By Barry Singer
Lavish sums clearly stimulated Churchill’s appetites even at an early age. Account receipts survive for the provisioning of his Boer War expedition to South Africa in 1899. Along with his telescope, field glasses, saddles, and a bronzed needle compass, Churchill took with him the following inventory of alcohol:
Six bottles of vin d’Ay sec, eighteen bottles of St.-Émilion, six bottles of “light port,” six bottles of French vermouth, eighteen bottles of Scotch whiskey (“10 years old”), six bottles of “Very Old Eau de Vie 1866,” and twelves bottles of Rose’s cordial lime juice.
With this order, Churchill embarked on a relationship with the London wine and spirits merchant Randolph Payne & Sons of 61 St. James’s Street that would last nearly forty years. Churchill’s orders with Randolph Payne, if anything, increased after his marriage in 1908, no doubt due to the growing demands for entertaining generated by his burgeoning political career.
The staples for each order were various brands of ten-year-old Scotch; St. Estèphe red wine from Bordeaux; sparkling Moselle; Eau de Vie (a colorless fruit brandy commonly served as a digestive); and of course Pol Roger champagne.
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.