Life

The Upgrade: 46 perfect gifts and experiences to go faster, drink better, travel more, and live fuller

Written by Truc Nguyen, Holly Walker and Sammy Abdo

When it comes to acquiring new possessions or experiences, we’re of the mind that sometimes what’s needed isn’t more, just better. 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. 

PRODUCTS

Office Hours


Instead of going for a run-of-the-mill option, why not elevate the everyday objects around you? From luxury goods company Cartier comes a limited edition silver obsidian desk clock with a quartz movement and the brand’s signature sword-shaped hands. Offering an ever-present touch of elegance, this classic piece will withstand the test of time with regard to both style and function.$14,200

Dress Up Your Wall


Adorn your walls with a stunning work of art from William Fisk, a talented Toronto-based artist who specializes in painting utilitarian objects. His intent with these objects is to alter the context with which they are ordinarily perceived (that of benign servitude) and depict them in a traditional medium, allowing the viewer to define its significance to themselves or others. Prices vary

Ditch the BIC


Make your money moves with a pen that means business. Made of black resin and platinum-plated metal, Montblanc’s German-made scribbler is from their iconic Meisterstück – “masterpiece” in German – collection, ideal for any power player ready to sign their next big deal. $600

Start Your Engines


There is something to be said for an object that serves to be simply beautiful — and that’s it. Auto enthusiasts will undoubtedly covet the limited edition Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8 Coupé car model from Amalgam. This perfect desktop accessory is handcrafted by skilled engineers for a total of 396 hours and finished with alloy wheels and a functioning hood. $12,475 available at Mr. Porter

Desk Appeal


Liven up your work space with a piece of furniture that will do all the talking for you. Roche Bobois’ iconic Melt Desk, designed by Cédric Ragot, is made from polyester fibre with a lacquered finish and features a storage unit with three drawers in an oak veneer. It’s the perfect piece to transform a dull office into one of whimsy and character. Price upon request

Have a Seat


Many of us spend more time at the office than at home. Why not make it a more pleasurable experience? Mjölk’s Stanley sofa by Luca Nichetto is perfect for creating an elegant work space. With an exposed solid wood frame that serves as the focal point, the sofa features buttery leather upholstery and deep back cushions that will make you never want to stand up. Whether you’re having a one-on-one or just require something to recline on, the Stanley sofa is the epitome of sophistication and comfort.$16,775

Nomadic Luxury


Travel in style and sense with the Bottega Veneta leather travel wallet. It’s crafted from the house’s signature intrecciato leather - the black strips are woven y hand at the Italian atelier to strengthen the hide. It opens to reveal three slip pockets that offer room for a passport or identity card, along with a secure zip pocket and seven card holders. Fashionable and functional, it’s a great piece for the person on the go. $705

Travel Buddy


Louis Vuitton’s Tambour table clock, based on the collection of watches of the same name, is great for traveling to keep you on time wherever you go. It bots the ability for frequent travelers to read simultaneously two time zones at one glance thanks to its GMT function. It is a reinterpretation of the house’s iconic Gaston V signature, featuring a matte black dial and flange, and quartz movement. No doubt a timeless travel companion for all your adventures. $1,400

Wander-luxe


For travellers looking to stand-out, the Globe-Trotter Safari carry-on us exactly what they’re looking for. Handmade in England and limited in production, each Globe-Trotter suitcase takes over 10 days to complete using manufacturing methods and machinery that date back to the Victorian era. Embodying the sophistication and glamour from 1920’s travel, each piece is wrapped in natural leather. That means it’ll only get better the more you use it, resulting in a rich patina unique to you. $1,775, available at B.Hemmings & Co.

