Luxury is cheap. Luxury is easy.
Luxury, as it is all too commonly defined, is simply a transaction wherein an obscene amount of money is traded for something that exists solely to justify its price tag. It’s the yacht that harbors an onboard bowling alley, helicopter landing pad and full-service personal Starbucks (complete with barista who actually spells your name right). It’s the solid gold Italian sports car with built-in shiatsu massage and 20,000-carat emerald gear shifter.
The recipe for luxury is simple: find where “over the top” is, then keep climbing for a few miles.
Too often, luxury is just hollow avarice, and that’s why luxury is cheap.
But Lowcountry luxury, now that takes style.
The good life is all around you, in every sunbaked beach and every forest path creeping between centuries-old live oaks. It’s in every perfectly manicured golf course and on the face of every local who already knows your name.
Compared to that, how much joy can there honestly be in going over the top? Just as every neighborhood’s covenants hold fast to the same earth tones, so too is our luxury muted just a tad. Ostentatious just isn’t our style.
So what is? Read on.
Apple Edition Watch
You’re already going to buy the Apple Watch. Just go ahead and admit it. But as much pride as Apple takes in placing form above function, there’s something about the basic Apple Watch that doesn’t quite jive with evening wear. The iPhone is a beautiful piece of technology, but it hardly complements a two-button blazer when shrunk down and strapped to your wrist. Enter the Apple Edition watch.
Crafted with an 18-karat yellow or rose gold case and a precision-machined sapphire crystal display, the Apple Edition Watch can be paired with a classic black, rose gray or midnight blue buckle, or the bright red modern buckle for a pop of color to pair with your favorite cocktail dress. The price tag of $10,000 to $17,000 might be on the high end, but have you ever tried to send a tweet from a Cartier Tank Anglaise?
The Bentley Flying Spur
The name itself evokes images of bygone luxury, when cars were given names, not numbers. A limousine in the back seat and a drag racer in the front, this handcrafted masterpiece of an automobile beautifully balances luxury and power. The famed Flying Spur W12 engine puts 616 horses under a hood that embodies the craftsmanship the Bentley nameplate is known for. The interiors, for example, are still stitched by hand in true Bentley fashion.
And in keeping with the spirit of luxury designed not for flash but for inspiration, we should tell you that even with an MSRP north of $200,000, the Flying Spur is considered the entry-level model in the Bentley family. Don’t let any of those Mulsanne drivers know how fun this thing is.
The Gunboat 55
Named the “top domestic” at the Monaco Yacht Show, the Gunboat 55 is a carbon-fiber work of art. Sail around the world or simply turn heads at Harbour Town with a 57-foot catamaran that places a premium on simplicity without ever sacrificing luxury. From the mast to the crossbeam, the Gunboat 55 presents passengers with space built for capturing the salt air, thanks to an open aft end. Unwind on weather-proof Italian style ultra-leather sofas, grill up your catch on the built-in barbecue on the aft deck’s teak “back porch,” then retire to one of two cabins with queen-size berths and private heads.
Every inch of this seaborne stunner was designed for luxury, right down to the stainless steel Bosch appliances in the galley, but even greater care was taken to build the Gunboat 55 with the sailor in mind. The result is a captain’s dream vessel.
Private Jet Vacations
Forget everything you thought you knew about vacation packages. The rise of our Instagram culture has made travel a blistering hot industry (since everyone wants that Angkor Wat selfie or the sunrise over Machu Picchu with the Mayfair filter) and vacation packagers know that the experience rules.
Even entry-level consumer travelers are finding that packaged vacations no longer mean boarding a crowded bus with a pack of fellow tourists to rush their way across their destination in a flurry of photos and boxed lunches. Instead, they’re finding a new kind of experiential travel that makes the journey just as desirable as the destination.
Enter Presidential Private Jet Vacations, a vacation packager out of Fort Lauderdale that offers not just a vacation, but a private jet experience that wings you around the world. For just $22,000 a head, you can fill a private jet with 10 of your best friends and enjoy four days of experiential elegance in Napa Valley without ever having to wait in line for a TSA pat-down. Have a slightly larger budget and a few more friends? Fill an Airbus 319 with your entourage and spend a few weeks island-hopping through the South Pacific for $109,900 a head. Just be sure to tag us in your vacation photos.
European River Cruising
While we’re on the subject of travel, ask any travel agent and they’ll tell you: European river cruising is the go-to luxury travel experience. Named the top new river cruising ship for 2015 by Cruise Critic, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ S.S. Maria Theresa is a floating baroque palace, essentially, that plies the rivers of Europe in immaculate luxury and sophistication. With staterooms boasting French balconies and handcrafted Savoir of England beds, and deck areas outfitted with lavish palatial design, the ship itself is nearly as glorious as the views it sails by.
