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Objects of Desire

A look at Bentley’s latest car and Johnny Walker

by Michael Karam

Bentley makes its move

Saad and Trad have been blowing their trumpet about the new Bentley Continental GT. And why not? There are few names in motoring that match the romance, elegance and sheer brute force served up by Bentley. Today, Bentley is owned by those nice people at VW, who have been selling Bentley since January 2003. The Germans are at pains to point out that the car is still a wholesome bastion of all things British and admittedly the Bentley Continental GT is all car. Forget the walnut and leather (although it’s difficult), it’s the mechanics that will really blow your mind. The 6-liter, yes 6-liter, engine can do 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, with a top speed of 198 mph (that’s 318 km/h to you foreign chaps). Fast enough? If you want one, it will set you back £145,000 (plus VAT and registration) but there is a two-year waiting list. “We expect it to do well,” said Michel Trad. “Rather like what the S-Type did for Jaguar.”

When Bentley and Rolls Royce were made by the same people, there was a saying that Bentleys were meant to be driven, while Rolls Royces were meant to be driven in. They knew what they were talking about back then.

A Kind of Blue

Staying with objects of desire, those of you who ever wondered why Johnny Walker Blue Label was so ridiculously expensive, should have gone along to the Phoenicia Intercontinental last month to hear Ian Williams wax lyrical about the Cardow distillery’s finest. Created in the 1990s, on the back of demand for super luxury blends and malt whiskies with unpronounceable names – especially from wealthy Japanese executives who have a habit of getting excited about Western luxury goods – it has become synonymous with extravagance, luxury and mystique and, in some cases, international intrigue (it was allegedly Saddam Hussein’s whisky of choice). However, Williams, a distiller by profession, was in Lebanon to dispel some of the myths surrounding what is essentially nothing more than a magnificent whisky. “When we created Blue Label back in 1993 we wanted a blend that would hark back to the days when whiskies had that unique heavy Victorian style,” he said. He went on to explain that unlike Black Label, which is a blend of 40 whiskies, Blue Label is made of 15, but, according to Williams, they are chosen with care. “We have 7 million casks of maturing whiskies at the Johnny walker distillery and every now and then we get one that achieves something special. These, as well as our stock of rare whiskies, often from distilleries that no longer exist, are put aside for Blue Label.”

But does it taste any good? Williams suggests a mouth of iced water before every glug of “Blue” to clean the palate, but in all honesty this can become a bit of a performance after a while. Price aside there is no doubting Blue Label’s pedigree; it really is an outstanding whisky, but like the great malts, it is so potent and rich in flavor – nose, palate and length are all rampant with peat, oak, fruits and spices – that it has moved beyond the normal confines of whisky and into the realm of the great brandies. As such, it is probably best drunk after a meal – Williams even suggests drinking it from a brandy glass. To add ice is to miss the point and so the only real debate is whether or not to add water. There is no doubt, Blue Label is a fabulous whisky, but at $150/bottle, you had better start saving.

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Michael Karam

Michael Karam is the author of Wines of Lebanon.

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