Wind It Up


A sleek and beautiful design, the Time Arc watch winder by Rapport London is almost a piece of art on its own. For the timepiece enthusiast, it’s housed in sleek crystal and chrome-plated casing with a polish steel and piano-finished ebony base. Consider it a maison for your watches (at least two of them) when they’re not on your wrist with the option of multiple charging speeds via the cog-powered heads. $4,020, available at Mr.Porter

Drinks on the House


A shining example of master craftsmanship, Avenue Road’s JZ tea trolley is a Brazilian modernist classic that will impress any guests you have over. Designed by Jorge Zalszupin, the trolley is outfitted with its triangle-shaped bottom storage shelf and slender, oversized brass wheels. Made from flawless Imbuia wood, it’s perfect for the sophisticated home bar experience.$11,465

Tried and True


With its iconic sapphire blue bottle and bright flavours, Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin is a classic. Every drop contains 10 hand-selected botanicals like juniper berries, coriander, and lemon from exotic locales around the globe. While ordinary gins boil their botanicals directly, Bombay is created using a Vapour Infusion process with copper baskets, giving it a uniquely light, floral taste. Each gin reflects an unwavering commitment to fresh flavors. $30

Bombay Mule


Looking for something refreshing? Sip on this crisp and delightful cocktail. Build in a large rocks glass or mule mug. Stir well with ice and squeeze lime wedges over drink. Stir some creativity and enjoy.

Eastern Standard


Created as an homage to the Far East, Bombay Sapphire East takes gin enthusiasts on a flavour journey.  With the same quality and smooth taste as its original counterpart, Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorns are added to the classic botanical blend to create a gin that truly stands apart. The dry, exotic base is ideal for a reimagined Gin and Tonic. $30

Bombay Ultimate G&T


Bombay Sapphire East was made to perfectly complement the characteristics of a beautiful tonic. Upgrade your G&T with this fan favourite. Fill collins glass to the rim with good ice. Squeeze lime wedge and then add Bombay Sapphire East. Top with chilled premium tonic water and add lemongrass stick to garnish.

Crown Jewel


Named after the sapphire gem originating from Sri Lanka, the Star of Bombay is a bold take on Bombay's classic gin blend. Two added botanicals — ambrette seeds from Ecuador and dried bergamot orange peel hand-picked in Calabria — and a slower distillation process creates an intense flavour. Exceptionally smooth, Star of Bombay is a standout solo act. $40
BACARDI Anejo Cuatro spends four years maturing in a barrel under the Caribbean sun to create its unique taste. It's time well spent. Just like those special holiday moments shared with friends and family. BACARDI Anejo Cuatro is best enjoyed in a cocktail like the Coquito, a delicious Latin twist on everyone’s holiday favorite, the eggnog.

BACARDI Reserva Ocho, for seven generations was enjoyed as the BACARDÍ families personal reserve. Today everyone can enjoy this golden sipping rum and create special holiday moments together. Enjoy it in a festive cocktail like the Queen’s Punch or gift it to someone special.

Gift a bottle of BACARDI Gran Reserva Diez to the scotch drinker who has everything. Just like scotch, the youngest rum in this bottle is 10 years old and because it has been aged under the Caribbean sun, the warm humid climate makes this rum mature 3-4 times more quickly than a scotch

Star 75


Try this complex and beautiful cocktail for a unique take on a classic. Build all ingredients except Prosecco in a tin and stir to mix in the honey before adding ice and shaking. Strain into a flute and top with Prosecco.

Cognac Coronation


You can't rush perfection. With barrels over a century old, the classic flavour of Louis XIII cognac is tended to by five generations of cellar masters. A prestigious taste of history, it has been toasted by the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II, and features a hand-blown decanter etched with the fleur de lis. With earthy notes of oak and sweet fruity tones, LOUIS XIII is a cognac for those looking for the finest in life. $3,700

Rare Rum


This is not your father’s rum and coke. For only the second time in its 269-year history, Appleton Estate has released a 30YO limited edition blend, letting you enjoy a taste so divine that only few others have experienced. With only 300 bottles available in Canada, and rich with hints of vanilla, orange peel, and spices, to drown this with a sugary soda would be sacrilege. $600

Patient Perfection


Finished for up to four month in casks that once held Caribbean rum, Glenfiddich Gran Reserva 21 year old single malt scotch is a master of detail. With flavors of toffee, vanilla and floral hints of banana topped off with a kick of lime, ginger and spice, this whisky is proof that the best things take time. $379

Bold and Beautiful


The newest addition to the Glenfiddich Experimental Series is going where no whisky has gone before — to the land of rum. Finished in sweet rum casks for the first time, this is a drink for trailblazers, single-malt enthusiasts, or those looking for a new adventure. Fire & Cane’s bold smoky flavours take on a surprising hint of toffee sweetness from the rum casks to create an unexpected Scotch. $80

