The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2019 Placement and Job Vacancies

IIMB logoPlacement and Job Vacancies


Exiting job opportunity for beginning female butler looking for adventure! You will be part of a team of six butlers who manage multiple households for a family based in Hong Kong, China, and soon, Europe, including providing F&B services and some housekeeping. There will be travel involved. Live-in, 65K USD p.a. base salary plus annual bonus, health insurance, etc., and annual flight ticket home. Chinese language skills NOT needed. E-mail the Institute for more details.


Client is looking for a butler or household manager who can manage a private villa for a family during the summer of 2020 (July/August). Must be able to speak French and English fluently. E-mail the Institute for more details.


You will be taking over from the current butler/valet/chef who is retiring after 15 years with this employer. Principal is looking for a team player who will report to her directly. You will not be asked to manage other staff (2 housekeepers). Duties will include cooking meals for the principal and her guests as needed (several times a week); do all the menu planning and shopping. Must have formal serving skills. You must have hands-on experience taking care of valuable china & crystal and setting beautiful tables with them. Second major duty is looking after the principal’s wardrobe: cleaning, mending, organizing, etc. Must have hands-on knowledge of what that takes. You will also be tasked with cleaning fine art pieces, antiques, etc., so must have an good understanding of cleaning techniques for those. Position is live-out. Good salary DOE with usual benefits. E-mail the Institute for more details.


A top celebrity needs a PA who can also cover some valet functions, for a one-plus year assignment. The ideal candidate needs to be energetic and upbeat, able to handle an intense workload and schedule in a demanding but pleasant, ethical environment. You’ll be based in England, so you’ll need a UK work permit; some travel to Europe is expected. Training can be provided if needed, although experience as a PA/valet is preferred. The right candidate will be apprenticed into the position by other PA’s working for this celeb in other countries. Remuneration package depending on experience. E-mail for more details.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.”


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, September 2014

  BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 10, issue 9

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

As the plethora (large amount) of articles quoted below on the introduction of a robot butler by some hotels shows (in distinction from robots that are merely called “robot butlers” but employed in limited capacities in other industries/professions), we can see that the process of automating our particular service has already begun—impacting the hospitality arena first. As we have pointed out in recent editorials and articles, however, there is something that no machine has even been able to offer, nor will ever been able to offer, Hal and R2D2 notwithstanding, and that is life. Which is one reason the Institute has changed its focus from teaching only the mechanical skills of the butler, to bringing service providers and levels to life with an increase in understanding of minor matters such as understanding the mind and motivations, life itself, and developing (appropriate) relationships that reinforce what is good about the old-style butler and do away with those elements that belong to earlier centuries.

This encroachment of robot butlers into hospitality is a limited first step, and should serve as a warning shot across the bows that formulaic service by flesh-and-blood butlers takes on the color of robotic butlers and will one day be performed by them as less expensive, easier to manage, more consistent, etc.

On a similar note, the article in the New York Times on 17 August lays bare another encroachment on related professions, whereby luxury services provided formerly by professional chauffeurs, chefs, and PA’s are available to citizens through their smart phone applications—and being provided by an army of low-paid amateurs. It’s good for Wall Street, it seems, and for those “on-demand employers” who would like, or need, to save money.  We should expect to see similar under-cutting marketplaces developing in the butler/household manager profession, such as Craig’s List. This is not a market limited to the less-well-off potential employer (for whom it is obviously a boon [something that is helpful]): We first became aware of this a couple of years ago when a wealthy client was discovered to be advertising on Craig’s List for an Estate Manager. In the time frames after these candidates would, predictably, not work out, she would ask for assistance from the Institute in finding personnel. We, of course, provided well-qualified candidates, but it seemed that the prospect of finding someone for half the price kept being too tempting.

A butler is not a poodle to be paraded across the salons of society—he is a dynamic individual filling a vital role for those who can afford his or her services to manage the minutiae and big picture that are required in supporting their lifestyle, so the principals can focus on those things they would rather be doing, or love to do. As such, the butler should be an intelligent and compassionate individual, capable of managing the spectrum of humanity as well as the complexities of today’s products and systems—he should be supported as one would support anything that was vital to one’s own success.  
Where a butler hangs onto the two-dimensional cut-out of the stiff and formal butler performing the same tricks in the same manner as he has for hundreds of years, he is in danger of being superseded by robot butlers programmed to perform his same duties with the same level of engagement. There is no benefit to be gained from trying to out-robot a robot; we are much better focused in our profession on demonstrating the one thing that no programmer can ever imbue into their creations: life itself. It is the life and understanding of live beings that people look for in relationships. Granted, there are some principals who have become so swamped in materialism that they do not seek life elsewhere, and prefer to deal with robots as the ideal servant; but as the movie The Cast Away showed, most people crave real, live people, with all their idiosyncrasies, all their demands and problems, to simply talking to matter devoid of emotions, self-determinism, life.
So how does one come alive as a butler? That’s something those who attend our training are discovering.

Letters to the Editor

Well done [on the last issue]! I am always amazed at the different skills and services that are connected to the word “Butler.” Goes to show that the Butler is widely considered as the top practitioner in his area of expertise. Still, I prefer to think of a Butler as the top private-service expert. WL

Ed: Thank you and understood. Butlers in venues other than the private estate, where properly trained, perform a valuable function in extending butler service beyond the home for those with their own butlers, and exposes those who do not have butlers, to the benefits of that service and perhaps giving them ideas to hire their own butler.  As with everything, where the venue does not engage in properly hiring and training their butlers, then the service is a parody and of no benefit to anyone in the long term.

Working with you has been a delight. You have a first-class organization that truly embodies the principles of service. MM

I want to thank you for taking the time to explain these matters so thoroughly, it has been such a pleasure and a learning experience working with you. TE

Butlers in the Media

Focusing this month on the new hotel butler robot, called “Botlr,” being employed now by Starwood’s over 100 Aloft Hotels. “A.L.O. [pronounced “el-oh.”] isn’t meant to replace the hotel’s staff and talent, instead it’s meant to help with the more menial tasks so the staff will have more time for face-to-face interaction with customers.”

Personal Assistants are also having their domain eroded by apps: “These days, most of life’s basic tasks can be solved through a single tap of an app. The only remaining compelling reason to have full-time personal assistance is as a status symbol, or for help with tasks that require more trust and security than a remote labor pool can provide.” Other apps (beyond Siri, Cortana, and Google Everywhere) add to the clamor for digital-based solutions rather than human service professionals, such as Humin, and Uber, Munchery, Jarvis, Fancy Hands, and Sprig, all of which steer work away from chauffeurs, PAs, Concierges, and even Chefs and into the hands of either digital programs or amateur service providers coordinated by new middlemen agencies.

For more articles, click here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

See this article for an interesting view of AI (artificial intelligence) and the encroachment of robots into the workforce, from which we quote:

“In the always-expanding world of technology, each generation of humans is witness to new gadgets and services that supplant earlier versions of gadgets and services, eventually leading to job losses in key industries. They point to automobile and other manufacturing, where technology and robotics have replaced millions of jobs over the past century. Robots and AI threaten to make even some kinds of skilled work obsolete (e.g., legal clerks),” said Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist. “This will displace people into service roles, and the income gap between skilled workers whose jobs cannot be automated and everyone else will widen. This is a recipe for instability.”

While this short article highlights the fact that job losses always follow AI, it also suggests that service industries would provide work for real people. Yet it seems that even this sector is starting to see job losses and certainly a change from the idea of being skilled and stably employed to being a semi-skilled and poorly remunerated contract worker.

The remedy? Bank on pushback from humans who still know they are humans and appreciate the joy of interaction and recognition that comes with live communication and terminals. And who are wealthy enough to afford professional and anticipatory service that truly manages their lives, rather than having to do it oneself through electronic gadgetry and robots. In the same way, there will be pushback against the smartphones, tablets, laptops and whatever else we can expect in the future—Dick Tracey style watches—that have killed human interaction and communication skills.


Butler Training

This month, we have provided training in Rosewood’s Jumby Bay in the West Indies and The Langham in Boston. As always, it is a pleasure to work with professionals focused on providing the highest levels of service, whether in private service or hospitality, and even in the corporate world. A recent meeting with the President of a company showed a kindred spirit who recognized that the kind of solicitous attention given by butlers was the definitive way to build trust and relations with clients.

Baron Shortt

Executive Protection & Security

by Baron James Shortt

 Traveling in the United States

When setting up travel within the United States, I look at all of the cities and States we will be visiting and call up and speak to the different law-enforcement departments there. They have been uniformly appreciative of the outreach and offered services ranging from free increased patrols in our area, or, for a fee, either uniformed or plain clothes officers to join the team in the local area. At a minimum, they alert all of the officers on duty to our schedule, so if a call of suspicious behavior comes in, they are ready and able to check. The American populace generally has no problem calling a local police department if they see anything suspicious or out of order.

Unlike traveling to Mexico and Venezuela, where the police are part of the problem, the police in the United States have been excellent in their assistance with the “Gray Men.”

We try not to travel with any weapons. The laws are specific from state to state and location to location. As I mentioned in a previous post, a concealed-carry permit for New York State and New York City, does not allow you to carry a weapon in any of the NY Port Authority controlled areas. It’s all too confusing and opens the door for a foreigner—meaning anyone from out of state, let alone out of the country—to make a mistake.

