People are thirsting for human interaction, after two years of shutdowns, government-imposed restrictions and Netflix marathons. An exclusive gentlemen’s club held weekly at Md Bespoke, the luxury men’s fashion shop deep in Toronto’s tony Yorkville neighbourhood, is meant to be an antidote to what we had unfortunately become accustomed to.
Previously in Toronto, a great place for men to get together in a casual setting was La Casa del Habano, the Cuban cigar mecca on Yorkville Ave. What stood out, for sure, was a first all-star lineup of Cuban cigars, a smorgasbord of premium brands like Cohiba, Montecristo and Partagas.
But what also stood there was their outdoor patio, a safe haven for (mostly) men to have a cigar and a Cuban rum or coffee, and enjoy a fine spring or summer day. It was a great place for idle chat, maybe with someone you’d met for the first time. There was a culture or “feel” to it, one of the few exclusive, true men’s clubs in the city. Soon, though, anti-smoking laws pushed out the patio, and soon after that La Casa del Habano shut down its business in Toronto.
Those with even more grey hairs on their temples will remember the previous incarnation of La Casa del Habano cigar shop on the northwest corner of Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. That shop had an idyllic backroom set up, another true men’s club feel where you could escape from the noise and bustle, choose a fine cigar then lounge in a leather-back chair with a coffee and a New York Times.
Md Bespoke: An exclusive gentlemen’s club
The Md Bespoke events are a recreation of that, in some ways, smaller get togethers, by invitation. It’s where premium single malt scotch or fine whiskey meets fine food, all in a relaxed environment. Businessmen of different backgrounds and career trajectories, life experiences, and ethnicities come together. Conversation flows from politics to finance to pro sports. There’s no judgement, laughs are aplenty, held on Md Bespoke‘s two outdoor back patios.
I work long hours. So when I am done, to be able to relax, chill out. Whiskey is not about consuming. It’s not like when you have a beer, and you are thirsty. This is more about having a moment to reflect, stimulate the senses. Whiskey helps you unwind.
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey: Matched up with medium-full Bodied Cuban cigar, like a Sancho Panza Belicoso
Last Thursday, the feature libation of the evening was Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, distilled on a 300-acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Uncle Nearest was a formerly enslaved man who in the nineteenth century taught Jack Daniel how to make Tennessee whiskey, when Daniel was a teenager. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is the fastest growing American whiskey brand in U.S. history, and the top selling African American-founded spirit brand of all time. It’s available at the LCBO.
The whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal prior to aging in charred oak barrels – a unique process makes Uncle Nearest unlike any distilled spirit anywhere.
So how did it go over? We asked around.
Style tip: Best to stay cool during the summer with tailored linen shirts. Limited runs keep you well dressed and exclusive. Shirt has one pocket to secure your cigar.
Pairing with a fine whiskey enhances the flavours of the cigar
Says Sacha: “This is how you define luxury. Pairing with a fine whiskey enhances the flavours of the cigar. When you have both flavours together, it’s like a symphony of flavours in your mouth. The taste of whiskey changes when you have a cigar and vice versa.”
Says Lee: “You smoke a fine Cuban cigar. They’re not the same, but they are always good. I thought it would enhance the flavour of the cigar. I thought the cigar though enhanced the flavour of the whiskey. So they go very well together. It brought out notes that I didn’t taste with the whiskey and notes I didn’t taste with the cigar [on their own].” A Sancho Panza Belicoso is a good choice.
Says Richard: “I love my whiskey. If I were to order anything, at any time, it would be a whiskey. There’s a smoothness, a flavour [to Uncle Nearest], there’s an intensity to it. It’s not watery. With this one, I thought right away, instantly it said I want to be your friend. My relationship with whiskey began when I was painting. If I was alone with the canvas, in my studio painting, I would have a good whiskey. I would be at one with the canvas, and the music and the experience. That’s how I was introduced to whiskey.
“I work long hours. So when I am done, I want to be able to relax, chill out. Whiskey is not about consuming. It’s not like when you have a beer, and you are thirsty. This is more about having a moment to reflect, stimulate the senses. Whiskey helps you unwind. There is something about the whole fragrance of the experience [combined with the cigars]. It’s a moment, combining the flavour and texture of a bunch of things, that opens up your palate that only a whiskey can. I am centred, grounded, and I like the feeling.”
The ideal summer patio drink
Says Anish: “First of all, I am a huge Moscow Mule fan. They are usually made with vodka. What it does for the whiskey with the Moscow Mule is it expands the notes, so it’s a more complex Moscow Mule.
“Can you say that for any other whiskey, if you replaced a Moscow Mule with whiskey? Would it do the same thing? Maybe, but there’s something nice about this. That’s because Uncle Nearest has a broad flavour profile. I find it has a really wide, slow finish, that may impact the entire cocktail composition, compared to vodka in a typical Moscow Mule. This is a deck drink, summer time, with a cigar. This would absolutely work in that context, where you want a refreshing drink.”
Special thanks to Al-Karim Moloo, managing partner at WBM Partners LLP, a boutique tax and advisory firm, for the whiskey, and John Silva from The Iceman. Special thanks also to Grower’s Flower Market & Gifts and Watchfinder