I know that in my country, Chile, we have the exact opposite climate than in the United States. For example, if it is summer in Chile, then the USA is in its winter season. So I was inspired by these opposites to choose my next pairing from the Caribbean, whose warm climate is very similar to that of South America. The cigar comes from the Cuaba brand from Cuba and it will be paired up with two rums: first with one from DonQ of Puerto Rico and second with a rum made by Oliver & Oliver of the Dominican Republic. The sequence of these pairings will be quite interesting.
First, I begin by describing all the parties involved in this month’s pairing. The cigar I have chosen is the Vitola Distinguidos from the Cuaba family, with a ring gauge of 52, 162 mm in length and with a medium to heavy body. This cigar has been in my collection since 2009 under ideal conditions, which is sure to make this a very pleasant smoke. The shape of Cuaba cigars is very peculiar, giving them characteristics very much like those of a Doble Figurado cigar, a tobacco that was manufactured and consumed a lot during the second half of the nineteenth century. This cigar will give me about an hour’s worth of pleasure and tranquility.
So, what will I have to drink for the next hour as I smoke my cigar? Right now, as I prepare for the pairing, it is 4:00pm and it’s about 30° C (86°F). As I am smoking the first third of the cigar, I notice that it has a somewhat refreshing feeling and so it occurs to me that the best way to enjoy these moments is to pair it with some DonQ Gold Rum served in an ice-filled glass with sparkling mineral water so as to not alter the taste of the rum. I know that my recommendation of adding this sparkling water can seem a bit exaggerated, but the truth is that the properties and characteristics of the rum do change when mixed with different types of water.
DonQ is produced by the Serrallés family, located in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and they have a long family history of being in the sugarcane industry, making this region a landmark for all rum connoisseurs. Serrallés has been producing excellent rums for about 150 years, and so in this pairing we will begin by using their DonQ Gold. You may tell me that this rum is not the best rum to use because of its young age, especially when pairing it with such a fine cigar (with blends of ½ to 5 years in American oak barrels). I would absolutely agree with you, however, I only need this rum for the first third of the cigar to complement the high temperatures, and so I will drink the rum exactly as I had recommended earlier so as to maintain the refreshing feeling.
And so in the case of the Dominican Republic, I shall leave the very last phase of the pairing (the last 2 thirds) to a rum produced by Oliver & Oliver called Opthimus 25 Years Old Rum. This rum has very distinct periods of maturation and then it is blended with the oldest rum resulting in a very controlled Solera blend, but at the same time giving it its artisan character. So, in this final pairing I will be sipping this rum neat, in a snifter, with no ice or water. This is the best way to finish the last two thirds of the cigar.
Back to the beginning: as I light up my cigar, in this case the Doble Figurado, I need to exercise caution so as not to burn the cap of the cigar (as I did in December’s pairing with the Chubby Especial by Zino Platinum). In this case, I will cut just a little on the side of the mouthpiece so as to get an even burn; some of you may have your own techniques you prefer.
Now that the cigar is lit I start to detect earthy notes along with the taste of coffee beans and I also notice the draw of the cigar has been excellent since the beginning. As I start to blend the rum with the cigar it does exactly what I had anticipated, it is notably refreshing with soft hints of vanilla, a characteristic of light rums that have been well distilled and filtered.
Something that did occur that I was not anticipating was that I found myself drinking more due to the enjoyment I was getting from the ambient temperature and the refreshing feeling. The cigar, on the other hand, displayed very smooth notes making the initial pairing not a bad start after all.
Towards the end of the first third of the cigar, I give it a “refill”, which means to add a shot of rum to the glass, since the ice is melting, diluting the rum. The “refill” causes notes of vanilla and saffron to reappear.
In the next two-thirds of the cigar I move on to the Opthimus 25 Year Old Rum which highlights and enhances notes of caramel, vanilla, powdered cocoa, lactic notes of fatty chocolate and subtle notes of cinnamon accompanied by a change in heat and warmth in the mouth (of course, because I consumed it with no ice). The more I continued to smoke; I kept on discovering that the body of the cigar was demonstrating its true strength. With its aggressive notes and well-marked tobacco, they began to blend with the rum’s notes bringing forth notes of dried figs, raisins (in part from the rum), black tea and toasted coffee beans (from the cigar). These last notes lingered through the last third of the cigar, along with strong smoked coffee and burnt caramel, a very pleasant finish.
This pairing reminded me that one can join the Caribbean, taking advantage of the best from each country, and you will always be pleasantly surprised. I hope you will all be able to repeat this pairing when the weather is more conducive for you and summertime comes around.
Days before I write about my pairings, I post photos on my Twitter account about the pairings I will be making for the upcoming month. I would love to hear your ideas, comments and/or concerns. You can find me on Twitter at @Cigarili. Happy New Year!