I wanted to start 2016 with the right foot, so I opted for a pairing that is becoming increasingly popular among cigar smokers: cocktails. I decided to conduct the pairing at Room N°09 at Hotel Vino Tinto (“Red Wine Hotel ”) in the Bellavista neighborhood, in Santiago, Chile. This neighborhood is very touristy, specially due to Pablo Neruda’s “Chascona” (one of his three houses in Chile), this bar in particular is slowly becoming one of the best ones in Santiago. This neighborhood is also the home of Red Luxury Bar, which I visited for a previous pairing. Both of these bars have, of course, excellent terraces where one can enjoy smoking a cigar.
For this occasion I was joined by Diego Harris, head bartender at Room N°09. I brought along two rums for the pairing:
• Smith & Cross from Jamaica, 100% Pot Still, “Navy Strength” (bottled at 57% ABV). The aroma of this rum is very typical of pot stilled rum, but at 3 years old, it lacks some of the oxidation associated with older specimens. This may complicate its use in a classic cocktail, as it is a very unique rum.
• El Dorado 15 Year Old from Guyana, a rum that is very close to my heart, due to its very defined character, even when compared with other 15 year olds available in the market. Harris, upon trying it, refused to mix it, opting to sip it neat, but at the end relented and produced great cocktails with it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Time to examine our cigars. I decided on a “Toro” (6” x 52) from H. Upmann, called “The Banker”. Made in the Dominican Republic, it is a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan leaves, with a wrapper from Ecuador.
Sounds delicious, let’s see how it works out!
“The Banker” is a line of cigars that draws its inspiration from brothers Carl and Hernan Upmann, of German origin, who were bankers and in 1844 immigrated to Cuba, not only to put into practice their banking skills, but also to develop the tobacco industry, which at that time was in its infancy. One little known fact about them is that decades later they had vested interests in a shipyard and that during World War I they lost it due to a fire, along with a ship docked in it. Not a very motivational story, but one that in the tobacco world is synonymous with greatness.
The rules for the pairing were as follows: Harris would taste both rums neat and would then have total control over how to prepare the cocktails. He could develop new creations or rely on tried and true recipes, but one thing became clearly evident right away: we would end the pairing with a Rum Manhattan, also known as a “Presidente”.
I proceeded with the lighting of my cigar, which showed fine patterns on the wrapper, which looked to be of excellent quality for a Maduro. The aromas emanating from the “boquilla” (the end of the cigar that you light up) hinted at something more than Dominican tobacco, meaning that the Nicaraguan tobacco was definitely there.
For the first third, Harris surprised me with his version of a “Rusty Nail”, using Smith & Cross. I say that he surprised me, because this cocktail is not usually one of my favorites, because it tends to be very overwhelming, but this time it was quite the opposite, very approachable and enjoyable. It was a great way to star t the pairing. The cocktail was served with an additional small glass, where one could dip the cigar, to enhance the pairing and, even though I am not a fan of doing so, I must say it wasn’t bad.
For the second third of the cigar, Harris prepared a cocktail using Amaretto, Vermouth
Rosso and Smith & Cross, but it was not a good match, since the intensity of the cigar was such that it overpowered the cocktail. The cocktail was very good, just not a good match.
Next came a Rum Old Fashioned, where El Dorado 15 made its debut. To my surprise, I was not able to detect the touch of Kahlua, cleverly folded in by Harris. The blend of all the ingredients showcased warm cocoa notes. This cocktail was the perfect match for the cigar, allowing me to clearly enjoy both of them.
Finally, for the last third of the cigar, it was time for the Presidente, which was to be created using both rums. Despite my high expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. The cigar, with its ear thy notes and its cocoa flavors combined perfectly with the cocktail. To be honest, I was wishing the last third of the cigar would last a bit longer but, since this was not possible, I ended up enjoying two more Presidentes by themselves!
I highly recommend this pairing, especially if you are able to recreate the last cocktail using both of these rums.
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).