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Royalton Hotel's Fireplace Program and Wood Sommelier

A sensory immersion making use of the boutique's 55 wood-burning fireplaces

by David Graver
on 19 November 2015

It's long been noted that our olfactory sense triggers the most associations and can activate memories or emotions that have been long forgotten. With that in mind, NYC's Royalton Hotel just unveiled a new program aimed at tapping into our sense of smell while also taking advantage of the boutique's 55 wood-burning fires. Their new Fireplace Program excels two-fold. The first part employs sachets of distinct wood types, selected by the hotel's tenured wood sommelier. The second is a unique food and drink menu, tailored to the scents in the air.

For those unfamiliar with the term "wood sommelier," it's an apt title for Brooklyn-based Ted Whitehead. A former litigator, Whitehead left the field of law to pursue something closer to his heart. For the last 10 years, his company The Woodman has been distributing firewood throughout the five boroughs. His familiarity with the scent profiles of wood as it burns led to this collaboration with the Royalton. As Whitehead shares with CH, "We were contacted by the Royalton because they were trying to think of ways to feature the fireplaces. We gave them a bunch of our different products, they tested them out and we settled on this idea." Whitehead selected five different types of wood and built fireplace-ready, hand-silk-screened 5x7 jute sachets dedicated to each—from hickory to pecan, apple, oak and maple.

"Inside, they are all chips. It's the ease of being able to introduce those types of wood rather than have five different types of logs beside the fireplace, along with the hazards of burning logs. They are all bagged, and the bags burn very quickly and don't have much odor themselves," he continues. Guests can order a specific sachet for in their room, staff will ignite it atop an existing log and the bag itself glows red for a few moments before unleashing the wood chips within. "For different people, different types of wood have various connotations. A lot of it triggers memories of either a location or an event. This product here may create memories itself," he concludes. Even the most delicate of the scents delivers something sensorial.

And, of course, as a destination always growing in acclaim for its food and drink offerings, Royalton's newly appointed Executive Chef Vanessa Miller and lead bartender Joshua Brandenburg have created food and drink firewood pairings. Among the cocktails, a Hickory Old Fashioned and a Maple Ramos Gin Fizz match well with the scents wafting through the air. The prosciutto and ricotta crostini with hickory smoked cranberries is just one standout from the food menu (not to mention the apple beignets with cider caramel). Unsurprisingly, the small dishes and cocktails hold up even without the scents they're meant to be paired with.

The Royalton NYC is located at 44 West 44th Street, New York, NY.

Images courtesy of The Royalton Hotel

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