Traveling around certain cities can be very difficult. What can take 5 minutes at 2:00 AM may take an hour during rush hour. It is often best to look at maps and congestion travel times ahead of time, work out the time demands of your charge, and then share  those travel times with your charge. Sometimes walking is the best and quickest way to travel.

Mass transit is another efficient, but decidedly less glamorous way to travel. Subways in New York, trollies in Portland, CTA in Chicago or the Washington DC Metro are all excellent systems. In these cities, all mass transit is quicker during rush hour than private cars. But it also presents a certain challenge to move a team through the various turnstiles in a coordinated fashion. Day- or week-use passes should be purchased in advance to cover the times and days of travel. Dealing with crowded travel venues is more difficult and requires a bit of pre-travel choreography so you can be prepared to, on entering stations, shove the entire team’s way onto the right railcar and then ensure everyone alights at the right stop at the right time. It is also worth the effort to scout the trains to figure out which cars are the least used, so a team of people can enter and exit with as little fuss as possible; as well as to scout stations to know which entrances and exits present the best choices.

America is a large country with significant regional differences. Language and culture differ from north to south and east to west. People love their politics and sports and home towns. The cliché that Americans do not travel belies the facts that now, over 40% of Americans have passports and the educated regularly travel overseas. The impact of Latin American and Asian immigration shows a changing face to America. Yet even after one generation, while their looks may be not European, their thinking and approach to life is decidedly American. You cannot tell by looking at anyone in the country who is an American and who is not an American. It is a fascinating place to visit and travel.

Baron Shortt is the Executive Director of the IBA


Butler/Household Manager sought for a private estate in Southern California

This is a live-out position for US citizens or Green Card holders wanting a long-term position (with off-site housing provided) that requires hands-on household management and people skills. Needs to be willing and able to fill-in on housekeeping and (basic) cooking from time to time. Some driving required, so you must have good driving skills and a valid driving license. Ideal entry position, especially for housemen wanting to move up to household manager/estate manager positions — employers are willing to provide training/ongoing training. Usual benefits; salary $40-$80K per year, DOE. If you’d like to be considered, send us your current CV/resume with photo, and we will send you a more detailed job description.

Here is an interesting perception of butlers and a first as far as we know, of butlers being sought to work in retail stores—in this case, a bespoke tailor in London looking for “the presence and diplomacy of a professional Butler” to look after their very notable customers. Kudos to management for recognizing the qualities of a butler and the value of their service style to customers (who invariably have butlers).

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 7

by Amer Vargas 

After enjoying the passion and games of the world cup for soccer in Brazil, it might be timely  to learn a bit about what is considered that country’s national spirit: cachaça.

Cachaça Reserva 51, photo by Bruno Dulcetti
Cachaça Reserva 51, photo by Bruno Dulcetti

Cachaça (pronounced kaSHAsa), is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane. Depending on the definition we use, Cachaça is sometimes considered to be rum, although the straight description of rum defines the drink as a spirit derived from the distillation of molasses, a by-product of sugar cane. The fact that Cachaça comes straight from sugar cane juice distillation provides it with a fruitier and fresher aroma, with vegetal notes and a subtle sweet taste.

After South Korean soju and Russian vodka, Cachaça is one of the most consumed spirits in the world. Between 2005 and 2009 alone, production increased 400% and exports increased in its main markets, Germany and USA, while entering new markets by virtue of the wide spread popularity of the Caipirinha cocktail—as well as the versatility of the spirit to mix well with other drinks.

The history of Cachaça began during the first half of the 16th century, when Portuguese colonizers first switched sugar production from Madeira Island to Brazil, and then transported the pot stills that were used to make aguardente de canna,  resulting in the production of  Cachaça.

Largest wooden barrel of cachaça in the world at the Ypióca's Museum of Cachaça in Maranguape, Ceará, Brazil
Largest wooden barrel of cachaça in the world at the Ypióca’s Museum of Cachaça in Maranguape, Ceará, Brazil

As with most spirits, the production of Cachaça is both an art and a science. There are five main types of sugar cane used to produce Cachaça, chosen according to sugar content and ease of fermentation of the juice. Within 36 hours of harvesting, the canes are milled to separate the juice from the “bagasse”: solid wastes later used as fuel for the pot stills. The juice undergoes fermentation after the addition of drinking water, corn meal and rice bran. The sugar cane wine is kept in tanks for about 24 hours before being moved to the pot stills, where it is then distilled.

Distillation is followed by a light filtration to provide clarity, transparency, and brightness to the drink. Some producers bottle the drink immediately after filtration; others let the drink age for 1 – 3 years, although some Cachaças are aged for up to 15 years. As with all such aging, the process is designed to  improve the aromas and flavors. When ageing is done in oak barrels, some colour and aromas from the wood will flavor the drink, whereas other woods, such as jequitibá or peanut, do not confer color but do give Cachaça a delicious taste.

To conclude with some trivia: with Brazil being what it is–a vast country, and with Cachaça being loved as it is and produced all over the country, there are more than two thousand words in the Brazilian language to refer to the drink. The creation of so many aliases comes from a time when its consumption was banned, and so the Brazilians developed a wide range of euphemisms and code words to refer to it, such as abre-coraçao (heart opener), agua-benta (holy water), bafo de tigre (tiger breath), and limpa olhos (eye-wash).

This butler is meeting with some friends for some now-famous Caipirinha and batucada (percussive Brazilian music)!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 5 of 20

Rose Types, Again

by GJ dePillis

Last time, we reviewed the different types of roses. At some point, you may need to replace old dead plants or may want to revamp the entire look of the estate. Before you have a discussion with your gardening team, it is best to fully understand each of the rose types available. This is not a comprehensive list, but simply reviews the most popular rose types currently on the market.

Pat Austin, by David Austin Roses
Pat Austin, by David Austin Roses

Earth Kind: This company prides itself on rose research. Horticultural specialists created the brand name, together with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, which is part of Texas A&M. These roses are tested for landscape performance, disease resistance, insect tolerance and growth in a variety of soil types (from acid soils to alkaline clay soils). These rarely require pesticide use. Earth Kind are trying to create a rose requiring minimal maintenance (only pruning and slow release fertilizing, so the nitrogen doesn’t burn the rose).

China:  These roses are usually smaller with dense, twiggy foliage. Most are disease resistant and can be used as hedges and border plants. These are best for warmer climates from zones 7 to 11.

Floribunda:  These roses grow in clusters and have an excellent repeat bloom. They grow well in zones 6 to 9.

Grandifloria:  These are large bushes with large flowers on long stems. Mostly there will be single roses on long stems, but you will also see multiple flowers on a single stem. These grow well in zones 5 to 9. (Carried by or 800-256 ROSE (7673).)

Gertrude Jeckle, by David Austin
Gertrude Jeckle, by David Austin

Hybrid Musk: These roses bloom in arching clusters and are good climbers for small spaces. They also tolerate more shade than most other roses and are hardy from zones 6 to 9.

Hybrid tea: These roses have strong, but not necessarily long, stems. They make very good cut flowers for vases and are usually very fragrant. Some tea roses are thornless and some have many thorns. They grow from zones 5 to 9 mostly, but some varieties can grow in warm climates, such as zone 11.

Heritage Old roses: These roses grow differently than tea roses. The wood on the rose grows very slowly, so you don’t want to prune these back as drastically as you would a tea rose.  For Heritage roses, simply prune off old blooms and only prune these AFTER they bloom.

Knock Out Roses: This brand  is known for long lasting bloom, but the blossoms do not look like traditional roses. Some flowers only have five petals. Double Knock Outs have several full petals. They are known for hardy repeat-flowering throughout the growing season.

Drift roses: These are ground cover roses. This brand focuses on disease resistant miniatures which do well in colder climates. (Carried by or 800-256 ROSE (7673).)

Miniature Roses: These are dwarf roses and generally grow no taller than two feet tall (24”). Micro-mini are used for low ground cover and generally grow from 8” to 18” tall. These are most often used in hanging baskets, container pots, or as ground cover to fill empty spots in the landscape, as borders, etc. The mini rose is growing in popularity and is hardy in zones 5 to 10, but some up to zone 11.

Thornless Rose: There is a brand of thornless roses called “smooth touch” roses. Also there are some heritage and David Austin roses which are thornless.

  • David Austin’s Zephirine Drouhin is a breed from 1868. It has about 30 petals and is a good arbor rose. David Austin has a few other near thornless roses, which we will expand upon in upcoming articles. Most of the David Austin thornless roses are reddish to light pink.
  • Smooth Touch roses have been selected from thousands of rose bushes, encouraging the growth of the naturally thornless (90% thorn free) roses . These are available at most Lowe’s Home Improvement centers, as well as  or 760-721-7079
Jude the Obscure, by David Austin Roses
Jude the Obscure, by David Austin Roses

Butlers, please ask your gardeners to mark which types of roses your grounds have, so you can tell the difference and can inspect them at the proper time.

You are now familiar with most of the common rose types available on the market and to be found in all climate zones. Later on in this series, we will interview and investigate a couple of unique breeders for some insight into their roses.

