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Ron Varadero and Rocky Patel
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Philip Ili Barake Photo
For this pairing, I opted to chase the pleasure of the fifteens, both in the tobacco and in the rum. I selected a Rocky Patel Fifteenth Anniversary Robusto, 5 x 50, a very aggressive cigar and for the rum I chose what I consider to be a very well made rum from the Eastern part of Cuba: Ron Varadero Añejo 15 year old.
I knew from the beginning that this would not be a very easy pairing to make. Ever since I tried the Rocky Patel Fifteenth Anniversary in the Dominican Republic, it left its mark on me, like a burnt-in screen, for its excellent and tight roll. Many people who’ve tried it also remember this cigar for its marked strength, so you can see why pairing this is not an easy task.
Rocky Patel cigars bring together tobaccos from different countries. In this particular cigar, however, the Nicaraguan blend comes across in dominant fashion, even though the cigar is not 100% Nicaraguan. It is a great example of tobaccos from this country, famous for their aggressiveness in the palate.
The first third of the cigar was wonderfully marvelous, with a draw reminiscent of black pepper and cacao that is about 70% dry. It also has earthy/unctuous notes that are very enjoyable, making this a very enjoyable experience. Now, regarding the rum…
Based on my experience, rums from Eastern Cuba (such as Caney and Santiago de Cuba) are typically light, they don’t necessarily have oak notes from the barrels themselves, but rather from the rums those barrels have stored before, showcasing well-oxidized notes with sweet hints of figs and raisins that are a perfect match against the tannic notes from the first third of the cigar.
As I start the second third of the cigar, the experience remained consistent, with a medium-to-high intensity, marked by notes of even drier cacao, perhaps equivalent to cacao that is 90% dry. It is possible that cacao this dry will not be appealing to many, but trust me, it is ideal when it comes to pairing a cigar with a light, dry rum, as both the cigar and the rum combine in the palate to produce long-lasting and harmonious notes. Looking back at the first time I had this cigar, I recall wishing I had a snifter of good Dominican Republic rum. And like a good self-fulfilling prophecy, I am now here, at one of my favorite places near my home, re-living the experience at the Element restaurant in Santiago, Chile, on a terrace surrounded by German-style houses, with a lot of wood trimmings. The surroundings make you forget momentarily that you are in the capital city and, believe it or not, the ambiance is one of the key factors in the enjoyment of cigars and rums. Combine this with the company and you will unequivocally agree that each pairing is unique.
But enough of romanticism, let ’s return to the arduous task of the pairing. Now in the heart of the smoking (the second third), I feel the rum lingering in the palate a bit longer, more pleasantly. At this precise moment, I wish I had selected, instead of the Robusto, the Vitola Toro or the Torpedo from this same line, so I could prolong this enjoyment. Could this pairing have worked with a different rum? In the past we’ve switched from one rum to another right at this point, going into the last third of the cigar. But to be honest, I am getting a lot of pleasure from this pairing and I consider it marvelous.
As I wrap up the last 30 minutes of smoking, I am happy to report that pairing this fifteenth anniversary cigar with a 15 year old goes beyond the number they share in common. It is a complex pairing, but is also a rewarding one; I recommend it for smokers with an average experience, who are willing to experience the aggressiveness of a Nicaraguan tobacco with an old-fashion rum. I hope you will be able to match these two products or that you will find similar products with which to conduct your own flavor and sensation pairing.
Philip Ili Barake