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The 2019 Big Upgrade: A Gift Guide for Those Who Want Better

Whether for the holidays or just life in general, discover 30+ ways to go faster, drink better, travel more, and live beautifully in our 2019 ultimate gift guide.

When it comes to gift guide roundups, we’re of the mind that sometimes what’s needed isn’t more, just better. From luxurious train rides and eco-conscious travelling to stunning timepieces and top notch spirits, we’ve collected a group of recommendations to take with you into the holidays and new year. Whether you’re out in search of a gift or simply looking to treat yourself (because damn, it’s been a long year and you deserve it), here are a few ways to upgrade your life. 

— VOLCAN DE MI TERRA TEQUILA —

Grown in the shadow of a volcano, Volcan De Mi Tierra tequila is a result of the rich terroir from which the agave (which takes 3,250 days to ripen before harvesting) is grown in. Erupting with flavours and aromas of citrus, cherry, white pepper, fresh mint, and spice, the blanco is a medium-bodied tequila best enjoyed neat or in a thirst-quenching cocktail. $75

— BEAU LAKE TAHOE —

The Tahoe – 14, by Canadian company Beau Lake, is a tribute to sun-soaked, lazy days spent on the water. Inspired by the classic styling of the vintage lake runabout, this eco-conscious boat features a gorgeous hand-carved mahogany tiller, marine-grade upholstered seats, a lightweight fiberglass hull, and even a removable two-compartment cooler and charcuterie board. Who’s up for a swim? Price upon request.

— AARKE CARBONATOR —

For a contemporary countertop appliance, look no further than Aarke. Designed by Swedish industrial designers (of course), this stunning stainless steel water carbonator will elevate any kitchen and libation. Sleek and glamorous, it’s undoubtedly a welcome addition to any home that appreciates beauty. $320

— CHOPARD ALPINE EAGLE —

Sophisticated and confident, the reinterpretation of Chopard’s iconic St. Moritz timepiece from 1980 is a refreshing update on a classic. Bold enough for a boardroom yet elegant enough to wear to a black-tie dinner, the Alpine Eagle features ethically-sourced stainless steel and rose gold, and a self-winding mechanical movement. $21,200 

— FIOL PROSECCO —

For a sip of the passionate culture of Italy, have a glass of FIOL. A celebration of winemaking and Italian craftsmanship, every sip conjures up a dedication to the method that runs through every vintner’s veins. Bursts of citrus, green apple, and pear along with a kiss of white flowers — this is a medium-bodied Prosecco that you will love for every moment. $15

— MEURAL CANVAS II —

The Meural Canvas II is a WiFi-connected digital canvas that has an anti-glare matte display for a real-life look. You can display your own art or that of Basquiat. What’s more — the canvas is so customizable that you can schedule the artwork to show up at different times of the day. $700

— HUNTING FOR TRUFFLES IN ITALY —

Name a better way to travel than doing so with your appetite? Located in Umbria, spend a day foraging for truffles with Wild Foods Italy and their pack of loveable canines. Finish off the day with homemade pasta, wine, and new friends. Prices vary

— PARTISANS GWEILO —

Haunting yet beautiful, Gweilo, by Toronto-based design firm, PARTISANS, was inspired by the notion that light could be harnessed into sculpture. Thin sheets of LED bulbs are molded into a light-emitting statement piece that serves as a lamp, room divider, or simply art. Prices vary.

— DESERT OASIS —

To celebrate a decade of its existence, Utah’s serene Amangiri resort will be opening the exclusive Camp Sarika. Amangiri is more a spiritual experience than it is a hotel getaway, and Camp Sarika has been crafted in its image nearby. Both are couched in Canyon Point’s vermillion landscape of deep canyons and sensual rock formations. 

Comprised of 10 tented pavilions with each its own plunge pool, the Camp offers a luxury encampment, all ensconced within 600 hectares of the desert’s raw wilderness. If unbridled relaxation is what you’re after, then this experience is a must. Camp Sarika has two spa suites that offer various therapies inspired by traditional Navajo wellness practices, along with yoga and guided meditation.

