My work travels take me around the globe, and I have developed a simple routine to square myself away when I land in a new locale. It is a simple process that involves visiting my hotel bar—immediately upon arrival and at any hour of the day—and asking the bartender to pour me a dram of his favorite scotch. Simple.

When I found myself in Marrakesh, I stayed at the storied La Mamounia, where Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much was filmed. The resort was also a favorite of Winston Churchill, who spent the winter of ‘35 there on a painting holiday and returned in ‘47 to write his memoirs.

After finding my suite and strolling through the property’s lush olive tree gardens, I commenced my transcontinental, post-flight debrief in the Churchill Bar (previously known as the Piano Bar). I asked the bartender two questions: his name and his favorite scotch in the bar. 

Youssef smiled and reached for a bottle of Highland Park 18.

The much lauded, award-winning HP18 exuded a gentle peatiness, complemented by notes of soft toffee, honey and a light floral touch. Its fragrant nose preceded a balanced, velvety palate that evoked brittle toffee, stewed fruits, honey and a hint of coffee. The long, elegant finish left a faint, lingering impression of smoke and toffee. 

Jangling piano keys jarred me out of my amber-tinged reverie and I nodded in approval at Youssef to pour me another. A colleague joined me and between puffs on chocolaty Padron ‘64 churchills we wondered aloud how exactly Sir Winston, a known tippler, ran up a legendary US$100,000 bar tab with his entourage during a brief jaunt in Morocco. 

Through our drink and smoke, we gleaned the vicarious pleasure of an imagined scene—British army officers standing in the same bar a century ago, invigorated by the same vices, and plotting the subjugation of ‘uncivilized’ cultures. Tonight, in a lively bar in the ‘Paris of the Sahara’, imagined empires were hatched over a bottle of Highland Park 18. 

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