Next in our series, we will cover how to maintain roses. This will be important for you to know what tools to buy, how those tools should be maintainted, and what schedule you can expect your gardening team to maintain.

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at

Jeff Herman Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

Q: Can one remove gilding on sterling flatware?

A: Yes. Many collectors want to remove vermeil (gilding) from sterling flatware. When I do so, I typically patinate the pieces and give them a light buffing for an entirely new look.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at


The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, January, 2013

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 1

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

With the very welcome increased interest of late in butlers by the media and amongst the newly wealthy in various countries, my wish is that those who help deliver on the promise in the year ahead, focus on communicating the standards inherent in our profession, and avoid the ever-present effort to deliver abbreviated versions in response to clients applying their usual modus operandi of “getting a good deal” simply because they do not yet understand the true nature of butling and so end up “buying themselves short.” Maintaining our standards, if I might state the obvious, is a win-win for everyone, and I’d like to see everyone winning as we move into a new year full of hope.

Butlers in the Media

Aljazeera carries an article on how graduates fresh out of butler school are being used to train prospective butlers in China, where private service butlers can expect to make 20K a year for very long hours. European butlers are in demand as status symbols but do not stay long because of the working conditions and cultural differences, and a lack of ability to do their jobs properly in the absence of the Chinese language skills necessary to manage the rest of the staff.

The BBC, on the other hand, reported that China and Russia are both experiencing a demand by their wealthy for British butlers commanding $150,000 and up. The demand in China is being met in part by six new training schools, which have been opened in China by a British recruitment agency.

CNN reports on the publication of a survey of over 2,000 domestic workers in the US—mostly immigrants and holding lower positions—who work long hours for less than minimum wage, etc.  Apparently, “The Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees minimum wage, overtime and sick- and vacation pay, does not apply to domestic workers.” Butlers and household managers are rarely treated in this way, but one would hope that in the households they supervise, the staff are not so treated. For more information, see National Domestic Workers Alliance []

As reported in multiple media, the Pope pardoned his ex-butler after he mis-used his position of trust to steal documents and leak privileged information. He was banished from the Vatican, but is receiving assistance to find a new position and house, and to start his life anew. “This is a paternal gesture toward someone with whom the Pope for many years shared his daily life,” according to the Vatican Secretariat of State.

According to the book Plutocrats: The Rise of the Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, the top 10% of American households in terms of household income makes $150,000 and up—butlers themselves in many cases qualify for this category.

750,000 Americans are in the top 1%, having a household income of just under half a million dollars: such households cannot generally afford to employ a butler or household manager—but can afford housemen and other household staff. 70% of these families made their money in the past decade, almost half of them being entrepreneurs—meaning that the background of seven-in-ten rich households is not one of wealth and luxury, and therefore their exposure to butlers–and the lifestyle they make possible–has been mainly through the media and word of mouth. So this is not an optimal market for our profession.

Around 150,000 Americans have a household income of $4 million and over, and so are more likely to be able to afford to hire a butler.


Congratulations to General Manager, Mr. Iain McCormack, and the staff of Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives, who were just declared the winner at the World’s Leading Luxury Resort and World’s Leading Villa Resort & Spa at the World Travel Awards Grand Final 2012. Their Mr. Fridays (butlers) were trained extensively by the Institute during October 2011.

A Creative Idea for Turndown 

Whether in a private estate or luxury resort, turndown amenities are a small way the butler can add to the guest (and employer) experience. Hats off to Mr. Kobi Gutman for a new twist that is bringing about many happy guests at the private Fort Harrison hotel in Florida, where he services the top suites. He actually carves these himself, not based on any earlier training or skills, but learning as he goes. Most simply utilize a red apple, and are tailor made either to the calendar (such as Halloween or July 4) or more often, to the individual receiving the amenity (like a Ferrari enthusiast). A smattering of his “works” are provided below—including one Mona Lisa, perhaps for an art aficionado?
































A Useful Resource

Congratulations to Ms. Fiona Cameron-Williams for her release of her Gentleman’s Gentleman application for the iPhone/iPad. We have not tested it yet, and look forward to some feedback from anyone who has or will.

Cigars, Part XI

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012by Frank Mitchell 

Maintaining a Humidor

When talking about maintaining a humidor, the two most important things to discuss are temperature and humidity. One sees the term Relative Humidity (RH) used quite commonly, though many people do not understand what the term means.

‘Relative’ and the fact that RH is expressed as a percentage, indicates a ratio. In simple terms, it is the amount of water vapour in a volume of air expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water vapour that volume of air could hold at that temperature. How much this maximum is depends on the temperature; so RH is a function of both moisture content and temperature. By itself, RH does not indicate the actual moisture content in the air, since saturation point occurs at different temperatures.

Some cigar enthusiasts scoff at the need to concern themselves with the temperature. Unless you store your cigars in a temperature-controlled environment or live in a very mild climate, I believe the temperature must be taken into account. This is because a given amount of water vapour, in a given volume of air, will have a differing RH% depending on the temperature.

The ideal environment in which to store cigars is a relative humidity of 70% at 70◦F (21.1◦C). 

The below table will show that as the temperature rises, the humidity must fall. Conversely, as the temperature drops, the humidity must rise. Care must be taken not to deviate too far from the ideal, otherwise you will end up with soggy cigars or cigars which will which have lost their aromatic oils.

Reviving Dry Cigars

Don’t! It is that simple. When a cigar loses moisture, it is losing aromatic oils into a dry humidor. When the humidor is opened, these oils are lost into the atmosphere. This should not happen in a well-maintained humidor that is checked daily. Dry cigars will have lost flavour and are harsh to smoke. Re-humidifying cigars means replacing the lost aromatic oils with water. The result is always a loss of flavour and aroma.

You may research how to re-humidify cigars if you are ever given any and want to rescue them for your own consumption, but hotels that sell re-humidified cigars to guests are ripping them off. Nor should a butler serving in a private estate offer such cigars to the principal’s guests—experienced smokers will know that what you have given them is sub-standard.

Recent Graduates

Mr. Raoul Gonzales trains butlers on the Norwegian Cruise Line Vessel Dawn. He is one of the Norwegian Cruise Line’s butlers who was trained last year by the Institute to then train his fellow butlers on the hard skills of butling on a cruise ship. Here Mr. Gonzales is shown taking them through their paces on synchronized service.

Once NCL has completed the training evolution, they will offer more services throughout their fleet for their high-end guests, than any other cruise line.

 The PA’s Corner

By Bonnie Low-Kramen

How I Learned to Speak Up

When is the tall one going to talk?” This is what actress Olympia Dukakis used to ask other staff members at the Whole Theatre where I was the Public Relations Director before I became her Personal Assistant. I was 29 years old, it was 1986, and Olympia was my employer and mentor. We then went on to work together for 25 years.

In private service, we know that communication issues can make or break us—to learn to confront people and situations positively is a skill that builds leaders in our profession. Employers also have a fear of speaking up and there are ways that we can help them—silence is not (always) the answer.

I had so many reasons for not speaking my mind. I think these are the same reasons why many private service professionals don’t say what they know should be said and there is much suffering in silence. It’s the fear factor. The fear factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to the problem of staffers speaking up to anyone, but especially to colleagues and employers. I understand what it feels like to be mute in the face of a situation that needs to be confronted.

The fear was about appearing stupid, ill-informed, or unprepared, even though I was none of those things. There was fear of being wrong, making a mistake, and losing my job. The fear had to do with the possible reactions of fellow staffers such as: “What are you trying to pull? Are you trying to make me look bad? Are you angling for my job? Do you think you’re smarter than me? Do you think you’re better than me?”

My lack of confidence was known to me and now, Olympia, my employer, saw it in high-def and I didn’t like it. I threw myself into my job and worked hard to do it well. I took the risk to give her my opinions, and she valued what I had to say. I began finding my voice. What helped the most though was having Olympia Dukakis as a role model.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The theater director and I had already been coordinating press interviews for several weeks, all of which had progressed without any problems. Then, in front of the entire staff, he called me a “liar” and the room instantly became quiet. I was horrified at the injustice and the public humiliation. Olympia said to the director, “You must be mistaken. I know that would never happen with Bonnie. Let’s talk about this later.” And we did deal with it later. The director was a serial bully who enjoyed the power trip. The thing about bullies is that they are threatening and powerful until directly confronted. Then they shrink away and unfortunately, choose someone else to bully. Try it. Look a person straight in the eye and firmly say, “I won’t be spoken to that way” and mean it. Watch what happens.

Olympia stood up for me. She spoke up and plainly stated what needed to be said. Another time I recounted a contentious conversation I had on her behalf, and Olympia’s outraged reaction was, “You will not be spoken to like that. Don’t take it from her.” And I didn’t.

Finding my voice had everything to do with witnessing role models use theirs. Finding the words that work for you in challenging situations will work magic for your career.

I learned from Olympia that it is important to speak up and say the hard things in a way that people can hear. Time and again I witnessed the relief in the room when Olympia said the thing that everyone was thinking but no one wanted to say. In most cases, I witnessed how speaking up makes things better and the elephant in the room disappears.