— AWAIR AIR QUALITY MONITOR —

Have you ever wondered about the quality of the air in your home? With Awair, you can track the dust and chemicals in the air surrounding you, and receive personalized recommendations as to how you can improve its quality. Indoor air is often more polluted than the air outside, and this can have an impact on how you breathe to how you sleep. Awair will help you monitor air quality over time, and provide tips on how to breathe cleaner air. The device can work with all your other devices, such as Alexa or Nest, to automatically keep the air you breathe healthy and safe. $200

— A BESPOKE EXPERIENCE —

Donning a beautiful suit made for your body yields a feeling that is hard to describe. The sense of confidence one feels when putting on a perfect suit is hard to beat, and the master tailors at Toronto-based Brenton & Co. are here to make every client feel (and look) their best. Choose from a range of premium fabrics and fixings to create a one-of-a-kind piece. One can also argue that they’re more environmentally friendly than their competition. While many who claim to produce bespoke creations actually outsource their work overseas, Brenton & Co. handmakes their suiting right in the heart of Toronto. When you think about it, that leaves a considerably smaller carbon footprint than the rest. 

— HENNESSY PARADIS IMPERIAL 2.0 —

Created by a seventh generation Master Blender in 2011, Hennessy’s Paradis Imperial is the ultimate showcase of precise selection, maturation, and blending. For context, only 10 out of 10,000 eaux-de-vie of any given vintage are considered acceptable to be a part of this blend. 

With the 2.0 comes a redesign of the decanter, made out of 100 percent crystal and designed by contemporary artist Arik Levy. On the nose, you’ll discover floral notes of jasmine and orange blossom and a smoky accent on the palate. No doubt, this handsome bottle will be a stunning addition to your growing top shelf collection. $3,800

— TESTING TIME —

For the watch lover, behold, an opportunity to celebrate the master behind revered timepiece brand, Hublot. Spend three nights in the Hublot Suite at Atlantis by Giardino in Zurich before boarding a helicopter to Nyon. 

After disembarking, you’ll be taken on an exclusive visit to Hublot HQ, meet spellbinding watchmakers, and be privy to limited-edition releases yet to be revealed. Guests will be taken through the Hublot showroom that overlooks the storied Lake Geneva before being shown to lunch and then flown back to Zurich. If it all sounds too good to be true, then this special trip through time is just for you. $8,000 per person for 12 days.

— KOBO LIBRA H20 —

The Kobo Libra H2O is your perfect companion for those snowy nights spent by the fire. With its glare-free screen that allows you to read in HD, an ergonomic design that lets you read in landscape or portrait mode whenever you need to, page-turn buttons, and perfect day-to-night transitioning capabililities, this beautiful gadget is the tiny, but mighty, reader that will never leave your side. Did we mention that it’s completely waterproof? $200

— MB&F OCTOPOD —

Some may regard the timepiece world as dusty and boring, but the team at world-renowned MB&F clearly likes to have fun. With Octopod, a clock that can stand or crouch on its eight legs, comes a horological and whimsical work of art. Inspired by cephalopods, marine chronometers and The Abyss, this time-telling object of desire blends innovation with craftsmanship. $50,800

— ALL ABOARD! —

On the face of it, the Venice Simplon-Orient Express by Belmond looks as though it’s offering a simple train ride through Europe. But really, it’s a romantic adventure straight out of an Agatha Christie daydream, minus the grisliness. Each of the train’s three carriages will transport passengers back to the lush Golden Age of travel. 

Every aspect of the train, from the silverware, to the French polished wood, extravagant upholstery, and panels of glistening black lacquer, is delicately made with everything coming together to form an elegant jewel of an experience. With an unparallelled dining program and the resident pianist plucking gentle melodies, this train is an adventure unto itself, and your destination — whichever of the many journeys on offer you choose — is only the icing on top. Prices vary

— CERAMIC CRAFTSMANSHIP —

We have 1999’s Ghost to thank for clay’s sensual reputation. Luckily for you, Toronto’s very own ceramics museum, the beloved Gardiner Museum, offers classes ranging from two-hour workshops to eight-week courses open to beginners and seasoned ceramists alike. While plucking an item off a shift for a gift is all fine and dandy, there is something to be said about honing in on a skill. Here, you’ll not only be able to master the craft, but create something truly personal and unique. Prices vary

— REIGNING CHAMP HOODED ROBE —

After a long day, nothing feels quite as spectacular as changing into a comfy set of loungewear before settling into the evening. Created by Canadian sportswear brand, Reigning Champ, this toasty robe draws inspiration from boxing with its rib-lined hood, flatlock seams, and raglan sleeves. $230

