I didn't plan on drinking 8 bottles of Dom Pérignon on a trip last year from LAX-BKK on SQ in F.
In fact, my liver is just now starting to forgive me.
I blame it on spontaneous combustion. Or pent-up angst. Or maybe the 240 knot headwind that made that trip take forever.
It was mid-December and I was sitting in the Star Alliance F lounge at LAX waiting for SQ11 to NRT and then NRT-SIN-BKK in F.
The lounge Champagne was swill, so I sipped gently and counted down the time until boarding.
BOTTLE #1 OF DOM:
I boarded early and avoided the hubbub. After a dozen trips in the nose of a SQ 747, the excitement has yet to wear off.
A Singaporean smile beams at me. "Mr. Macabus, would you like a glass of Champagne?"
I see the bottle of Dom she's carrying is the 1999 vintage.
"Absolutely," I say demurely. "I've had this vintage many times and really like it."
Her smile lights up to about 2,000 watts as she pours the pale gold liquid into a full-size champagne flute.
"Ahhh, back in the saddle again," I think to myself. "Life is good."
The cabin is booked 4 of 12. A positive sign.
Canapés, nuts, another glass of Champagne. I look around and see a pregnant Japanese woman traveling alone and two other Asian women in their 60's. All good signs that the cabin will be mine. Hah!
I had just worked three solid months of 80-100 hour weeks and was ready to let my hair down - what's left of it anyways...
Another glass of champagne. Damn this 1999 Dom is ridiculously good.
"Mr. Macabus," the FA says with a look of utter concern. "We have to offload baggage for passengers who have not boarded."
I couldn't care less.
"It may be an hour delay." she says dripping with sorrow.
I spot the bottle of Dom in her hand.
"I understand." I say, trying my best to keep a straight face.
An hour passes in the blink of an eye. Bottle #1 is gone. I'm the only passenger drinking.
The F purser appears before me.
"Mr. Macabus," he says with grave consternation. "It seems there are very strong headwinds to Narita."
I envision a tropical waterfall filled with with Champagne. He does not disappoint.
"We must load extra fuel," he says and presents a new bottle from behind his back. "Here's some more Champagne while we wait."
BOTTLE #2 of DOM.
My iPod is amped. Menu perused and ready to explore. Glass of Dom fully charged.
We finally leave over two hours late. The flight crew filled up my glass with Dom and INSISTED that I keep it during takeoff. I obliged.
We taxi past a LONG line of waiting commuter aircraft and small jets. –
I imagine them watching our Jumbo with awe.
My favorite seat on SQ11 is 3F. The "A" side usually gets a little warm from the sun, but on this flight there is SNOW falling on my head from the vents overhead. It started about 15 minutes after takeoff from LAX, and continued for about an hour.
The FA bundled me up in a down duvet and gave me a fresh glass of Dom.
I'm happy as a clam snuggled in my cocoon, watching the West coast float past outside the windows.
Appetizers were served. My glass of Dom was replenished, and I settled in for the long haul. Little did I know how long it would actually take.
I had the filet mignon with all the trimmings. Then I asked the FA what's left. "You're still hungry?" she asked incredulously, looking at my trim frame.
"I'm always hungry" I said proudly. And accepted her gracious offer of the full Japanese meal.
BOTTLE #3 of DOM.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a FA poke her head out of the galley and assess my fuel supply. Thirty seconds later I heard the musical sound of Dom bottle #3 popping open. "Yes!" I thought a bit guiltily as I saw the other passengers drinking diet soda.
She poured the Dom and I noticed it was the 2000 vintage. She looked concerned when she saw my wide-eyed expression.
"Is it okay?" she said almost apologetically.
"I'm sure it's fine," I said. "It's just the last few flights you've had the 1999, and now this is the 2000."
SQ FAs are absolutely the best. "Well," she said conspiratorially. "I've got plenty of both, so don't worry about a thing."
I took a sip and my lips started quivering. Honey. Butterscotch. Toasted marshmallow. Mineral. Straw. Caramel.
"It's extraordinary." I said with a swoon. "Much better than the 1999."
She seemed excited and rushed away to tell the crew.
It's now 7 hours into the flight to NRT and the pilot comes on the PA with an unusual announcement. There's a massive winter storm in the region and our 744 was experiencing an unprecedented 240 knot headwind. We would be quite late getting into NRT. I couldn't care less.
The purser came over and wanted to talk about Champagne. News travels fast.
"Don't you like Krug?" he asked.
"It's a little too sweet for me," I said, but he had already disappeared.
The FA and purser came to my seat carrying three bottles of Champagne and three fresh glasses.
"We never get to taste the Champagne," the purser says wistfully. "So can you taste them all and tell us what you think?"
Was he kidding? This was like an episode of the Twilight Zone for Champagne lovers.