Grande Dame


For the masters of champagne, 2006 was a unique year. With an exceptionally cold winter, late blooming in June, and a chaotic summer of heat waves, the vines of this particular crop were tenacious, creating a unique grape harvest. A blend of classic fruity pinot noir and chardonnay, discover the art of champagne with Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame 2006. $270

History in a bottle


One of the most precious cognacs, the Quintessence from Grand Marnier can be described as such due to its process. Quintessence comprises numerous cognacs ranging from 25 to 100 years old and the older they become, the more fragile they are. With only 2,000 bottles produced, the premium drink pays tribute to the founder of Grand Marnier, Louis-Alexander Marnier Lapostolle. $1000

Italian Style


With 500 years rooted in tradition, Disaronno’s limited-edition Trussardi bottle is a special moment in history. Italian liquor meets Italian lifestyle with this iconic pairing, dressed in Trussardi’s texture and greyhound logo, with pops of fuchsia, green and blue. With delicious flavors of almonds, madagascar vanilla and caramelized sugar, Disaronno Wears Trussardi is exceptional through both taste and style. Perfect for a gift, the limited-edition bottle comes in a holiday pack including two flute glasses. $34.45, available at LCBO

You Spin Me Right Round


Called the "Netflix" of bikes, the Peloton bike has 24-hour on-demand access to studio cycling classes and thousands of workouts available to your entire household. Great for those with a busy schedule looking for an immersive workout, the bike is also small and compact, making it ideal for any room in the house or even your office. Hop on, choose your instructor (or tune into a live class) and let them do the rest. $2,950

Aesth(l)etic


For the discerning fitness junkie looking to build the ultimate home gym, the Hock weight set is not only beautiful in its design, but durable as well. Made of a walnut veneer and special anodized aluminium alloy that is extremely robust, the award-winning workmanship embraces both form and function to their utmost potential. $14,700

On the Run


Created with cutting-edge technology, it’s easy to see why the Technogym Run Personal treadmill is one of the most high-performance treadmills on the market. With the tablet-like UNITY 3.0™ digital console, there is a host of exciting entertainment options: TV, radio, games, web, music, and videos.The treadmill is also created with premium materials, with soft touch handles and a sleek aluminum frame, making it a quality buy to get in shape in style. $20,200

Above Water


There are plenty of rowing machines out there, but the NOHrD water rower is innovative in how it uses resistance. Instead of magnets or hybrid resistance, this machine uses water, which allows the user to regulate the resistance during the workout, and is quiet and efficient. It is also made of quality American walnut wood with the idea that it’s not a disposable piece of equipment, but rather a high-end element of style. $2,230

Go-Getter


Empower your workforce with the lightest, most compact Microsoft Surface yet. From full feature desktop software to mobile apps. Surface Go gets the job done. With optional LTE an starting at just 1.15 lb, Surface Go is by your side wherever your job takes you. Surface Go with LTE Advanced. $880

Your best mate


With quality design and numerous exciting new features, it’s no wonder the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the best phones on the market. Among the new features is an in-screen fingerprint scanner, two-way wireless charging (which means you can use it as a power bank) and sophisticated face scanner. Not to mention the superior Lecia triple camera to document life’s great moments, and it being water- and dust-resistant. This phone easily competes with the flagship devices and is great for the tech savvy. $1,100

Maxed Out


Made for the tech enthusiast, the Google Home Max speaker has excellent sound quality along with seamless compatibility with Google apps such as Google Play Music, Chromecast, and Assistant. The large speaker comes with superb voice recognition, making it stand out from previous versions of Home speaker. With a high-quality build and room-shaking bass, you’ll be jamming to your favourite music no matter where you are in the house. $500

Scent-sation


A scent for a man looking to make a subtle statement, Paco Rabanne XS has notes of icy ginger, warm cinnamon with a vanilla infused leather musk. Untamed, this scent makes itself known without being overbearing. $105 for 100mL

Tailor Made


Traditional made-to-measure sartorial experiences often come off as intimidating, stifling, and complicated. Take all of these variables out of the experience with a Munro suit, available from Harry Rosen. Offering a seamless process and dynamic range of fabrics, the Amsterdam company’s MO showcases a contemporary, sharply tailored, and detail-oriented look that will allow you to customize everything from the shoes and up, Monday to Sunday. Prices vary