Now I say the hard things, too. The trick is to not wait until little problems escalate into a big one. I would be lying if I said I am now totally comfortable speaking up, but I do it and I have become much better at it. I encourage my students to do it, too, and they excitedly tell me of the positive results. Practice definitely makes it easier.

For instance, when the producer became emotional and verbally abusive to me on the phone and I tried to speak, he cut me off.  After several attempts, I calmly and firmly said, “If you will let me speak without interrupting me, I can help solve this problem. If not, I’m hanging up.” He stopped talking and we did our work.

Speaking up builds self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, and respect from others.

It feels like a risk. Do it anyway. I have found my voice. I learned the hard way that suffering in silence makes things worse, not better and only prolongs the inevitable in both work and in life. Life is too short.

Resources to Find Your Magic Words

Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations by Don Gabor

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

Editor Note: Ms. Low-Kramen also provides workshops on this topic, the next one being Jan 19-20 in California.


 Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Let’s Talk about Wine, Part X

by Amer Vargas 

New Zealand Wines

Today we fly to New Zealand in the Southern Pacific Ocean to appreciate some of the world’s newest and finest wines. New Zealand is one of the few southern hemisphere countries to produce fine wines. Compared to its northern counterparts, New Zealand shares the same latitude degrees as France and Spain, which may give an idea of the sort of favorable climate for their vineyards. Many varietals (mostly imported) benefit from the maritime climate, with long sunshine hours and sea-breeze-cooled nights.

Wine history in New Zealand began after a fashion two centuries ago when British residents devoted some time to developing drinks much consumed in their home country—their favoring of beer and other spirits, however, delayed the real blossoming of wine making until the late 1960s, when a series of historic changes ultimately led to the planting of vines in lands that had been qualified previously as marginal pasture.

New Zealand produces unique white wines, 50% being Sauvignon Blancs, as well as Chardonnays and Rieslings. These wines are notable for their purity, vibrancy and intensity: The fruit undergoing a long ripening as a result of cool temperatures, which allows flavors to develop while retaining a fresh acidity. There are 10 major wine growing regions, the most important being Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay.

Cabernet-Merlot from Hawke’s Bay, photo by Salman Javed

New Zealand’s most grown red varietal is Pinot Noir, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon also being important. Lately, Shiraz/Syrah is also being grown on previously cultivated land.

The country’s Sauvignon Blanc is widely recognized for its pungent and intense taste and its crisp acidity, which makes it easy to match with raw vegetables and salads. The Chardonnays offer a concentrated citrus and tropical fruit flavor combined with some refined minerals—and since they can yield all sort of body, they can be paired with a wide range of food, from fish and other seafood dishes such as shellfish, to poultry and citrus or vinaigrette dressed salads.

As for the reds, they are mostly full-bodied, which helps enhance medium-to-strong flavored cheeses, game and red meats.

Last, but not least, there is an excellent production of high-quality sparkling wines, following the Méthode Traditionelle (traditional method used to make Champagne).

I raise my sparkling Pelorus to this wonderful New Year that promises to be as excellent as my drink!

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The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.



The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, November, 2012

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 11

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

In our profession, discretion is an admired quality that is also a trademark. Quite rightly so, if we are to ever be allowed into another’s estate to serve them. The downside, which has yet to be identified as such, is that one can fall into smiling at another while thinking daggers—an emotion that is easy to see and unpleasant to be confronted with—and following a hidden agenda. When it becomes a habit, a person will be all smiles and handshakes while being busy undermining the person they pretend to befriend. It is my hope that this element of our profession can be reduced, as it serves neither perpetrator nor victim well. It results in broken promises to communicate or otherwise to do something, and a general culture of distrust and faux relationships. It is possible to maintain one’s integrity, to keep one’s own counsel, and to help others, without falling into pretense. I am sure you will agree with me, if you have ever felt a twinge of betrayal as a result of another’s actions.

On a different and sad note, Ms. Letitia Baldrige just passed away. The NYT provides a suitable eulogy for this bulwark of manners—her view being that manners are not a set of restrictive rules to be followed, but genuine consideration for others.

Letters to the Editor

“This sounds a bit left field, but to explain: Airlines are charging so much for a second bag nowadays, it works out cheaper to take a second passenger and carry one bag each. We thought it would be quite fun to do a story saying ‘If you want to cut the cost of air travel, have a butler travel with you.’ Any thoughts?” DM, National Newspaper Editor, London

Ed: It would be a clever vehicle for having a dig at the airline excesses, which I am sure will continue until passengers say “No more!” If you are wondering what the baggage-fee equivalent may be for renting a butler for the day, however, you are looking at $500 US minimum, so I don’t think it will work in the mathematics department when added to the butler’s fare, even if he is booked in steerage. But please, do what you can to make it fly in the world of emotions—you have our support.

Butlers in the Media

The Economist  and Bloomberg cover the increasing demand for butlers, particularly in emerging markets.

An interesting article on the more lavish hotel suites available for one’s employer when traveling.

A curious article, also about hotel suites and amenities, and claiming to cover the Top Ten Things Luxury Guests Want, talks of Fragrance Butlers, Surf Butlers, Tanning Butlers, and Tartan Butlers, but makes no mention of actual butlers.

Yet another hotel-related article, this time from CNN while it implies for some reason that there is something wrong with “on-call butlers,” draws attention to what it calls faux butlers—the emergence of “e-butlers who help the hapless get online; BBQ butlers who grill your dinner; boot butlers to refresh your ski boots after a day on the slopes; and a sunglasses butler to clean and repair your eye wear. What’s next? Our guess is an SPF butler to apply sunscreen to your nose.” We couldn’t agree more, and that is why we created the Hotel Butler Rating System in 2007, so as to differentiate between hotels working hard to provide real butler service, and those that just use the word “butler” as a marketing gimmick to identify in the guest’s mind the idea of “superior service” with whatever non-butler service they happen to want to market and sell.

Along the same line, here is another worldly item that has been graced with the moniker “butler” for instant positioning with superior service.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant

 by Lisa Krohn

An Interview Gone Wrong

I am sharing this story about an interview I had for a domestic position because the cultural complexities and the intellectual and protocol dynamics might be of interest to others, as I assess what went wrong and why, and offer ways to resolve these issues in the short and long term.

I was invited to a major hedge fund to interview for a residential, domestic project. That was all I knew. The contact was a man who presented himself as the principal, and his family name suggested to me that he came from a developing country. When I arrived at the office, the receptionist laughed when I told her whom I was meeting. I apologized for the mispronunciation and she clarified that she was laughing because the name was an alias. The man I eventually met was from a different developing nation than the one I had guessed, but despite the alias, was nonetheless a partner and major player in the firm.  He told me that he wanted to hire me for two reasons:

1. To teach his chauffeur how to be punctual when meeting him and, equally as important, to bring him to his destination on time or even a bit early—he confided that he had been yelling at the chauffeur daily for years, but he just would not change.

2. To teach his housekeeper how to be more efficient and have a better disposition.

I asked him why he had kept her and the gentleman said that his wife liked her and she did not steal the jewelry.

He then asked me to tell him how I was going to accomplish these requests.

Here is what I said and how it unfolded. I began with the idea that he obviously wanted to invest in them by hiring me, so that said a great deal about what he thought of them already. I asked how long the housekeeper and chauffer had been with him and whether they were related.

“Two-to-three years, not related,” was the reply.

I asked what nationalities they were and the gentleman became incensed, saying that was none of my business and had nothing to do with the problems.

I said “Sir, with all due respect, I recently studied a contemporary culture that lives on boats and which has no concept of what day or time it is.  Perhaps your chauffeur does not understand the integrity that is evoked by being on time in our Western culture. In that case, I could teach him pragmatically why it is crucial for you to be on time and why it builds self esteem for him.”

The gentleman replied, “Wrong answer!”

I was utterly shocked. Not embarrassed so much as intellectually at a loss as to what the answer should be.  I asked if he wanted to have a discussion about the question, but he indicated he was ready for me to leave. I then said I was confident that I could empower the housekeeper to be more efficient and have more joy in her work. I explained my lifetime of esoteric knowledge and how it was directly applicable to her in a pragmatic and tangible way. But he merely repeated that the meeting was over and walked me to the door.

Needless to say, I was not offered the project. This is the one and only time I have ever had this type of conversation and experience. I welcome your insights into what the answer to his question should have been, and what went wrong in our rapport. Do you think it was personal and he did not like me, the messenger? Perhaps I was right and he wanted my advice for free? Maybe he was so accustomed to yelling, being angry, and belittling others that this was the only way he knew to interact? Please advise if you feel so inclined. I welcome your thoughts.


The location used for the shooting of the popular TV Series DOWNTON ABBEY is Highclere Castle in England, and the real-world occupants (Earl and Countess Carnarvorn) are advertizing for an underbutler. What is of interest is the  preferred prior experience: “Experience in the hotel or fine dining industry is important, as is an outgoing personality keen to engage and provide a top-class service to a wide range of people. A knowledge of wine and fine food is useful.”

Cigars, Part IX

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Frank Mitchell 

Part 1 of 3: Setting up the Humidor

Now that you have selected the right humidor, you will have to set it up. A humidor is not just a pretty box; it essentially tries to mimic the tropical environment in which the cigars originated. A dry cigar is harsh to smoke and has lost aromatic oils. A damp cigar will become mouldy quickly in warm weather and will be hard to light in cold weather. Make sure to position your humidor away from direct sunlight, drafts, fireplaces, and central heating or air-conditioning outlets.