But Uniworld is far from the only name in river cruising. Viking River Cruising sails its signature long ships all over the world, from Europe to Asia, offering the feel of a top luxury hotel with a different view every day. And Crystal Cruises recently unveiled details on two river ships set to debut in 2017, featuring standard suites of 250 square feet, and ultra-luxe penthouse 500-square-foot penthouse suites.
Here we break the rules of this list somewhat and bring you something that is truly luxury for the sake of being luxury: vodka that sells for $1 million a bottle.
Created by Blackwood Distillers, this wheat-based vodka begins life as a mere triple-distilled spirit. Its price tag is in the filtration: first it is ice-filtered through Nordic birch charcoal, then it is filtered through sand containing precious gems, then it is bottled with a hollow tube running up the middle filled with Swarovski crystals and assorted precious and semi-precious gems.
Go on, treat yourself just this one time.
Dining Like a King
For those looking to introduce some luxury into their meals, there is no shortage of high-end ingredients to let you truly sample the taste of luxury.
Begin with Lambda Olive Oil, billed as the world’s first “luxury olive oil.” Produced from Koroneiki olives grown in the village of Krista on the Island of Crete. Within eight hours of being picked, each olive is processed through cold extraction and each bottle is filled and labeled by hand. The result is a $185 bottle of pure bliss.
Follow it up with some white truffles. Even the basic cultivated black truffle lends an elegant air to any recipe, but the white variety? Pure luxury. Available only in certain months of the year (as luck would have it, we’re in truffle season), the best white truffles come from the Piedmont region of Italy around Alba. Their seasonality is second in driving up demand only to the method in which they are found — specially trained pigs are set loose on the Piedmont every year. And each year, they find fewer and fewer, driving the price sky-high. In December of last year, a 4-pound truffle was unearthed and sold for $61,000 at Sotheby’s.
And if we’re tasting luxury, it’s sure to carry hints of Iranian saffron. Long banned due to the embargo against Iran, the spice grew in reputation, and the forbidden flavor of “red gold” has slipped into legend. However, an odd quirk in the recent nuclear deal with Iran could finally bring Iranian saffron into our market. At $65 a gram, it’s worth more than gold, but good taste is worth everything.
The Peloton Cycle
If you’re a cyclist, you’ve come to call the right place home. Hilton Head Island is renowned as a cycling hot spot, having been named the only Gold Award bike-friendly community in the state by the League of American Bicyclists. Sadly, sometimes it rains, keeping cyclists from our miles of bike paths until the clouds clear.
Enter the Peloton Cycle, the most high-tech piece of exercise equipment in the world. Crafted of carbon steel and featuring a Neodymium rare earth magnet system for resistance, the real elegance of the cycle is in its brains. A full high-definition touchscreen shows you all of your vitals while you ride, plus connects you to a world of fellow Peloton cyclists, plus custom content like live streaming indoor spin classes. And yes, the touchscreen is sweat-proof.
The Stelle Audio Pillar
The darling of the New York Luxury Technology Show, the Stelle Audio Pillar finally brings a touch of class to the humble Bluetooth speaker.
For too long, placing audio wherever you wanted required finding a place in your home’s carefully crafted décor for a large stainless steel speaker that would look more at home on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Futuristic design is the hallmark of the tech industry, but for the most part, it’s the only design you can buy.
Enter Stelle, which used its proprietary technology to wrap 360-degree sound in a dazzling array of styles. At $300, the Stelle Audio Pillar is one of the few Bluetooth speakers to emphasize form along with function. Natural woodgrain in chocolate and caramel, and even ultramodern designs from DwellStudio make the pillar a luxurious treat for your eyes and ears.
For Everything Else, There’s the Lowcountry
Now that you’ve been regaled by the dazzling luxury that may just lay within your grasp, let us remind you of the basic premise with which we started this list: the Lowcountry is its own luxury.
You can fill your vodka with all the diamonds in the world, and it won’t taste any sweeter than when it’s sipped on a wraparound porch staring down the kaleidoscope of color that is a Lowcountry sunset. That six-figure sedan can’t hold a candle to a golf cart cruising down Calhoun Street, when you’re sharing it with the right people. And that private jet will take you all over the world, but you’ll never find another place as beautiful as the place we call home.
The beauty and character of our slice of the world, regardless of which side of the bridge you live on, makes luxury a tricky proposition. Compared with the cool breezes off of the beach, the crack of a 5-wood off the tips as it sends a ball sailing down a crisp green fairway, or the raucous energy of Harbour Town during the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, none of these things can compete with the Lowcountry.
And that’s why we do luxury a little different here.