I love a good cigar every now and then, there's something celebratory about them, like Champagne – something decadent and slightly mischievous.
I was lucky enough to be able to indulge in such Churchillian pursuits on Tuesday night, at the gallantly titled 'Chivas 7 Cs of Chivalry' dinner at Boisdale in Belgravia, a paean to tartan run by cigar afficionado Ranald Macdonald.
Only last week had I donned my kilt for the Monkey Shoulder Burns night celebrations, but felt duty bound to whip it on again, along with a purple velvet smoking jacket, natch. Greeted with Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque-tails on arrival, I get talking over canapés to a seasoned freelance journalist called Judy about her stint as a sex book writer. 'It's like anything in life', she informs me, 'if you do your research, you'll be fine'. At which point we are swiftly seated.
The dinner, hosted by Chivas Ambassador Phil Huckle, promised to explore the four pillars of chivalry: gallantry, brotherhood, honour and valour. I am seated next to William from The Express, who used to write quizzes for Cosmopolitan. There's a theme emerging here... To my right is Dominic Midgley, of London Paper fame. I ask him how his book on Russian oligarchs is going. 'Very well, but my agent wants another 10,000 words before he starts going to publishers. He keeps dangling the carrot and making me write more'.
We are stopped mid conversation by a floral-shirted Ranald, who taps a spoon against his Champagne glass and summons Phil Huckle, who makes an impassioned speech about the merits of chivalry, and how woman are still won over by chivalrous acts – he's right, I certainly suffer from White Knight syndrome. Everything we eat and drink begins with the letter C: Champagne, Chivas, canapés, caviar, charcuterie – a curious concept.
An exquisite chocolate three ways desert with 'honour' etched onto the side of the plate does the rounds, along with Chivas 18-year-old, which I water down when no one is looking. We then retire to the roof terrace for cigars. Cocooning myself in a tartan blanket, I see Ranald lighting up, and he encourages me to do the same. Tonight we're on the Romeo y Julietas. Apparently cigars got their literary names after the beloved books that were read out to the factory workers while they rolled.
The cigar is seriously huge; easily the biggest I've ever smoked. I puff away on it with brio and manage to make short work of it. I smoke it so fast, that Mr Chivas declares it's the most impressive cigar action he's ever witnessed. Perhaps I'm a natural, which is rather worrying. Mid cigar, I get to try Chivas Regal 25-year-old, a mere year younger than me. At £200 a bottle, it's not cheap, but even I, whisky neophyte that I am, can appreciate its complexity. No sooner had I pondered its peachy almond depths, than we were kicked off the roof for making too much noise. How unchivalrous!
Château de Ricaud, Bordeaux 2005
A lively nose of ripe cherries, black berries and forest fruits. Heady and elegant, the palate was silky, smooth and rounded, with luxurious spices, black pepper, and a long licorice finish.
A secondary fruit nose of candid peel, sultanas and Old Spice aftershave. Fresh, citrusy and clean on the palate, I found caramel, honey and fruitcake mixing into a long nutty finish.
Chivas Regal 25-year-old
A complex nose of peach, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon and woody spices from the oak. The palate was smooth, almost creamy, with toffee, caramel and almonds in the mix. Elegant, clean and beautifully balanced, it had a long rewarding finish.