Before you can stock cigars in your humidor, you will need to season it. This takes time and patience. If you are tempted to rush the process you may end up with a situation that takes even longer to remedy. If there is one thing I have learned about regulating humidors, it is that gradual, gentle changes are easier to control than wild swings resulting from rash attempts to change conditions quickly inside a humidor.

Calibrating your Hygrometer

One may assume that the cedar lining of a new humidor will be dry. If you stock a new humidor as is, the dry wood will draw all the moisture from the cigars. In order to know whether you are hitting the target or not, you will need an accurate hygrometer. Most digital hygrometers come already calibrated. Analogue ones must be calibrated before use. Here are some links that show a number of different ways to do this. The most well-know is probably the famous salt test.

While this method is quite accurate, do not use it to test a digital hygrometer as the corrosive atmosphere is not good for electronics (despite the text of one article saying that it is suitable for both types). I don’t imagine a corrosive environment is good for either type. However, if one only does it once, it would probably be alright for an analogue hygrometer.

An alternative is to wrap the hygrometer in a damp cloth for several hours, unwrap it and quickly take a reading. It should read around 95%. Take a note of how far off it is and then allow it to return to an ambient reading before adjusting it.

A better choice (and a very inexpensive one) is the Bóveda One Step Calibration pack. Said to be used by many museums, including the National Gallery, it seems to be well worth the $5 asking price and it is available online.

Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for making the adjustments to your hygrometer. This can be a rather delicate operation. Should you be wary of tackling this, remember that some people just make a note of the variance and take it into account, never actually adjusting their hygrometers.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part XI

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Amer Vargas 

There are different types of Port made from different grapes and grapes from different vintages (harvesting years). There is also a difference in  the amount of time the brew is stored , either in bottles or barrels—where the Port acquire hints of wood and/or benefits from the changes that only time can provide. According to the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Institute), there are the nine official Port classifications:

-White: dry and sweet versions  generally taken as an aperitif, with the dry versions aged up to ten years.

-Ruby: basic Port that acquires its name from the color of the brew. It’s aged for up to three years in a barrel, then bottled ready for consumption, and has a characteristic sweet and slightly spicy taste. The superior quality Rubies are called Premium Ruby.

-Tawny: also derives its name from the color of the drink. Real Tawny Port is made from grapes of different harvests and then aged from three to forty years (generally, just a percentage of the drink, not necessarily all of it). During that period, it acquires its brown-red color. Some “sharp” Port-makers make Tawnies by adding White Port to Red Port, but the results are a far cry from the dry and nutty flavours with raisin overtones that are found in the original.

-Crusted: of very limited production, this type of Port is named after the “crust” of sediment that forms in the bottle. It involves a blend of several harvests, bottled without being filtered and then allowed to mature, producing a rich and full-bodied Port wine.

-Vintage Character: (do not confuse with Vintage Port, see below) is a mix of Ruby ports that have undergone a total of four or five years of aging to create a better-than-Ruby Port.

-LBV or Late Bottled Vintage Port: wine from a single harvest, the year stated on the label, which has been aged in a barrel from four to six years. If it’s filtered, it doesn’t need decanting. The unfiltered counterpart is richer, rounder, and offers more complex flavors.

-Single Quinta: The same as an LBV, but coming from one specific vineyard or Quinta.

-Colheita’s: The same as a Tawny, but made out of a single harvest, the year of which is stated on the label, along with the year of bottling and a statement that the drink has aged several years in wooden barrels.

-Vintage: The highest quality Port is made out of a single harvest and aged two-to-three years in a wooden barrel, then bottled unfiltered to age for a considerable number of years. This process develops into the best of the Ports, exhibiting a wide range of flavors like plums, liquorice, pepper, blackcurrants, spices…depending on the maker and the harvest. Vintage Port is made only when the harvest is exceptional, which happens roughly three times each decade.

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The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, October, 2012

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 10

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

Some articles in the media about butlers prompt a few comments below; rather a busy month of training around the world; an excellent Domestic Estate Managers Association conference in Los Angeles; and the continuing series on cigars, wines, and the world of the PA. Enjoy!

Butlers in the Media

Interesting article from the BBC,  Servants: A Life below Stairswhich is fascinating, no doubt, to Europeans and Americans, and anywhere else where Downton Abbey is proving popular; but as I discovered when in Thailand just now, the article resonates as a world apart, a piece of arcane history, really, for most others elsewhere. What led to this epiphany? The fact that a teacher at a respectable university was busy teaching hospitality students that butlers were a creation of the hotel industry, with no idea of the existence of butlers in private service for a thousand years before their recent appearance in hotels.

Just as man has long considered himself the center of the universe, anthropocentric, so Europeans have become overly fond of, or perhaps complacent in, the rectitude of our cause, forgetting that there are other players on the stage. Take, for instance, a Western colleague sending a letter to the editor as follows (in response to the use of “The Queen of England” in the last MBJ): “Interesting newsletter as always. One article refers to ‘the Queen of England’ and while we all know to whom you are referring, that is not her correct title. It is ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,’ which would be verbose in the context of your article. But if you simply said ‘the Queen,’ everyone would know who you were talking about!”

The response sent back, which the reader conceded was correct in principle, was: “I was of the same opinion until, sitting in Thailand, I deliberately added ‘of England’ because, in our Anglo-centric way, we forget that many other countries have queens, including Thailand!” He did, quite rightly, however, point out “When you say ‘Queen of England,’ it upsets the rest of Great Britain, as though they were second class citizens. I doubt the Irish care.”

The point? We can say that the English butler stands as the standard for all things butlerish, but the idea that anything anyone else offers on the subject of superior service, by definition, must not be quite up to standard is just to promote a stereotype that my be quaint in its ineluctable (unable to be resisted) certainty, but which actually falls short of the ideals of any butler for whom the profession is a lifelong learning experience. I say this having experienced a level of open-hearted, solicitous, and caring service in Taiwan and Thailand which, married with the many admirable traits of a butler, would have no doubt found much support from employers of butlers in centuries passed. In other words, the essential trait of dignity can be manifested quite adequately with humility—it does not require that haughty attitude, whether spoken or unspoken, that has so embedded itself in the butler psyche, and the English in general, over the centuries. There are certainly many ways in which the butler provides superior service that are well conceived, but are employers really well served by an attitude or mindset that is fixed in its innate superiority, as opposed to enjoying the flexibility that comes from sharp observation, intelligent evaluation, and skilled implementation of new ideas?


Another interesting article with the requisite salacious title to attract readers—“What the butler saw naked in the bath”—provides another look at butlers a century ago. The butler saw his boss in the bath who expected him to brush his hair. “As far as he was concerned, [the butler] didn’t really exist. He was just an automaton, someone whose only purpose in life was to serve.” When the butler began his lifelong career in 1914, he “worked 16-hour days emptying chamber pots, shining shoes, and doing anything he was told to do. He and his fellow hall-boys had half a day off a year at Christmas, slept in either cupboards or cellars and changed their clothes—on average—once a month.” The job was grueling and demeaning resulting in resentment towards employers. Butlers and household staff are not treated that way in most countries today, but there are still some countries where they are. No system of servitude will ever work, because the resentment it generates results in the worst level of slavery and the degradation of the perpetrators as much as the victims. Thank goodness most service is based largely on mutual support and benefit.


USA Today’s article 10 amazing free hotel amenities lists the infamous Tanning Butler at Ritz Carlton Miami Beach and the Book Butler at a hotel in Minneapolis in the top ten… really?


Congratulations to Larry Mogelonsky for his recent article. It is not often one hears someone outside the butler profession stating what is obvious to us, but still new news to hospitality in general: that the butler is such a simple solution to differentiating a luxury hotel, or at least greatly increasing the avenues open to pampering and wow’ing guests. And a logical extension of butler service in a private estates to the hotels the same employers may well frequent when traveling.

And Mr. Mogelonsky was spot-on in stating that guests need to be educated in how to utilize their butlers, and the scope of their offerings. Mr. Mogelonsky provided some examples of services he had received from butlers, but there are far more ways that butlers can be utilized. The variance in perception is caused by the training they receive failing to pass on the full range of services that butlers can provide, resulting in butler service in too many hotels being too narrow in scope. The Institute’s hotel butler  rating service lists some of the services available, and the extent of the butler service that can be experienced in different hotels.

A couple of points that are not totally accurate in Mr. Mogelonsky’s otherwise excellent article, is that “the decision to initiate a butler program should be tempered by the availability of appropriate staff as properly trained butlers are both expensive and rare,” and the suggestion that the concierge staff could be made into butlers. Staff from whatever department, preferably with F&B background, who have a service orientation and a modicum of intelligence, simply need to be trained as butlers by a trainer knowledgeable in the services that can be offered, as well as the proper mindset and communication skills. This does not cost much at all when measured against the higher ADRs that Mr. Mogelonsky accurately states to result in butler service suites/villas. Anyway, kudos to Mr. Mogelonsky for his support of this rather recent arrival on the hospitality scene: the butler.

