even explored it. But I suppose that contrarian side of me, very much the same one that was apparent when deciding to write the book, said ‘I’m not going to do the same as every other bugger and I’ll lead my own path.’”
Nick concocted this idea to make the spirit with the owners of Leggets – a luxury brand synonymous with premium leather goods, and a company I’m sure many of those reading this would appreciate their distinguished craftsmanship. But the owners over at Leggets were keen to expand too. Introduce Nick into the mix…
“I remember saying to the guys (at Leggets) before we even considered making the gin, I don’t think gin and cigars go!” he continues. “But then the gauntlet was thrown down: why doesn’t it work? Who says it can never work? Next thing I know we’ve started a new challenge.”
See, I told you so.
The Oriental Cigar Gin was born in a boutique distillery in the Cheshire countryside. This is a world first too, in that this gin has been specifically blended to complement the nuances of a fine cigar. “I feel we’ve made something very unique and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved,” adds Nick. “It’s great served chilled from the freezer or with a tonic. And remember it’s outstanding in its own right – you don’t need to smoke a cigar with it to enjoy it.”
So what does it taste like? Well, unfortunately I can’t give you my review just yet, as I’ve decided to save the taste-test for when I can safely meet fellow Dapper Chapper, Adam. But as soon as we’ve sampled it – along with a couple of Hoya de Monterrey No.2s for good measure – you’ll be sure to see a piece dedicated to the gin right here, on The Dapper Chapper blog.
But if you can’t wait for the review and want to tuck into the book and/or the gin yourself, there’s a good few combo gift sets over at Leggets page, here.