— DIOR CALFSKIN AIRPOD CASE —

Luxury fashion meets tech with this crossover between Dior and Apple. Because an ordinary case just won’t do, this option from the French house will sheath your airpods in supple calfskin leather and secure itself to your bag or pants with a silver clasp. Flex, much? $460

— KNEIP SCULPTURES —

There is something to be said for an object whose only function is to just be beautiful. These sculptures crafted of steel, copper, and brass offer a striking visual for any room that they occupy. Created by Kneip, a design, craft, and art studio founded by Norway-based Jørgen Platou Willumsen and Stian Korntved Ruud, the artwork explores the various chemical reactions that occur in each metal’s oxidation. The result? Sculptures that reflect nature, weather, and geometry. Price upon request

— BENJAMIN HUBERT WOODEN BASKET —

Those who adore minimalist Scandinavian design will delight in this simplistic, elegant basket. Crafted by Benjamin Hubert’s design agency, Layer, for the Danish brand Fritz Hansen, this pebble-shaped timber basket is forged with steam-bending technology and laminate pressing. With its soft curves and airy body, it strikes a beautiful balance between understated and statement piece, both modern and timeless. It will perfectly be at home in a mid-century modern home or spacious office. $270

— TREE PLANTING IN UGANDA —

If you need an adventure that does good for you and the planet, then the Kyambura Gorge Eco-tourism Project in Uganda is perfect. The project is a philanthropic endeavour provided by Volcanoes Safari that seeks to promote sustainable and community-oriented tourism. A hallmark of the trip is the three-hour guided tour throughout the Kyambura Gorge, which provides the opportunity to plant seedlings. These seedlings, of course, will play an important part in conserving the area’s stunning ecosystem, but will also allow you to embed a bit of yourself into one of the most biodiverse spots in Africa. $3,250 per person for four days

— SCALING SEQUOIAS —

Not for the faint of heart, this is an exclusive eight-day opportunity to climb prodigious sequoia trees alongside forest ecologists as they conduct research in one of California’s most environmentally significant forests. You will have the opportunity to collect samples for the scientists, allowing you to immerse yourself in conservational efforts. This is a private journey offered by Pelorus and participants will need to be vetted beforehand to ensure they possess the skills to keep up with and aid the scientists, and crucially, stay safe. Price available upon request

— TIFFANY & CO. x GLOBE-TROTTER TROLLEY —

Black luggage may be a mainstay at virtually every airport, but not quite like this. A collaboration between iconic jeweller Tiffany & Co. and luggage company, GLOBE-TROTTER, these vintage-inspired trolleys are crafted using time-honoured techniques. Each piece is emblazoned with a logo that was first used on silverware designs at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and is comprised of vulcanized fibreboard with leather trim. Travel in style wherever you go. Starting at $1,950

— SUPERNATURAL SPIRIT BEARS —

Provided by Entrée Destinations, this is a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual adventure which will allow you to explore BC’s lush landmarks and species. Arguably the most exciting part of the itinerary is the stay in the Klemtu area. The Kitasoo/Xaixais people have resided in the area since long before the arrival of European settlers, and their communal stories about the Spirit Bear enrich and inform many aspects of this bear-watching excursion. $6,130 per person for six days

— STUDIO REM NEBL PLANTER —

Inspired by the German word for fog—’nebel’— designer Michael Rem of Studio Rem created the Nebl planter to invoke the peacefulness of a foggy morning. Comprised of frosted glass and a ceramic base, the planter is minimal yet impactful, emphasizing our pull towards nature in a technology-driven world. $315

— SYMBOL MODERN RECORD PLAYER —

Sleek and streamlined in its design, Symbol’s Modern Record Player looks more a work of art than the first-of-its-kind record player that it is. Capable of linking up to Sonos, Bluetooth, and Chromecast, this turntable has built-in speakers, a hand-wired tonearm, and a platter capable of lowering background noise along with limiting unwanted vibrations. Available in Jet Black or Glacier White, this entertainment system will be built to order and arrive to you mounted on a majestic pedestal or ready for your tabletop. $3,295

— JENNAIR COLUMN REFRIGERATOR —

Luxury kitchens have been confined by tradition, a one-size-fits all approach that stunts imagination. In this industry then, JennAir is an electrifying breath of fresh air. The pioneering brand explodes past dusty designs and forges a new path in the world of kitchenware and appliances. The designer’s Column refrigerator epitomizes this ingenuity with its obsidian interior, endless customizability, three-zone food preservation, remote access, and WiFi connectability. It has it all. 

