Back To The Past
For the December pairing I wanted to finish the year with a memorable combination that celebrates the opening of Cuba to cigar lovers is the US A. Now that they are able to freely visit the island, I hope they do not buy fake Cuban cigars, which abound on the island nation!
To celebrate this historical event, I wanted to use a rum made in the USA and, of course, a Cuban cigar. I selected Richland Rum from Georgia, a low-volume craft rum made from sugarcane syrup pressed from local sugarcane fields, from within the state, which is also home to my favorite NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons(and even though they are struggling to win sometimes, I still cheer for them from Chile). Back to the rum, it is distilled in a 1,000 liter pot still and it is then aged for no more than 3 years in new American Oak barrels. The rum’s aroma is very similar to that of a whiskey, with all the notes one would expect after the aging, including caramel and vanilla. There are also the notes derived from the toasting of the oak barrel, reminiscent of cigar box, wet wood and coffee. Let’s see how it behaves during the pairing.
The place I selected for the pairing is becoming a classic location for me, I am referring to the “Casa del Habano” in Santiago, Chile. The “Habano” I selected was a Petit Robusto (50 x 102 mm) from Hoyo de Monterrey, a cigar with a medium body (in Cuban cigar lingo, it is very common to speak of the “fortaleza” or “strength” of a cigar), this should go very well with the sweet and woody notes from the rum.
Before lighting up the cigar, and upon a closer analysis of the aromas of the rum, I am reminded vividly of Jack Daniels, I am referring to the sweet caramel and vanilla notes, with a very pronounced sweet character. I don’t know if it was due to my hunger at the time, but when I lit up the cigar, I immediately detected toasted bread notes, followed by whole roasted coffee beans. This got my appetite going, imagine using a cigar as an aperitif! During the first third of the cigar, the dryness of the tobacco comes across and the rum also seems dryer, which could be either positive or negative for those doing the pairing, based upon their personal preferences and expectations. Personally, I like how the pairing favors the cigar above the rum, for me it is a good start. Those rum notes I mentioned earlier are there, but in the background, let ting other notes, more like potpourri, come through. Let ’s see how this unfolds as we move along.
As we smoke past the first third and we get into the “body” of the cigar, the intensity drops, the draw is very good and the burning is very even, this is what one normally expects from Hoyo de Monterrey. As far as the rum, it also becomes rounder and keeps approaching the typical bourbon, with all the expected traits from American Oak barrels, with sweet notes. This is definitely a great pairing for those who are coming from the bourbon world and just exploring the rum offerings available.
It is worth noting the growth in the micro distillery market in the USA, something that is starting to take a life of its own.
For me, pairings always have good results to offer and a palate that will appreciate them. As I approached the last third of the cigar, the rum notes approach what I would call a “Spiced Bourbon,” which –again- should do very well amongst Americans.
Personally I prefer dryer rums, even with some traces of higher alcohols, but I have to admit that in these pairings, we should keep in mind the taste and preferences of the masses who like sweet and spiced tendencies. Good cigars for these rums would be H. Upmann and Punch. If you like Richland Rum and are able to travel to Cuba, you should definitely look into those brands, but do not go past a medium intensity (“fortaleza”), otherwise you’ll tilt the balance too much in favor of the cigar.
Let us know how your pairings turn out, please use the hash tag #GRCigarPairing so we can all see them and share experiences.
Philip Ili Barake
My name is Philip Ili Barake, Sommelier by trade. As a result of working with selected restaurants and wine producers in Chile, I started developing a passion for distilled spirits and cigars. As part of my most recent job, I had the opportunity to visit many Central American countries, as well as, rum distilleries and tobacco growers. But my passion for spirits and cigars did not end there; in 2010 I had the honor of representing Chile at the International Cigar Sommelier Competition, where I won first place, becoming the first South American to ever achieve that feat. Now I face the challenge of impressing the readers of “Got Rum?” with what is perhaps the toughest task for a Sommelier: discussing pairings while being well aware that there are as many individual preferences as there are rums and cigar s in the world. I believe a pairing is an experience that should not be limited to only two products; it is something that can be incorporated into our lives. I hope to help our readers discover and appreciate the pleasure of trying new things (or experiencing known things in new ways).