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Photo: iStockPhoto

Travel essentials

The more I travel, the simpler I want the process to be

The more I travel, the simpler I want the process to be. But the dichotomy here is that I now carry more items with me when I travel, than I have ever done. All to, apparently, simplify my life.

Of course, there is my iPhone on which I now have seven different airline apps, all designed to aid me in cutting down on items I need. My iPhone lets me check the weather at my next destination before I pack. It lets me check in and choose a seat. It lets me know if my flight is on time, and it even acts as my boarding pass.

Such is the importance of my iPhone that it alone is no longer enough. I now need a nice case to carry it around in and, due to the decidedly dodgy battery life in the device, I also now need to carry a cable and a portable power pack with me, just in case it chooses to run out on me.

Next up, stowed away in my bag is a Xikar portable humidor. If, like me, you enjoy smoking cigars, this item is a total game-changer. In the past, I’ve taken maybe one cigar with me on my travels.

The thing about travelling with cigars is that you may, or may not, have a chance to smoke them. This depends very much on time (a minimum of half an hour for a good cigar, with the last one I smoked, a Cohiba Behike 54, taking me nearly two hours), the venue (in many places in the world you can now only smoke outside), and of course the overall situation, as it may not always be best practice to light up.

If you’ve taken three cigars on a week-long trip, it is quite possible that you aren’t in a position to smoke any of them, meaning that by the time you get home, they may be well and truly ruined having been out of a humidor and knocked around a bag for seven days. Over the course of a year, this could cost you plenty of money lost and, more importantly, having to discard one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts: high-quality cigar tobacco.

To solve this problem, I now carry my precious cargo of Cuban cigars in a portable humidor, a classy piece of kit that is the Rimowa of the smoking classes. However lithe my mini-humidor is, it is still yet another item to take with me on tour. Add into this the need for a good, consistent cigar cutter and a butane lighter, and I’m just about weight-down with enough smoking ephemera to make Castro weep.

It doesn’t stop there, however, as the really important travel accessory that I take with me wherever I go is a hipflask. I say a hipflask, as for some trips, I take a variety of different ones, filled with a variety of different elixirs and potions, and I would happily encourage you to do the same.

Not only is it vital to have some control of what you imbibe while abroad, it is key to make sure that you have the correct pairing for your cigars (obviously…) and that you have something of extreme quality hidden away in case your hosts are too mean to really dig deep, or simply aren’t interested in the art of refined drinking. Either way, you’d be stuck without a hipflask of something good.

My first tip for the hipflaskters—as I’m calling those of us who travel regularly with them—is to choose one spirit that is your go-to for a nice premium drink, and make this your basic hipflask setting.

For me, this is Scotch. An old Scotch, and I head for The Glenlivet XXV 25 year old, a rich and fruity dram that is perfect with a cigar, or simply as a nightcap back in your hotel room, when everyone else has taken an early night.

I would be of the mind that one average sized hipflask is enough for a two-day business trip away. If your trip is longer, say three-four nights, you’re going to need a second hipflask, this time filled with something a little different.

Here, I go for a grape-based spirit. At the moment I’m working my way through an obscure bottle of 1954 vintage armagnac, acquired at a dusty auction house in a village that appeared to have not changed since the juice itself was made, but this will soon be replaced by Hennessy XO. This is one of the world’s greatest cognacs and provides a pivotal turning point from the dryness of the aged whisky in your other hipflask, giving a sweet offering of oak spices. Simply delicious.

Four nights away. That’s quite a stretch. But we often pull longer trips (I’m off on one to New York just two days after I finish writing this) and for that, a third and, if you’re feeling adventurous a fourth hipflask is required.

We are now entering the world of the cocktail, and pre-batching our at home. The first one is easy: a simple gin martini. Pour a small portion of dry, white vermouth into your hipflask, swirl it around and pour it out. Then simply fill the hipflask with gin, Beefeater 24 or Tanqueray 10, please. That’s it. Please await further instructions.

The second cocktail you could make, if you want to be brave and take a fourth with you, is an Old Fashioned. This you’ll have to make in advance also, but this time in a glass. Take a sugar lump, dash some Angostura bitters on top, and add a dash of water into your glass. Muddle the mixture up. Add a large measure of bourbon whiskey, in this case Maker’s Mark, and a couple of handfuls of ice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and decant into your hipflask.

Now, the key with both of these pre-batched hipflask concoctions is to put them straight into the cool minibar in your hotel room when you arrive. This will chill them down and make them perfect for serving after a few hours. You may certainly find that you have a short Old Fashioned glass located in your bedroom for water. It may also be that there was an ice machine located in your hotel. If not, order some up from reception. These two items will give you the ability to enjoy your pre-made Old Fashioned, as if you were back in the hotel bar.

When it comes to your martini, only one hotel room I know of supplies in-room martini glasses (the excellent Flemings Hotel in London, who also have in-room complimentary gin bars!) so you can either order one up from reception, or if you think this is a little crude simply decant your martini into the nearest available tumbler.

And there you have it, a selection of travelling goodies to help your trips pass with ease. Just don’t forget that with the current rules on hand luggage, you put your hip flasks into your check in luggage. I’m already missing a couple of lovely vintage hip flasks due to my own stupidity, as my mind was distracted by my airline apps and filling my portable humidor.

Oh, well. Maybe next time I’ll travel light, whatever that means.

Joel Harrison is a drinks writer and consultant. He also runs the website WorldsBestSpirits.com and tweets on @joeldram.

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