Now, with JennAir’s Noir and Rise collections of appliances, you can experience new materials, innovative designs, and connectivity in a way that few other brands can provide. Rise is defined by warm mixed metals and strong architecture that marry professional with posh, while Noir is modern and geometric. Both lines offer a full suite of kitchen appliances. $10,750

— SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S6 —

A powerful tool for any professional, Samsung’s latest in tablet innovation, the Galaxy Tab S6, seamlessly combines productivity and creativity into one slick device. Featuring Samsung’s signature S Pen for on-the-go note taking, entrepreneurs and artists can take their work with them as they traverse the city or travel across borders. Say goodbye to clunky laptops and hello to your new mobile workstation. Starting at $900

— MAXWELL CUSTOM INFINITUM ACOUSTIC GUITAR —

Handcrafted in New Zealand with native timbers—Kahikatea and Black Maire—the Infinitum acoustic guitar by Maxwell Custom is a marvel to look at. With the bracing removed from the soundboard, only a single point of contact is left where the strings attach, resulting in a more dynamic sound. The instrument focuses on creating harmony between sound and design for a fresh departure from traditional guitars. Price upon request

— LOUIS VUITTON BULBO NEST —

Designed by visionary designers, the Campana Brothers, for Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades collection, the Bulbo nest is a striking piece of furniture that mimics architecture and art—or is it the other way around? Made of layered petals lined with Louis Vuitton leather and a cozy warming fabric on the inside, it’s a welcome oasis that you can retreat to in any home. $110,000

— PARMIGIANI FLEURIER KALPAGRAPHE —

What is truly unique about Parmigiani Fleurier is the comprehensiveness of its operations. It is a vertically-integrated timepiece brand that oversees every step of the watchmaking process, from the production of its micro-components to cases. What does that mean? Tighter control and higher quality. Take the Kalpagraphe, for example. The women’s automatic chronograph is a rose gold diamond-set timepiece with a white sapphire dial that stuns wherever it goes. An homage to equilibrium and balance, the Kalpagraphe is truly a marvel of horological skill. Price upon request. 

— SAMSUNG GALAXY FOLD —

The Samsung Galaxy Fold Just Redefined the Role of a Phone

For those in search of something special for the techie in their life, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is a game-changing gadget like no other. A tablet and smartphone in one, it’s turning the world of smart devices on its head.

On the face of it — that is, when it’s folded — the smartphone is like the touch-screen devices we’re already used to, if you ignore for a moment the fact that it’s much more intuitive.

Product designers have taken into account the handheld experience by incorporating an ergonomic design that gives you a comfortable grip, and also thoughtfully places the fingerprint scanner along the side where your thumb or index finger naturally rest. Its 4.6-inch screen also provides a slim form factor that makes it easy for one-hand use, especially when you need to take a call (or a selfie!)

When unfolded (like a book) it becomes a tablet unlike any other. Thanks to the Samsung App Continuity feature, you’re able to stay on the same page as you switch from the front screen to the main display. What does this mean? No more toggling between windows or apps when you’re multitasking. It means having all of your information in front of you at once when you expand your visual real estate from a 4.6- to 7.3-inch screen. It means you can have a faster and smoother working experience so you can finish your tasks seamlessly.

On the flipside, consider the Galaxy Fold your own personal entertainment hub. The trailblazing device features the world’s first folding 7.3-inch dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex Display — it’s the largest screen ever on a Galaxy phone, which means a bigger, quality viewing experience for bingeing your new favourite show or catching up on social media with your friends. Avid gamers will also appreciate an enhanced ecosystem combining a long-lasting battery, intelligent performance, and a glad metal cooling system. Two screens unite to give you a single luxurious experience.

The new Samsung Galaxy Fold is available in Cosmos Black exclusively at Samsung Experience Stores across the country.

— CROWN ROYAL XR EXTRA RARE —

While many Canadian brands will tout themselves as homegrown, Crown Royal is literally grown here in the Great White North. That is, 80 percent of the grain that is used to make this premium spirit comes from Manitoba and the surrounding provinces. For the whisky connoisseur, Crown Royal’s XR Extra Rare is a luxurious drink made from the rare final batch of whiskies saved from the brand’s original LaSalle Distillery in Montreal. Expect notes of spice, dried fruits, golden honey, raisins, cocoa and brown sugar for a complex, flavourful sip. $200