Wrist Game


Nothing epitomizes luxury better than a magnificent timepiece, and the Fiftysix Complete Calendar watch from Vacheron Constantin is a masterpiece. The opulent materials include 18K 5N pink gold, an alligator strap, sapphire glass back, and the brand’s signature Maltese cross. It’s a beautiful wrist upgrade that will seamlessly take you from the boardroom to drinks looking great. $45,400

A Bag for Adults


Graduate to a proper backpack for adults. Made in Italy from butter-soft suede, this one from Brunello Cucinelli is as luxurious as they get. It’s reinforced with full-grain leather in the areas that'll get the most wear and has a multitude of smaller pockets to keep everything well organised throughout your day. No doubt, it’ll only look better the more you use it. $4,935, available at Mr. Porter

Bag Goals


Crafted with the needs of a busy parent and business professional in mind, the Urban Bag from Canadian-based ooobaby is fashionable as well as it is functional. It’s made from soft grained Italian pebbled leather and has a multitude of pockets to keep everything in place. It’s great for any woman or man who demands a reliable bag that doesn’t sacrifice style or quality. $450

The Boss Wears Prada


This fragrance is sophisticated and elegant — perfect for the modern woman. Prada La Femme honours a unique flower, the frangipani, paired alongside spicy notes of ylang ylang with hints of beeswax, tuberose, and silky vanilla. Even the bottle is a work of art. $180 for 100mL

Pumped Up Kicks


The Gucci Princetown leather slippers are both beautiful and whimsical. The design is black leather with embroidered flowers appliqué. Along with classic Gucci quality and craftsmanship, the shoe comes with horse bit detail, adding sophistication and showing respect to the founder, Gucci Gucci, and his fascination with aristocracy. $820

All That Dazzles


They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and even more so if they’ve been created sustainably and ethically. For that extra dose of glamour, Spence Diamond’s classics collection features a stunning array of solitaire pendants and earrings using the Canadian brand’s Artisan Created Diamonds, which are indistinguishable from their earth-mined cousins, at least 25 percent larger, and two clarity grades higher. Keep your conscience without losing the luxury. $650

‘Tis the Season for Girl Power


In honour of the woman at the top of her game, buy a gift that unleashes the inner-strength in every girl. Plan International Canada’s gift of Girl Power offers girls around the world education, nourishment and protection. Help them open up economic opportunities so they can lead themselves and their families out of poverty. With more than 50 Gifts of Hope to choose from, there is one for everyone on your list. plangifts.com, Girl Power $100.





EXPERIENCES

Whether it’s a culinary journey in a far-flung land or the chance to check a daring winter activity off your bucket list, these unique experiences are designed to encourage exploration of the world around us and create once-in-a-lifetime memories that will stand out on the highlight reel. What’s more luxurious or covetable, than that?

Lost and Found


Looking for a break from the unrelenting, ubiquitous presence of technology and social media in our lives? Perhaps a secluded, bespoke adventure where you’ll feel challenged and empowered, and be able to truly disconnect? Luxury travel company Black Tomato’s new Get Lost program is designed just for that. The only decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to immerse yourself in a polar, desert, jungle, coastal, or mountainous environment, and they’ll take care of the rest. Completing the journey requires that participants tackle navigation challenges, complete physically demanding missions, and apply their problem-solving skills judiciously. Beyond the benefits of a digital detox and the rare opportunity to see a beautiful, remote destination (think Namibian deserts and the jungles of Guyana) that sees few travelers, Get Lost adventures are a truly unique way to test and improve one’s mental and physical fitness in a deeply rewarding way. This is as far from your standard all-inclusive resort as travel gets! Prices vary

Forage, Then Feast


On Vancouver Island, between the Pacific Ocean and the rainforest, there is the inimitable Wickaninnish Inn. An award-winning Relais & Châteaux property, the family-owned boutique hotel offers visitors a scenic base from which to experience the rugged beauty of Tofino, British Columbia. For the culinary adventurer, the Wickaninnish Inn’s Forage & Feast package — available year-round, thanks to the West Coast’s milder climes — is guaranteed to be a memorable treat. Between restful nights spent in the Inn’s luxurious, ocean-view rooms, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the area’s edible flora and fauna, learn the basics of foraging from an expert, and enjoy a five-course meal at The Pointe Restaurant highlighting wild ingredients that have been professionally and locally sourced.Starting at $1,140

