With some of the highest liquor and tobacco taxes in the country, Washington state is not at first glance the ideal state to enjoy a weekend of gentlemanly pursuits. The Aspiring Gentleman had a chance to visit Seattle recently where, despite their goverment’s best efforts, the whisky and cigar scenes are alive and well. Planning on visiting Seattle in the near future? Find below our guide to must-visit places for the aspiring gentleman. While we expected the high taxes and regulations to kill the city’s premium cigar and liquor scene, we were pleasantly surprised and had an immensely enjoyable visit.
Imagine a hotel where the entire staff greets you by name; where a personal greeting awaits you in your room; where fine cognacs and scotches fill the mini-bar; where, despite state-wide smoking bans, hotel staff quickly and eagerly recommend the best spots nearby to purchase and imbibe in a fine hand-rolled cigar. With all this and more, The Four Seasons Seattle is our choice for top hotel in Seattle. With a world-class restaurant within (see below) and the best service we at TAG have ever experienced, you can’t go wrong with this hotel. While there are surely cheaper alternatives, The Four Seasons presents a level of luxury far and above the others.
Fans of French dining realize how difficult it is to find true French restaurants in North America. Many establishments produce French food, but few reproduce the the small-restaurant style French dining experience so common in France. In Seattle since 2000, Le Pichet has managed to do exactly this; sitting on their small, cramped patio, I was instantly transported back to my time spent in Paris. Their Les Tartines with Rillette de porc are a true throw-back to the French style, reviving a passion within us to re-visit France sooner rather than later.
For an evening fine dining experience, we return to The Four Seasons, where their ART Restaurant provides savoury foods, drinks, and the knowledgeable staff to pair the two. Upon arrival, our server noticed we were slightly flushed from the warm weather, and recommended two local beers served ice cold to cool us down and begin the evening in style. Featuring a strong Pacific Northwest theme with an emphasis on local ingredients, their menu was a feast for the eyes, and once again their knowledgeable staff helped us to select roasted peaches and nectarines and prosciutto di parma to start, as well as Moroccan spiced rack of lamb and a crab sampler for mains. Our server provided perfectly balanced wine pairings for our meals, and we proceeded to spend the next hour enjoying one of the most well-balanced, full-flavoured dinners we have ever had the pleasure of experiencing; this is one of those restaurants where the servers are invisible until just before you need them — perfect. Finishing the night off with a sampling of cheeses, a glass of port and a dram of Bunnahabhain 12, our stomachs were full and our souls relaxed. Overall, a highly recommended experience.
Our hotel’s concierge was quick to recommend two fine tobacconists in Seattle — Rain City Cigar and F.K. Kirsten Tobacconist. While Rain City Cigar is about 2 miles south of downtown Seattle, it is highly rated as having one of the finest cigar selections in the Pacific Northwest and the service to match. F.K. Kirsten Tobacconist, set inside the Pan Pacific hotel, has an incredible selection of pipes and pipe tobacco, as well as a fully stocked humidor. We managed to discover another fine tobacconist as well — The Tobacco Patch. With a store immediately behind the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market as well as several other locations in the city, we were greeted with smiles at each location. While their humidor had a musty smell to it, the cigars were in excellent condition, of which we purchases many — including Tatuaje, Nestor Miranda, J. Fuego, and others.
While we were amazed with the variety of fine tobacconists in the city, beware of many less-than-stellar establishments; we wandered into Smoke Plus, a store with an appealingly large humidor that turned out to be dank and musty, with half the cigars broken apart and beetle-infested. All in all, Seattle has a fantastic assortment of tobacconists; while some are in disrepair, the majority provide excellent service and product.
While we were impressed with the whisky selection at the ART Restaurant, Seattle has several dedicated watering holes with vast whisky selections. Whisky Bar, falling a half step above a dive bar, contains a wide selection of whiskies, and is a great place to visit late into the evening, or when you feel like losing all pretension and just drinking. Looking for something a bit more upscale? Try Bookstore Bar, where the walls are lined with books and the whiskies count in the dozens. Something a bit more modern? Try the Zig Zag Cafe, where the whisky selection is vast and the cocktails are renowned. When it comes down to it, the Pacific Northwest is known for its beers, not its whisky; however, Seattle still offers a wide range of options for the whisky enthusiast.