Simon de Burton

How Cuba was overthrown as the cigar capital of the world

A reputation for excellence has long maintained the status of everything from French wines to Scottish tweed – but globalisation has disproved the myth that the best of any particular product can only come from one country. Cuba is no longer seen as the source of the finest cigars thanks to the increasing dominance of

Can the Ineos Grenadier rival the Land Rover?

When Land Rover finally axed its ‘old’ Defender in 2016 and promised to replace it with something better, traditionalists shed tears as readily as their beloved old-school Landys dripped oil. And the arrival of the ‘new’ Defender in early 2020 did nothing to help: ‘too expensive’, said some; ‘too complicated’, said others. ‘Too precious’, they

The affordable SUV that gets mistaken for a Bentley

Readers of a certain age might remember when some car marques were the butt of relentless derogatory jokes. Czech brand Skoda – which has since been brought up-market under VW ownership – was an especially popular victim (Q: ‘What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof?’ A. ‘A skip..’) as were Lada (Q. ‘How

The James Bond gadgets going under the hammer

In a 1965 issue of Playboy magazine, the late Sean Connery said: ‘Bond is the invincible figure every man would like to be.’ If you’re such a man (or woman) you’ve probably left it too late to step into the Crockett & Jones chukka boots worn by outgoing Bond Daniel Craig in No Time to

Should Wimbledon ditch its all-white dress code?

As this year’s Wimbledon Championships will demonstrate, tennis has moved on a bit in the past half-century: rackets are no longer wooden, ‘Hawkeye’ settles the ‘You cannot be serious’ moments and the winner of the ‘gentlemen’s singles’ competition will trouser £1.7m (compared with the measly £5,000 Stan Smith took home in 1972). But what happened

Car washing is making a comeback

‘Moisture is a car’s worst enemy, Gerald. So why are you washing it?’ So says Julie Walters in the 1985 comedy Car Trouble in which she plays frustrated housewife Jacqueline, whose pernickety husband has transferred his affection to an obsessively pampered Jaguar E-Type. The Sunday morning scene in which Gerald lovingly polishes the car’s famously

The electric Mercedes with a range to die for

As a pubescent teenager back in the late 1970s, I was delighted to once find a discarded copy of The Sun newspaper on a tube train, handily folded back to reveal page three. Having admired Miranda from Epping my eyes shifted to the report of a court case in which a retired brigadier had been

Why the characterful Ford Bronco is staging a comeback

The best part of a decade elapsed between Land Rover’s unveiling of the ‘DC100’ concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and the first ‘New Defenders’ hitting the road two years ago just as Covid struck – prompting suggestions that the beefy SUV had arrived ‘just in time for Armageddon’. During the interim, thousands of column

What will the Queen make of Swatch’s Jubilee watch?

Despite having to cope with family strife, a partying prime minister, the unctuous musings of BBC Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell and, most recently, a bout of Covid, our Queen conducted herself in the only way she knows how during the first two months of her platinum jubilee – with the utmost dignity. But ‘dignified’ might

How to drink whisky

Aside from Icelandic whale testicle beer and Korean wine made from baby mice, there are probably few drinks which the observation ‘It’s an acquired taste’ is more applicable to than whisky. And with Burns night upon us, you can rest assured that there will be plenty of people who are already dreading the moment when

How to drive to Greece

Readers of a certain age might recall the days when people ‘went for a drive’ as a form of pleasure. Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds now that combustion-engined cars are demonised, fuel prices are at an all-time high and unwittingly straying into a ‘low emission zone’ can cost you the price of a plane

Does gin taste better when made on an island?

The so-called ‘gin craze’ of the early 18th century is said to have led to ‘mother’s ruin’ being made available in more than 7,000 specialist shops up and down the length and breadth of England, many of which experimented with delicious special ingredients such as turpentine and sulphuric acid in an attempt to tease-out a

The Mazda MX–5: proof that sports cars can be affordable

The British have a long-standing reputation for coming up with great ideas, executing them quite well – and then leaving others to really run with them. Such is the history behind what is officially the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car of all time, the evergreen MX-5 made by Japanese marque Mazda. The story goes that the

The hidden fortune in old watches

It’s not so long ago that old watches used to turn-up at car boot fairs, charity shops and jumble sales (remember those?), usually in the form of unremarkable models set aside to be ‘got rid of’ after the grim reaper had called time on their original owners. Back then ‘watch collecting’ had yet to benefit

Implausibly fast: inside the Bentley GT Speed

When the famously gloomy British winter starts to tighten its icy grip and spirits begin to wane, a tangible reminder that the sun will shine again always provides a fillip. And I find watching David Niven in the 1958 film Bonjour Tristesse usually does the trick. The movie version of Francoise Sagan’s famous novel about a

Since when did running become so exclusive?

Many of us have reached the conclusion of late that the world has gone mad, so it will come as no surprise to learn that it’s now possible to sign-up for a run with an entry fee that’s proudly claimed to be ‘the second highest in the world’. To those who have long regarded running

Is there a car more quintessentially English than the Morgan?

There are few sports cars as quintessentially English as Morgans. They speak of World War Two and flat-capped Spitfire pilots driving home to their sweethearts through leafy country lanes, taking the bends at maximum speed but courteously slowing down for horses and to wave at the vicar. But now the 113-year-old firm, which has operated

A piece of Hollywood history: inside Tom Hanks’ film trailer

‘I got it in the days when movies moved slower,’ says Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks of the Airstream caravan that served as a home-from-home while shooting some of his biggest hits of the past 30 years, including Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Sleepless in Seattle. But now Hanks is offering the polished aluminium 33-footer at a