Whether it’s outstanding service, impeccable artistry or exquisite manufacturing, excellence can take many forms. But what a person defines as excellent also depends on his or her own individual taste. In the Editors’ Picks series, Worth staff members share their favorite products, services and experiences for you to look into this year. Click through to see senior editor Ken Rivadeneira’s picks.
Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico
Cultivating culture in the tropics.
“Just pick two colors. Don’t think about it—go with what you feel,” said Sofía Arsuaga, the in-house art curator at the Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton Reserve, as we began our private painting party while staying there in November. Staring at a blank canvas, the only thing I felt was despair. Then we covered the surface with red and purple oils, and with Arsuaga’s guidance, layered other colors to create a work with a distinctly Caribbean flavor. It was a deeply satisfying experience. The two-hour lesson in abstract painting is one way the hotel transmits one of Puerto Rico’s greatest, and lesser known, attributes: contemporary art. Arsuaga, a San Juan-born painter and sculptor who previously taught at the island’s School of Arts and the Museum of Puerto Rico, is developing a rich artistic program for the resort. In addition to painting, pottery and monoprinting workshops for guests, she conducts complimentary art tours of the property and local galleries, and she can arrange private visits with top and emerging Puerto Rican artists.
Despite its economic troubles, Puerto Rico fosters a robust cultural scene that has attracted international attention from collectors and gallerists. It has also launched acclaimed artists such as Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, who have represented the U.S. at the Venice Biennale. The hotel itself possesses many virtues such as prime beachfront suites with 24-hour butler service, a lush eco-sensitive landscape, an edenic five-acre spa and an elegant heritage as Laurance Rockefeller’s 1950s Hollywood hangout. But its role as ambassador of the arts may be what stays with guests long after they leave.
Room rates start at $799 per night, ritzcarlton.com
An elegant whisky that defeats controversy.
Raj Bhakta, the embattled CEO of rye whisky brand WhistlePig. Despite the company infighting that I described in the piece, WhistlePig has been successful in the craft spirits market by combining a great niche product with savvy branding. A perk of working on the story—one of my favorites this year—was visiting the brand’s farm and distillery in Vermont and tasting its various whisky expressions. This latest one, the 2016 Boss Hog, is a 14-year-old single-barrel rye that has been aged in oversized 250-liter casks. Brawny like its porcine namesake, my sample of the Boss Hog checked in at 120.6 proof, packing a spicy, buttery punch of cinnamon, caramel and vanilla, while keeping in check the sting that lesser ryes are known for. Only 30 barrels of the Boss Hog are being released this year. Whatever happens internally with WhistlePig, the product remains an absolute must for whisky lovers.
An exquisite varietal that time almost forgot.
Even though it ranks highly among oenophiles for its mighty and complex taste, Priorat wine is rarely on restaurant menus—Rioja usually dominates the Spanish selections. That’s why Ferrer Bobet’s 2012 Selecció Especial, made with 100 percent carignan from century-old vines, piqued my interest recently. Until the 1990s, Priorat was a virtually forgotten wine region in Catalonia whose stony soil and blistering days followed by cool nights made it a harsh environment for most grape varieties. The local carignan, however, thrives in the climate. There’s been a renaissance in Priorat over the last 25 years, and Ferrer Bobet excels at bringing out flavor from this grape. The winery is located on some of the steepest, highest and coolest parts of Catalonia, which allows for a measured ripening and excellent acidity, and grapes are handpicked and sorted, excluding the use of herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. The result of Ferrer Bobet’s meticulous process and use of ancient vines is a balanced, oaky red with a minerality that should not be missing from your dinner table this winter.
Golf clothing for a younger generation.
Bradley Allan this year to solve a major problem for the sport: How to make golf apparel cool—and attract younger players. Formerly head designer of Tommy Hilfiger Golf and AUR Golf, Franklin set out to make clothing that performed well and accomplished the moisture wicking and cooling factors now associated with athletic wear, but in sophisticated styles that can be worn off the course. It’s a mission I can admire: I grew up playing tennis in 95-degree Florida heat, and I was always put off by people wearing obviously sweaty sports apparel in a clubhouse. Social faux-pas aside, another problem with typical athletic wear, particularly golf clothing, is the tendency toward oversized, grandfatherly fits. In contrast, Bradley Allan’s Oxford Pique is a modern fitted polo that allows for plenty of breathing room while creating sharp lines on most body types. And the fabric is 80 percent pima cotton, which is richer and breathes better than regular upland cotton, while the 20 percent polyester creates the moisture-wicking effect that has become a mainstay of high-performance sports clothing.