***Another article from England’s Telegraph about hotel butlers, as well as private service butlers, in England/Scotland, which is quite accurate and contains some interesting information.

The Hollywood Reporter reports the price tag to maintain (and fly) the most expensive private jets, such as the  Bombardier Global Express, is $3 million a year, with fuel costs alone in the $3,000-US-an-hour range. Sales of the largest business jets have increased 23% over the last five years with Bombardier, Gulfstream, and converted Boeing commercial jets leading the way. One broker in Los Angeles correctly asserts that owners of such planes would need to have a net worth of at least $100 million.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant

 by Lisa Krohn

Organizing a Principal’s Life

In a first conversation with the principal, a prudent gesture on your part, if possible, would be to ask them to speak openly and freely about the negatives in their life. Encourage them tell you everything that is wrong, that they don’t like or are angry about. Doing so will create an invaluable directive for you on how to proceed and frees them up, giving them a feeling you can take everything that is wrong, bad, or simply not a preference, and turn it around to an efficient and effective system. It suggests you are a proactive problem solver. They might just say to you “That’s your job, figure it out,” in which case,  be aggressive in dissecting everything as much as possible. If something is working well and you objectively think it is for the best, then keep it the way it is, rather than making changes just so you can show change. Be subtle, don’t report or discuss the changes openly with the principal unless they asked to be informed. Keep a daily journal and write everything you do as you go along.

Listen, listen, and listen, not only with your ears and eyes, but with every part of your emotional and social intelligence. Very often what is not said by the principal, intentionally or not, is what you need to be attentive to, just as much as you attend to what they are saying.

Be flexible, spontaneous, and adaptable. Be vigilantly critical of your own work and behavior at all times. Your physical presence, regardless of height and weight, is very important. Being silent and not talking is easy. Making your body still is one thing, but to make your entire presence silent when they are talking to you, or when sitting with them while they are reading something, is a fundamental part of being a Personal Assistant.

Create a manual for your job that includes philosophy, not just practical points. It is your responsibility to the principal, as well as for your successors, to be transparent, creating systems and procedures that will allow another person to step into your shoes and know how to proceed.


Ms. Teresa Leigh and others at the DEMA conference in Los Angeles spoke about the derailing of private service staff by Single Family Offices and Multiple Family Offices: basically corporate and finance offices being tasked with the placement of the household staff while having no background or real understanding, on the whole, of household management—and how this has been leading to unrealistic expectations of duties and downward pressure on salaries of private service staff, in the mistaken idea that household salaries and culture should mirror corporate salaries and culture. In addition, the market is being diluted and pressured by employers conceiving that household staff should be willing to accept steep cuts in remuneration on the basis that many are out of work and candidates should be happy they have a job offer; and employers looking to non-professional household staff for their staffing needs.

This is more than a pendulum swing away from the high flying days of the 1990s and early 2000s when salaries were quite exuberant and the household industry flying high. A corporate culture is inserting itself into the household culture, whereas what works in an office is not what works in the home. It is up to the profession as a whole to redefine and reassert the domestic culture and how it is best run by itself, not by a corporation, if we are to provide a home for our principals.

Recent Graduates

Some of the recent butler graduates at Six Senses Kiri, Thailand

Graduates at Regent Phuket Panway Bay, Thailand (pre-opening)
Some of the recent butler graduates at Karisma Hotels in Mexico

Cigars, Part VIII

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Frank Mitchell 

Handling Cigars 

A few tips about handling cigars before we talk storage. Cigars are a natural product and it is necessary to take care when transporting and handling them. Take even greater care when the cigars belong to your employer or, should you be working in a hotel, be offered for sale to your customers. Cigars are damaged relatively easily and should be handled as little as possible. Oils from our fingertips can be absorbed into the tobacco leaf. Wash your hands before handling cigars and avoid strongly scented soaps or hand lotions. Try to handle cigars by their bands if they have them or use cotton gloves. Avoid washing your gloves with strongly scented detergents or rinse aids which may also taint the tobacco.

Selecting a Humidor

All cigars need to be kept in a humidor. Even bulk boxes should be transported and stored in this manner. I once knew a GM who ruined several unopened boxes of Cuban cigars by insisting that they were safer locked away in his air-conditioned office. An unopened cigar box is not airtight – it is not a humidor. If your humidor cannot accommodate large boxes, you will have to buy cigars in smaller quantities or even individually. Keep this in mind when deciding what size humidor to buy. Buying an overly large humidor is also not recommended as it becomes difficult to regulate humidors that are less than half full.

One alternative is to line a camping cooler with untreated Spanish cedar and convert it into a bulk storage or transport humidor. By all accounts they work very well, but should preferably remain out of sight.

Humidors come in many sizes, ranging from the small, single-layer desktop humidor, to the large free-standing chest of drawers type. The most expensive humidor is not necessarily the best humidor. Cigar publications often run comparative reviews and these can make interesting reading. A good humidor is practically airtight. Open and close the humidor lid gently. There should be resistance due to the change in air pressure. The humidor should protect the cigars from light and should be lined with untreated Spanish cedar wood. For this reason, attractive acrylic-display humidors seldom work as advertised.

Humidors are described in terms of the number of cigars they can hold. Your humidor should be stocked somewhere between 50% and 100% of its capacity. A safe bet is to take the number of cigars you plan to keep in your humidor and add ⅓ of this number. This will tell you what size humidor you should purchase. A good humidor will offer a number of arrangements for stocking cigars of various shapes and sizes. If you are planning to stock unusually large or small sizes, make sure that the humidor can be configured to store them sensibly and safely.

For very busy hotels, where the humidor is continually being opened and stands in an air-conditioned environment, an electronically controlled active humidor is the best option. This type of humidor draws mains power and actively humidifies its interior, quickly raising the humidity level if the door has been open too long or if it has been restocked with bulk stock.

In quieter environments and in private homes, an unpowered passive humidor is not only quite adequate, but is both the more attractive and the more traditional option. Should you go this route, the next item on your shopping list is a good humidifying element. This is a small container with a grille opening containing a wicking material designed to hold moisture and slowly release it as needed. There are high tech alternatives available these days, but the traditional versions will do the trick, unless the humidor is opened and closed too often or is kept in a challenging climate. Humidifying elements are also rated in terms of the number of cigars they can humidify. Do not be tempted into saving money by buying too few elements. People believe that they will simply dry out faster and need topping up more often. This is not true. They can release a limited amount of moisture each day and won’t cope if the moisture level outside is to dry. A number of smaller elements distributed throughout the humidor will always be better than one very large element.

Analogue Hygrometer, photo by nathansnostalgia

Lastly, do not overlook the need for a good hygrometer. Many people opt for the lovely brass analogue hygrometers and then struggle to bring their humidors on target, not realising that these hygrometers need to be calibrated first. We will look at some of the ways you can do this next month.

A less attractive, but far more accurate, version is the digital hygrometer which comes to you already calibrated. For large stocks or valuable cigars, I recommend forgoing the attractive appearance of the analogue hygrometer in favour of the reliability and accuracy of the digital one. Whatever you decide, remember that saving money on this vital piece of equipment can cause you costly headaches – purchase the best one you can afford. If you are on a budget, remember that an inexpensive digital hygrometer will always deliver superior accuracy when compared to an analogue one in the same price bracket.

Next month we will discuss the various ways one can set up a humidor and consider the relative merits of each method.

DEMA Convention

The convention in Los Angeles just now was a triumph for DEMA: professionally run for professionals who finally have a vehicle for the butler and household manager industry to come together and work together with those who work with it. There were many good speakers, many excellent vendors presenting their wares and services, much good conversation, and many links made. Next year, the convention will be in Orlando. Although DEMA is mainly servicing North America, they are working on developing internationally, as well as launching a continuing-education program for butlers and household managers.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part X

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Amer Vargas 

 Welcome to Oporto, homeland to world famous Port wine. This beautiful city is the second biggest city in Portugal, and is located in the north bank of the Douro river, where its waters flow into the Atlantic.

Port is not just another kind of wine, but a fortified wine, meaning that a distilled spirit, commonly known as brandy (although it has nothing to do with the cognac-like beverage that one can purchase in wine stores), is added to the fermenting wine. Once the brandy comes into contact with the wine, fermentation stops, thus leaving significant amounts of natural sugars unfermented, and so giving the characteristic sweet taste of Port.

Croft Port Cellar, photo by R. Martins

Less fermentation does not mean the final drink has less alcohol than regular wines. In fact, the added brandy has a very high alcoholic content, giving Port wine 19 – 22 degrees of alcohol.

Only five grape varieties are used generally in making Port: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional; for white Port (not so well known) wine makers use white grapes exclusively: Donzelinho Branco, Esgana-Cao, Folgasao, Malvasia Fina, and Viosinho.

The area where Port is made and vines grown has a microclimate that presents the ideal weather –mild temperatures all year round—and ideal soil conditions. The land is full of slopes that have been into terraces that make mechanization very difficult, which means most of the work has to be done by hand, increasing the cost of producing and price for buying port.

The vineyards can be found on both sides of the Douro, and although traditionally Port had to be made in Vila Nova de Gaia (on the south bank of the Douro), nowadays it is allowed to age in barrels in other villages of the province.

