March 2013 Tobacco and RumMy name is Philip Ili Barake, Sommelier by trade. 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.
My dear readers, we all know that when a person tastes a product, he/she begins to recall certain things, events, a product or an instance that occurred at a specific time. This pairing reminded me very much of certain locations due to the aromas they demonstrate as well as their blend. For this occasion I elected two very special products and I was greatly surprised at just how well they went together.
The rum I chose was an excellent production of Panamanian origin, from the hands of Don Pancho, Rum Master, with a long Cuban history, whom since 1991 can be found in Panama developing excellent elixirs.
I chose one of his products, Zafra Master Reserve 21 Year Old Rum. This rum was aged with high quality sugarcane “aguardiente”, with a level of well-balanced congeners from various rums, whose time spent in Bourbon barrels gives this rum its Spanish style, making this rum one of the most excellent products one can find today.
The cigar I chose for this pairing was from a Limited Edition from Cuba that I had been saving for a very special occasion and this pairing felt like the perfect time to bring this cigar out. I chose the Cohiba 1966 Limited Edition 2011, with a dark skin escaping from its classic color indicative of the Cohiba line. The leaves come from the “superior leaves” of the shaded tobacco plant and the interior leaves (filler) have been aging for at least 2 years.
The Cohiba 1966 has a ring gauge of 52 and 166 mm in length, called a Vitola Galera “Cañonazo Especial”. Its leaves come from very special Vegas from San Juan & Martinez and San Luis, both from Vuelta Abajo, Cuba.
After the brief description of these fine products came the most important part, serving myself a snifter of Zafra and lighting up my Cohiba.
The aromas of this rum were very mellow, reminding me of almonds and caramel well assembled with a long and silky finish. The cigar, meanwhile, was burning through its first third, demonstrating a good, even burn, with complex toasted notes typical of tobacco from the Pinar del Rio region. This reminded me very much of my days in Habana smoking with my colleagues and discussing pairings near the boardwalk, Balcón Bayamanaco. I recall these moments with some nostalgia because, unfortunately, I will not be attending the “Festival del Habano” this year.
As I began the next two-thirds of my cigar, the rum continued to demonstrate its excellent quality, it continued with its mellow notes that mixed very well with the notes of the Cuban tobacco that was well crafted, leaving on the palate very enjoyable tannic notes of toasted coffee with a long smooth after taste.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best pairings I have ever had to describe and talk about. The truth of the matter is that I lack the right vocabulary words to truly express just how wonderful this pairing was. If you have the opportunity to get your hands on these two outstanding products, please think of me, do not hesitate for a moment to try this pairing out.
Philip Ili Barake