They poured a glass of each of the 1999 Dom, the 2000 Dom, and the Krug non-vintage.
I had my work cut out for me. Especially since the FA handed me a sheet of paper and pen, then knelt down on one knee and waited for me to taste each and write down what I thought about them. A Champagne tasting at 35,000 feet - what could be better?
The FA asked if I wanted a snack. I asked which meals were left, and she offered the Butterfish. I accepted.
BOTTLE #4+ of DOM.
The champagne tasting verdict was in. The 2000 Dom was the "one," and a new bottle was ceremoniously opened in my favor.
It was now 11 hours into what is normally a 12 hour flight to NRT, and we still had over 1,500 miles to go.
The plane was dragging into the headwind at an angle I've never experienced. The normal angle of a 744 at cruising altitude is about 2-3 degrees nose-up. This baby was lumbering along at about 6-7 degrees.
Later, I asked for a "snack" and was served a full dinner of beautiful lamb chops. A little Bordeaux on the side was a perfect compliment.
The crew filled up my glass with more 2000 Dom and insisted I keep it for the decent into NRT. I didn't complain.
A quick dash off the plane and I was in the ANA F lounge for a shower. Midway through lathering, I was overcome by a premonition that the flight might leave without me due to the delay. I rinsed quickly and rushed to the gate - just in time to make the flight to SIN.
BOTTLE #5 of DOM.
The F cabin was full, except for my empty Connolly-leather seat. A new FA appeared as if suddenly rubbed from a magic lamp.
Did she know I had already consumed 4-1/2 bottles of Dom?
"Mr. Macabus," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "Would you like a glass of Champagne?"
"Are you pouring the 1999 or 2000?" I asked, then realized I probably sounded like a wine snob.
"The 2000," she said proudly. "Have you tried it yet?"
My grin gave it away. She poured me a glass. I was in heaven.
I held on to another fresh glass of Dom as the 747 staggered to the runway. The cabin was full of jittery Asian businessmen who were only drinking coffee or soda. YES! The Dom is mine again.
The flight from NRT-SIN usually takes about 6.5 hours, but tonight it took over 8 because of the headwinds.
More Dom? Why of course. A lobster dinner. More Dom. A full Japanese dinner. More Dom. Ahhhh.
BOTTLE #6 of DOM.
Another 2.5 hours to go.
When they weren't filling up my Champagne glass, the flight crew spent an inordinate amount of time with me chatting about world politics. I took this as a sign that I was keeping my wits about me - despite all the Dom.
An hour before landing a beautiful filet mignon landed on my tray table.
"I thought you might be hungry," the FA said demurely. Who was I to deny this lovely Singaporean woman the pleasure of watching me eat another meal?
The seat belt sign lit up and the pilot announced we were on approach to SIN. I looked at my empty glass of Dom and thought "perfect timing", for I really needed a break.
Then I heard a loud 'POP' from the galley. Oh no!
My glass was refilled TWICE before landing.
I've replayed that spectacular landing into SIN a thousand times in my mind ever since. The fog refracting the harbor lights into a million points of light. It was hauntingly ethereal.
Changi airport at 4 in the morning is a really weird trip. The lights are on, but nobody's home. And since the skytrain was closed, it took over 30 minutes on empty travellators to get to the T2 F lounge - which has slumberette rooms.
Before bed I cleaned out what was left of the dinner buffet.
At 7:00 am REALITY struck with a vengeance. It took a good 60 seconds to figure out who I was, and more importantly - where I was.
Shave, shower and... breakfast. Then I was ready for the 8:40 am flight to BKK.
At the time, SQ ran a 777 with 2-2-2 in F on the 2 hour flight from SIN-BKK. F has since been eliminated on this route...
The sun is up and I'm onboard at 8:15. Dom? Heck yeah!
BOTTLE #7 of DOM.
I was the only passenger in F.
Dom is truly the "breakfast of champions."
I had the chicken curry and it was so hot that North Korea could have used it as nuclear fuel.
That bottle of Dom was empty in a heartbeat.
And yes, it was the 2000.
Another POP from the galley.
BOTTLE #8+ of DOM.
It's been about 32 hours since LAX and I've drank more than 8 bottles of Dom Pérignon. Over a thousand dollars worth of Champagne.
It sounds like an unGodly amount, but let's work the numbers.
I was awake for about 26 hours on that trip. A .75L bottle has 5 glasses. Okay, let's assume 42 glasses of Dom over 26 hours. That's a little over 1.5 glasses per hour. Not drunk, just a nice steady Champagne glow... Plus I had lots of food, a driver to pick me up in Bangkok, and nothing to do upon arrival but spend the day at a spa.
If there's a better buzz on this planet, I haven't found it yet.
If there's a worse hangover on this planet, I haven't found it yet either.
Although, I came pretty close six months ago on a LX trip from LAX-ZRH-BKK in F.
When will I ever learn?