Colheita & Vintage Ports, photo by Mirari Erdoiza




The creation of wine in Portugal goes back as far as the eleventh century and has improved over the centuries.

It was not until the English fought a war with the French in the Eighteenth Century that Portuguese wines (and so Port) increased in prominence and trade. The English, eager for good wine but not being able to obtain it from France, purchased it from its Portuguese allies. Later on, the English acquired some wineries near Oporto to make wines according to their own particular tastes. This fact explains why most of language relating to Port is in English and why Englishmen still consider Port to be a British tradition.

Editor note: One could say the same for tea, coming from China yet being considered a British tradition.

Tawny Port, photo by Jlastras












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The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, August, 2012

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 8

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman

Greetings: a longish journal this month, with a new contributor, Ms. Lisa Krohn, from the PA profession; and some good news on the public-image/PR fronts for our profession:  Jim Grise was featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle and there was more news in the media of butlers doing the usual, as opposed to butlers messing up. And taking direct action to influence the way the media portray our profession, I had the opportunity to train two Hollywood actors this last month on what a butler is, how he or she thinks, and acts, so they could portray their roles faithfully in their respective films. I found both individuals to be very eager to know the truth and look forward to interesting, as well as faithful, portrayals. And my most recent article for the hospitality industry, Creative Strategies for Maintaining Training Quality without Busting the Budget was picked up by several media outlets, showing strong interest in the subject. Information on the upcoming DEMA conference in Los Angeles for private service professions is provided below: consider going if you can; it is not often we have an industry specific convention to attend. In fact, by way of late breaking news, I am seeing if I can change flights and itineraries in order to make it there on the way back Stateside. See you there, perhaps?

 Letters to the Editor

 When a lady curtsy’s, should she have her hands behind her back, in front, or one in front and one behind? Googling it, I find one source that says to have the hands to the side or to raise the skirt, is considered insulting or at minimum impolite. If the lady is not to have her hands at her sides, perhaps clasped in front is best? What are your thoughts in this regard? FM

Ed: I believe we are running into different conventions in different countries at different times. The curtsy I grew up with in England was hands to side, splaying the dress slightly on each side while bending slightly at both knees, one leg slightly ahead of the other, and bowing slightly with the head. seems to back this up. If she be wearing trousers…. perhaps the hands in front, as you suggest?

Do the ladies in the readership have anything to offer on this question, this being more properly your domain?


In response to last month’s editorial:

“The showrooming trend extends beyond finding better prices. I often showroom and purchase online, simply because it’s predictably a nicer experience.  Online, my name and preferences are always remembered, suggestions for complementary products are made, the checkout is efficient and I’m thanked for my loyalty.  Best of all, I receive a follow-up survey of my guest experience. How many local shops would call and ask, “Did we treat you well this morning? How could this have been a better experience?” Precisely, none. Not even luxury retailers would think of doing such a thing.  The brick-and-mortar experience often begins as an interruption to someone’s hectic day and ends with that dreadful announcement of your anonymous existence, “Next customer in line” from an attendant staring off into space, barely tolerating another transaction. Human contact is a two-sided coin; it can be gloriously uplifting, or horribly deflating.  Most local merchants today seem satisfied with providing the latter. If local merchants wish to survive, they’ll need to become as warm and welcoming as online robots. This may even start a revolution in retailing for the return to gracious, genteel service as the norm. Or, maybe not. The choice will be theirs.” JG

Ed: Very well put indeed, and point well taken. If brick-and-mortar stores do not change, then we will all be the poorer, because I can say that 50% of what I receive from online stores, sight unseen, has to be returned as defective and would never have been bought in the first place had I been able to throw an eyeball over it and kick its tyres/tires, so to speak. I am sure you will agree, given that you showroom at all, while that opportunity still exists.


“I have been traveling fairly extensively for more than forty years to various parts of the world, and I thought I knew how to pack a suitcase. I read your book and looked at a video on You Tube from IIMB on packing with tissue paper. I packed one day, as if I were traveling, left the suitcase in the room overnight, and took out the contents the next day.  Everything was ready to wear immediately—no touch up ironing or anything, except for one jacket folded in the alternate way, with a sleeve turned inside out and tucked into the other sleeve. I hung up everything and actually wore the suit with the slightly wrinkled jacket to a function the following day. The wrinkles hung out of the jacket and the suit was perfect. I shall never pack differently!” RR

Butlers in the Media

Move aside, Australian and New Zealand hotel butlers, because we now have cyberbutlers resident in guest iPhones. Looks like a good product — for hotels without butlers, at least.

This hotel was a bit over exuberant in its claims, but it definitely has the right idea: letting guests and the world know where they stand in the Hotel Butler Rating System.

When Jeeves is a She in the Wall Street Journal works on the premise that since 1999, half or more of hotel butlers are female—that datum is based on the words of one hotel manager in Bangkok. This may be true in Thailand, but not elsewhere. However, the points made in the article, about the services lady butlers can perform for female guests that would not generally be entertained with male butlers (in most parts of the world), are well made. The actual figures on female butlers are probably closer to 25%, and frankly, the more the merrier.

Note the photos of a graduation below in the Maldives: 15% of the graduate butlers are ladies.

Congratulations to Mr. Jim Grise, who was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle this month. As he said, “The story by the journalist you referred me to back in March has finally been published. They had a couple of the details mixed up, but a good article in general.” We couldn’t agree more, congratulations!

And finally, not butlers in the media, but something  in the media that may well be of interest to them:

Fine dining seems to be passé as luxury hotels (in Chicago, at least, according to the Chicago Tribune) find fewer guests interested, preferring a more comfortable and relaxing ambiance. This is not surprising, as ties and suits disappear from the workplace and Gen X and Y start to predominate in society. In another five years, they will be the majority, and hotels are being forced to respond to the changing perceptions and ideals. There will always be a place for fine dining, no doubt, but it will be increasingly difficult to find. This blog, however, describing an experience at the 5-star/5-diamond Lautrec restaurant in Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, seems to show that passion rather than stuffiness and concern with being “de rigeur” is a winning approach to fine dining—the writer’s experience mirrors my own while training there a some years ago. I still recall Terry, their lead waiter, with fondness and admiration—the most inspiring waiter I have had the good fortune to be served by among many excellent ones—and the rest of the solicitous team.


Looking ahead, if you are interested in a butler/household manager internship next summer in a private residence in Maine, please make your candidacy known to us here at the Institute.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant


 by Lisa Krohn

Ms. Lisa Krohn is welcomed as a new contributor to the Modern Butlers’ Journal. She has held a series of jobs as a personal assistant, personal organizer, and many such complimentary projects for 25 years, her work taking her to the Oval Office, Hollywood, New York, and five-star hotels. As she says, “The cultural and intellectual diversity may have polarity but the art of service is the same. Our demeanor, stature, integrity, discretion, and lack of ego can be applied to all jobs in service.” Ms. Krohn shares with us, over the next few issues, the most important life lessons she has learned, why they are significant, and how they can be incorporated into one’s work in private service. I had the occasion to quote Ms. Krohn just last week to a particularly harassed PA I was training, who was doing a marvelous job of not following the lesson in this month’s journal, and who, when he began to do so, was surprised to find that he was calmer and clearer of head.

What can you do for yourself as someone in service to be at peak performance  all the time?

Cultivate and produce your own life first each day. This may not sound feasible, enjoyable, or even purposeful at first glance. Yet, this is a decisive factor in our being at peak performance for ourselves and all those we serve.

It is my experience that people who have chosen careers in service often find their personal lives in a secondary position to their principal’s. This is in our nature, and on occasion, necessary. For the most part, this neglect takes place in our residences. Our homes are often not well organized or cleaned (this has nothing to do with income). Our bills may not be paid on time, vacations not planned for ourselves in advance. When we have children, we often don’t plan for their futures in the ways we would like and certainly we do not spend quality and or quantity of time with friends and loved ones.  Other areas that are often neglected are our health, physically and emotionally, planning for our future, and our passions or interests.

By spending fifteen minutes to one hour in the morning every single day, working on various aspects of our selves and our lives, we can make a profound difference in our performance. This is not about accomplishing all of our tasks and goals each day. It is about the process of taking this time for ourselves so as to shape our well being for the day. By carving out this time for ourselves before we get to work, we will hopefully not be thinking about our own lives and be distracted while at work. By taking care of our selves in these ways, we build self-esteem. Anyone can learn and develop the skills for our jobs. Yet, what sets us apart from others is what comes from inside and that is influenced by how we take care of ourselves. So we need to make some effort to cultivate ourselves and attend to our own lives each day.

Recent Graduates

Mrs. Ferry has spent the past six weeks training the butlers at the unique Soneva Fushi Resort in the Maldives. As the first luxury hotel in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi set new standards when it introduced butler service to the island nation seventeen years ago. The current team has now been trained to Institute standards, and is well set to take their butler service to a whole new level.

The photos below show the two groups of happy graduates – congratulations to them all!

Soneva Fushi, Group One (at an informal celebration)

Soneva Fushi, Group Two (also an informal celebration)

Cigars, Part VI

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Frank Mitchell 

Wrapper Colours

Now that we have an idea of how cigars are produced, we can move on to some of the considerations that should be taken into account when confronted with the bewildering profusion of cigars on offer at a tobacconist. Even the most helpful dealer will find it easier to serve you when you know the basics.

