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Few spa packages finish in a cigar lounge. Exhaling fragrant Cuban tobacco plumes and reaching for my tumbler of whiskey, I have this smug revelation at the indulgent finale of a Gentlemen’s Signature Experience within London’s Bulgari Hotel.
Later on, the remaining third of my Romeo y Julieta Medium Churchill standing by, I hit the web and surf through the various gents’ treatments at London’s other fine spas and grooming parlours to verify my theory. Verified. While phrases like “deep cleanse” and “exfoliation” are common as Moor mud, alcohol and leaf tobacco don’t feature at all. A shame, I think, re-lighting up, my homework completed. Because with this offering – which heads up an entirely new Gentlemen’s Grooming range – the Bulgari is truly onto something. Where the rivals are reliably metrosexual, they’ve gone manly; while the rest cater to diet-conscious David Beckhams, they seek rakish James Bond (Roger Moore-era) types.
Beckhams and Bonds alike would have relished the Experience’s 90-minute first half, which takes place entirely in the two-storey, 2,200ms Bulgari Spa’s bespoke barber salon. En route to said chamber, I admire the opulent, murmurous spa’s enormous colonnaded pool, numerous treatment rooms and discreet, low-lit vibe. Must spend more time here, I mentally note, as my appointed therapist James – charming, neck-tattooed and encouraging well-coiffed – sets to work on my messy mop. Very quickly, both body and style are happily restored.
Next, after a short face massage and scalding hot towel to relax my pores, comes an old-fashioned wet shave, straight out of Victorian London. The closeness is impressive, even compared to a top-of-the-range DIY razor, but it’s the overall experience which I relish most. Head pulled back. Adam’s apple thrust upwards. Throat exposed to blade’s mercy. This rare surrender of power is nerve-wracking, and therefore oddly exhilarating.
A quartz-stone massage and some product tips later, I’m rising five floors back to ground level, before climbing a secluded staircase into the bijou Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop & Sampling Lounge. From the compact humidor, I may select one of ten fine Cuban cigars, plus a carefully-selected whiskey, cognac or rum in accompaniment. Sensibly, at this juncture I tap the wisdom of manager Mike Choi: he was runner-up in 2013’s Habanosommelier World Championship, which, in ordinary speak, means scarcely anyone on the planet knows more about cigars.
Settling into my Choi-chosen Cohiba and Scottish malt, I scan the leathery lounge. Saffron walls are illuminated by pools of soft yellow light; above them are black-and-white photos of celebrity cigar-lovers, Roger Moore included. Jazz music plays languidly and an artisan backgammon board stands by, ready for action. I imbibe another nip of whiskey and close my eyes. If the stated aim of a spa package is to make one feel better, then, well, box ticked. Ticked with aplomb. And ticked without a deep cleanse in sight.
For more information, visit bulgarihotels.com/en-us/london/spa-and-fitness/gentlemen-s-grooming