Watches, Whiskies, and More: Six Pairings of High-End Timepieces and Top-Shelf Spirits

There’s nothing like a well-earned, sublime sip of your favorite libation at the end of a long workday, whether at home or out-and-about — especially if you’re wearing just the right wristwatch to count down to your Happy Hour. Here we match up six noteworthy spirits — four Scotch whiskies, a mezcal and a brandy — with an ideal timepiece companion.

Benriach Smoky Twelve and Hermès Arceau Squelette

Master Blender Rachel Barrie created the Smoky Twelve ($64.99) for the Award-winning Speyside distillery Benriach as part of its recently released range of expressions paying tribute to Benriach’s origins in 1898. The heavily peated single malt is matured for 12 years in three separate cask woods: Bourbon, sherry, and Marsala wine, resulting in a burnished gold color, smoke and vanilla notes on the nose, and cocoa, brown sugar, orange peel, and smoothly layered smoke on the palate. Playing partner is a Hermès timepiece that also pays tribute to its maker’s origins and evokes elegant smokiness with its dial. The Arceau Squelette is perhaps the watch that best expresses Hermes’ historical roots as a saddle maker: its asymmetrical lugs are shaped like stirrups and the sloping font of its hour numerals evoke the silhouettes of galloping horses. This model has a skeletonized self-winding movement and frames a smoked, sapphire dial through which that mechanism can be glimpsed. It’s attached via the stirrup lugs to a matte-black alligator leather strap from Hermès’s own atelier.

Glendronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage and Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Kingsman Knife Edition

What could be more natural a pairing than a Scotch whisky and a watch that were both developed in collaboration with the makers of this year’s Kingsman sequel, The King’s Man? On the whisky side, we have the Glendronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage ($1,299) — also blended by the busy Ms. Barrie, with input from Kingsman franchise director Matthew Vaughnn. Matured for 29 years and drawn from just six casks from rare vintages, this copper-colored whisky is aged in both Oloroso sherry and Pedro Ximenez casks and offers dark berry and plum notes interwoven with walnut, cedar and leather undertones, leaving a rich finish of cocoa, truffle and raisin. Jaeger-LeCoultre contributes the watch to this pairing, the Master Ultra Thin Kingsman Knife Edition. which takes its inspiration from a “couteau” (knife) pocketwatch Jaeger-LeCoultre made in 1907. The 40-mm rose-gold watch is only 4.25 mm thick, with a broad bezel that slopes gently toward the edge of the case to create a profile reminiscent of a knife blade. The caseback is engraved with the Kingsman logo, as well as its special edition number (out of 100 pieces).

Octomore 10.4 Single Malt and Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater

Developed by the peated-malt maestros at Bruichladdach Distillery in 2002, the Octomore series has garnered an avid following for its heavily peated, briny, aggressively smoky flavors. Hailing from the 10th series of the Octomore, the 10.4 expression ($234.99) tackles the challenging question as to whether older is always better in Scotch whiskies. Distilled in 2016 from the 2015 harvest, it’s the youngest whisky ever released by the Islay distillery, aged three years in high-toast virgin limousin oak casks that bring out its powerful, well-rounded, peaty profile, which caresses the palate with bittersweet cocoa, aged leather, and a honeyed, lingering finish. Standing up to the Octomore is an Octo watch of similar youth and equal complexity: Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater. Released in 2016, its the slimmest chiming watch on the market, with a case measuring just 6.85 mm thick. The ultra-thin Caliber BVL 362 operates the chiming of the time, which is amplified behind the cleverly constructed cut-out dial.

Hatozaki Small Batch Whisky and Grand Seiko Toge Special Edition

Both the watch and the whisky in this match-up are inspired by the art and culture of Japan. Hatozaki, from Master Blender Kimio Yonezawa of Kaikyo Distillery, is named for Japan’s oldest stone lighthouse, constructed in 1657 and its branding pays tribute to the naturalistic art of the Edo era (1603-1867). The flavor profile of the Hatozaki Small Batch ($60), an artisanal blend of 5- and 6-year old malt whiskies produced in batches of fewer than 20 casks, is heavy on honey, dried fruits, and lightly smoky undertones, resulting from its maturation in bourbon, sherry, and mizunara oak casks from Japanese forests. Japan’s natural wonders also inform the dial of the Toge Special Edition, whose British racing green dial features a special textured finish designed to evoke the slopes of Mount Iwate, the highest peak in Iwate prefecture in northern Honshu.

Vamonos Riendo Mezcal and Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet

Super-premium mezcals are generally known more for bracing bite than subtle smoothness but Vamonos Riendo ($59.99) is an exception. This triple distilled, high-altitude artisanal mezcal takes pride in its “bright” easy-drinking flavor profile, with a medley of citrus and herbal notes interlaced with traces of mint, anise and pepper. And its playful, colorful label, inspired by the traditional art of the state of Oaxaca, the heartland of mezcal, makes it the perfect companion for the Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet, whose open dial showcases the world’s first violet-finished skeleton movement. Royal purple tones highlight the bridges and the star-shaped rotor, and the tonneau-shaped Defy 21 case, made of titanium, is mounted on a matching violet textile strap to complete the ensemble.

Frérot Extra Cognac and F.P. Journe Automatique Lune

Finally, we unite a bottle and a timepiece that both trace their origins to French artisans. Frérot Extra ($200) is an Hors d’âge Cognac from the Grande Champagne region of France, mixing eaux-de-vies aged from 30 to 50 years. Matured in Limousin oak, it’s as pure as a cognac can be, with no boisé or caramel added and very minimal sugar, making for a bountiful nose of orchard fruits and a lavish blend of walnuts, caramel and cardamon on the palate with subtle hints of tobacco. Francois-Paul Journe, born in Marseille, takes a similar, resolutely traditional approach to making his eponymous brand’s timepieces, and the Automatique Lune, in a 42-mm rose gold case and a “Havana” brown dial, is among his most elegant creations. The dial is notable for its engraved clous-de-Paris motif and hosts, a moon-phase display at 7:30, a large date at 11:00, and an indicator for its impressive 120-hour power reserve at 9:00.

Are there any timepiece-and-spirits pairings you’d recommend? Send us your own ideas in the comments!

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  1. All very nice but we Americans like to see a good bottle of Kentucky Bourbon on the list.

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