For now, let’s assume the cigars are from a reputable dealer, have been stored properly and are free of tobacco beetle. All of these will be covered in detail when we come to the part about storing our own cigars. Since the rules are the same, there is no need to repeat them here.

As we have said, the cigar wrapper (outer leaf, not packaging) is the most visually obvious element to a cigar. While the best leaves are used for wrappers, the quality of the tobacco leaf used for the wrapper will still tell us something about the quality of the whole cigar.

Cigar wrappers come in many shades, varying from light to dark. In all but the very cheapest cigars, these differences arise from the various ways in which the leaf is handled after harvesting, rather than through artificial colouring. While some wrapper colours have more than one name, there are basically 7 main shades and only three words you need remember; Claro, Colorado, and Maduro. Essentially, Claro is light, Colorado is medium and Maduro is dark.

So how do we go from 3 colour names to 7 shades? By making combinations of these words. Colorado-Claro, is a shade between Claro and Colorado, just as Colorado-Maduro is a shade between Colorado and Maduro. To describe the very lightest and darkest shades, we simply repeat the names: Claro-Claro (or double-Claro) and Maduro-Maduro. However, the cigar industry likes to complicate matters, so Claro-Claro is also known as Candella, Colorado-Claro is most often called Natural, and Maduro-Maduro is almost always called Oscuro.

Having fun yet? Claro is also known as American Market Selection (AMS). These leaves are picked immature and dried quickly, retaining a pale green hue from the chlorophyll, from where we derive its fourth name: Jade. These wrappers are no longer as popular as they once were and are now quite rare.

English Market Selection (EMS) leaves are usually Natural or Colorado-Claro wrappers, but can be anything from Claro-Claro to Maduro. They tend to have more flavour than AMS wrappers and cost more because they take longer to produce. In addition, EMS wrappers come with a unique number so that you can trace them back to their source.

Spanish Market Selection may be either Maduro or Oscuro and are among the darkest wrappers, also often being sweet.

Here is a good picture of the 7 major wrapper colours. Observant readers may notice something interesting on the cigar band of the Camacho: It is labelled ‘Triple Maduro.’ Unlike Double-Claro, this is not yet another wrapper colour, but refers to the fact that the wrapper, filler, and binder all consist of Maduro. Camacho was the first brand to bring such a cigar to market and it has received good reviews.

So how do these colours come about? We have already discussed how Claro-Claro is made. As mentioned previously, Colorado-Claro is also called natural, which in itself speaks volumes. Generally, the lighter colours are from shade-grown tobacco, while darker colours are achieved by heating and cooling the tobacco in an enclosed space, so the oils that escape during heating can retreat back into the leaf during cooling. For darker wrappers, this process may be repeated several times.

Wrapper leaves from various parts of the globe are also associated with certain colours due to the traditions surrounding the production of tobacco in those regions. Mexican tobacco is grown in full, hot sun and is usually very dark. Cameroonian wrapper is known for a singular texture, called ‘tooth,’ and commands a high price.

A common misconception is that the wrapper colour is an indication of the strength of the cigar. A wrapper constitutes less than 10% of the tobacco in the cigar and it is entirely possible that a dark wrapper can be paired with mild filler leaf. By mixing various tobaccos, the roller can achieve a complex smoke, as long as the constituent parts are in balance and the flavours complement one another. This is part of the art of fine cigar manufacturing. While there is a tendency by some manufacturers to align the strength of a cigar with the visual representation given by the wrapper, it is best not to make any assumptions.

Good tobacconists are enthusiastic about their products and provided they have the time, are usually a good source of information. Don’t be a ‘tyre-kicker,’ make a few purchases to show your support, and you should soon have access to a wealth of advice and anecdote.

Next month we will look at some of the many cigar shapes and sizes, and also why they exist.




The 2012 DEMA Convention will  be held in Los Angeles from September 28-30 and is designed, through workshops and privileged information shared by our speakers & educators, to advance the professional development and resources of all attendees. Speakers will include Teresa Leigh, Charles MacPherson, Bob King, Bonnie Low Kramen, Vickie Sokol Evans, Elise Lewis, David Gonzalez, Katie Vaughn, Marta Perrone, Donna Shannon and many others.

Breakout sessions will occur throughout the convention on subjects such as:

  • Conflict resolution with the family
  • Agency etiquette & rules of engagement
  • Handling divorces/life changes/tragedies with the family
  • Work agreements: manager vs. hourly employee
  • Resume construction
  • Reading body language
  • Home Automation & Smart Home Technology
  • Garment care 101 & beyond
  • Employer & employee boundaries
  • Family office interaction & communication with principals
  • Establishing structure & boundaries with the family office
  • Managing off-the-books employees and the consequences
  • What are you liable for as a private service employee?
  • Contract negotiation & best practices (employment & vendor)
  • Interviewing best practices
  • Proper care of luxury linens
  • Career fair, with too many agencies participating to list

For only $185.00, this is the must attend event for anyone who is either in the private service industry or considering entering. To learn more about the Convention and how to register go to

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part VIII

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Amer Vargas 

One of the most famous regions in the world for wine production is Bordeaux, in the southwest of France. It is also one of the largest—if not the largest—areas to produce so much appreciated libation, no doubt as a result of almost 2,000 years of experience.

The region obtains its name from the city of Bordeaux and faces the Atlantic Ocean. The wine production spreads 100 km (60 miles) around the city located in the biggest estuary in Europe fed by three rivers: the Gironde, and its two tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne, which create the ideal setting for growing vineyards and making wine.

Bordeaux is itself divided into three different sub-regions: “the right bank,” situated on the right side of the Dordogne river, in the northern parts of the regions, around the city of Libourne; “Entre-deux-mers” (meaning between two waters is the “island” surrounded by the Dordogne and the Garonne rivers; “the left bank” is located on the left bank of the Garonne river and is where the city of Bordeaux lies.

The major reasons for the exceptional wines produced are the excellent environment and weather conditions: climate is Oceanic, with short and mild winters, hot summers, long autumns, and a high degree of constant humidity caused by the closeness to the ocean and the rivers. On the other hand, the soil is a mix of sand, clay and limestone, very rich in calcium, which ensures an adequate drainage of vineyard roots as well as an appropriate amount of minerals to feed them.

Bordeaux produces all sorts of wines, from regular table wine to be drunk young, to some of the finest (and most expensive) “brews” that mellow in the cellars (Châteaux) for many years and even decades.

Red Bordeaux accounts for almost 90% of wine production in the area. It is traditionally made from a blend of grapes, the most predominant varietals in Bordeaux being Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon; as for whites, Sémillon and Sauvignon are the most cultivated, followed by Muscadelle.

There are up to sixty Bordeaux appellations and the wine styles they represent are categorized into six broad families based on the sub-regions (for red wines) and the sweetness (for whites). Thus:

-Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Controllée [Controlled Origin Appellation]) are fruity red wines with hints of oak to be drunk young (in the case of the regular Bordeaux), and stronger oak tastes in the case of Bordeaux Supérieur.

-Côtes de Bordeaux is a red produced in the outskirts of the region and wines under this category offer an intermediate quality between basic Bordeaux wine and the highest Bordeaux, which makes its pricing moderate.

-Libourne or “Right Bank” wines are brews whose top quality Châteaux blend a 70% Merlot with a 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The most famous vintners in this area are Saint-Émilion and Pomerol and produce wines with a great fruit concentration and soft tannins.

Médoc Vineyard by Ph. Masfrand

-Red Graves, Médoc or “Left Bank” wines are typically made by blending 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot with 15% Cabernet Franc. The resulting drink is a full-bodied and very tannic wine.

-Bordeaux Blanc gathers all the dry white wines made throughout the region, often made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc or a blend dominated by S. Blanc and Sémillon, the resulting drink offer oak hints.

-Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc includes sweet white wines that are produced in several locations using Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.

Under these broad categories, wines can also be labelled under the sub-regions or even the Cháteau, in the case of the best of the best wines. For example, one can talk about a Sauternes, a Puillac, a Margaux or a Lussac-Saint Emilion; or one can talk about Premier (first) Grand Cru Classé, Déuxieme GCC (second)… up until Cinquième GCC (fifth) to mention the most appreciated (hence expensive) wines of Bordeaux. All Grand Crus Classés are related to the most important Châteaux and are best known by the name of the Château itself, as in the case of Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Cháteau Margaux.

These excellent wines are bottled in straight-sided and high-shouldered bottles with a pronounced punt at the base. The shoulders are also pretty straight, which helps to hold the sediment when old wines require decanting.

To enjoy white Bordeaux, the usual white wine glass best serves the drinker. For red Bordeaux, the ideal stemware involves the “Bordeaux glass” (not exclusively used for Bordeaux wines, but also for all rich and fully flavored wines). The Bordeaux glass involves a broad and tall bowl that helps develop all aromas and tastes to be enjoyed.

You have a lot to choose from in Bordeaux. Enjoy your choice and I invite you to follow us next month in our trip to Italy.

Sauternes, photo by Alexandre Moha

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The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.