High Tea


Set on a working tea plantation near Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park (home to 20 percent of the continent’s primates and the largest mountain rainforest in Central Africa) the luxurious One&Only Nyungwe House is a fully solar-powered, one-of-a-kind destination. If you go, nature walks and treks to see the chimpanzees should be part of the itinerary, of course. But you’ll also want to make time to experience their complementary Secrets of African Tea experience: in a single morning you can tour the plantation, learn and practice the art of picking tea leaves, and sample a locally grown black tea. You’ll never look at your daily cup of tea the same way again. From $1440 per night

Drivers Wanted

Luxury car and motorsport enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to improve their winter driving skills behind the wheels of a responsive, two-door sports car with the powerful Porsche Ice Experience. Choose between the 911 Carrera S, 911 Carrera 4S, or 911 Turbo on four different multi-day programs depending on your level of experience. The introductory course focuses on techniques for driving on ice and snow, giving participants the opportunity to practice and improve crucial skills such as proper winter braking and hill starts on low-traction surfaces. Of course, there’s also time for behind-the-wheels fun on the specially designed handling courses — the track features elevation changes, there are two circuits and two large skid pads, and drivers can test out both rear- and all-wheel driving vehicles. $5,495-$11,660

The National Tour


Want to embark on a truly unforgettable, homegrown journey with three of your closest friends? For the ultimate in luxury, Entrée Destinations’ fully customizable Our Three Oceans package is a 24-day, private jet/seaplane/helicopter/SUV voyage that crosses Canada and touches the three oceans that surround our spectacular country. Your small group has the opportunity to visit some of our country’s vibrant urban centres and most scenic, remote destinations including Fogo Island, the Northwest Passage, and Tofino, BC, staying at five-star hotels and world-renowned eco-resorts along the way.$520,000 for four

Chef’s Table


There are few dining experiences more intimate and pleasurable than a brilliant meal — a Japanese tradition where you entrust all aspects of the meal, from the ingredients and pacing to the experienced chef — especially when the payoff involves impeccably fresh seafood and beautifully presented courses. Now, imagine enjoying that experience with up to 11 of your dearest friends or colleagues in the comfort of your own home. With Shoushin’s private home catering offering in Toronto, owner and head chef Jackie Lin will customize and personally prepare a sushi-focused menu for you and your guests based around the restaurant’s critically acclaimed sakura or kiku omakase menus. From $3,000 [photo credit: Alfred Chow]

Heaven Scent

Located in the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, Ruby Brown’s unisex, small-group perfume workshop offers an opportunity to learn about the fragrance development process and explore the atelier’s artisanal perfume organ. There are over 60 essences to work with, although the base scent selection varies seasonally and over time. It’s a way to express one’s personality and imagination through fragrance. Participants will have the opportunity to create a bespoke, refillable bottle of perfume to take home. $200

Top Hats


Milliner Samantha-Tara Mainville offers a bespoke service for clients locally and internationally through her Quebec-based headwear company, Heirloom. From fashionable straw hats to sculptural trilby styles made with felt, Mainville’s minimal, timeless designs offer something for every person, especially when made to measure for size and personal aesthetic. The entire process, including an initial consultation and a subsequent fitting in the Heirloom atelier if you’re in Montreal, generally takes less than four weeks. We say it’s more than worth the wait. From $300

True Blessings


Celebrating a milestone anniversary with your partner soon? For a distinctive and memorable way to mark the occasion, you could book COMO Hotels and Resorts’ unique Bhutan Anniversary Blessing package and sweep them off their feet, again. Available to guests staying at COMO Uma Paro and COMO Uma Punakha in Bhutan, the package includes a two-hour ceremony in an intimate shrine room at a Buddhist temple where up to 15 monks will chant towards a long, happy and prosperous union for your relationship. You’ll wear traditional local attire during the ceremony and exchange white ceremonial scarves to represent your devotion and love to one another. US$2,545