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Photo by Danna Bordalí
July 2014 Tobacco & Rum
The July 2014 Tobacco & Rum Pairing by Philip Ili Barake in the "Got Rum?" magazine.
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Photo by Danna Bordalí
July 2014 Tobacco & Rum Photo 1
(From Left to Right): Cristian Benko, Ricardo Grellet, Philip Ili and José Miguel Salvador.
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Photo by Danna Bordalí
July 2014 Tobacco & Rum Photo 2
Limited 2013 Cigar Pairing
It took almost six months from the inception of this idea until I was able to execute it. The plan was to pair a special edition rum, released in 2013, with a limited edition “Habano” (100% Cuban cigar) released in the same year.
Let’s start by explaining what we mean by “a special edition rum” which, in the case of Zacapa, is represented by the 30,000 bottles released in 2013 only for the European market. Since the market for these bottles was a completely different continent, we knew we would not see any of them here in Chile. To make it a different rum from the traditional Zacapa, it was also given one more year of aging, a second aging in charred barrels and in sherry barrels. It features burnt caramel notes and a marked sweetness that reminds us of dry fruits and a caramel reminiscent of a freshly-madecrème bruleé. To cap it all, it comes in a bottle with a more classic “ look and feel”, similar to the presentation of the “Straight from the Cask” edition.
In the case of the Habano, since we are dealing with a protected Denomination of Origin, the Special Editions have to abide by certain rules. For example, for a brand to produce a “Special Edition”, that cigar (blend, shape and size) cannot already exist within the brand’s classic lineup. Since all the tobacco comes from different harvests, these cigars quickly become jewels praised by collectors. The format, however, can be repeated later on by the producer. A clear example of this is the “Pirámide” from Cohiba, initially released in 2001 and then released again in 2006. Another thing that can happen is for a Habano to first be released as a Special Edition and some time later it becomes a permanent addition to the company’s classic lineup (an example of this is Magnum 50 from H. Upmann in 2005). One last requirement is for the wrapper leaf to be aged a minimum of 2 years, which contributes to making each limited edition even more special.
It is not time to make ourselves comfortable, to start the pairing. While in Chile, there is no better place to smoke a cigar than at La Casa del Habano at the W Hotel. For this occasion I invited a group of very special friends: Cristian Benko, Manager and Editor of Polo Magazine, Ricardo Grellet, a friend and distilled spirits colleague at Diageo and José Miguel Salvador, Manager of La Casa del Habano in Chile, along with the store manager Nicolás Rojas.
The Limited Edition 2013 cigar I selected was a Romeo y Julieta, with its “Romeo de Luxe”, also known as Vitola de Galera “Capuleto” (52 ring size by 162 mm in length). At first look it reminds us of a classic pyramid, but with a regular shape. These dimensions mean we can be looking at around one hour of smoking enjoyment, with very marked transitions.
I started the pairing with Ricardo, since us Chileans are not known for our timeliness and we did not want to wait for the rest of the group to show up (the Habano was screaming to be smoked and we wanted to answer its call!). Right away and from the very beginning, we both noticed an excellent draw and the craftsmanship that went into its production.
Just as we started to pour the rum, the rest of the guests showed up, just like the genie Aladdin would do upon rubbing the bottle (or, in the case of Aladdin, lamp). Everybody grabbed their cigar and quickly joined our group. Everybody’s comments were that the Habano was at its peak of flavor, with very intense notes, all giving the cigar a medium body with refined notes of burnt wood. All in all, it was an excellent start to the smoking end of the pairing.
As we started to pair the cigar with the rum, both products were at their peak, but we could say that the rum was overpowering the cigar, it was above the tobacco notes. One of the points of a pairing is to find a balance, something that eluded us at first, but I had complete faith in the evolution of the pairing so we pushed through.
As we combined more and more the notes from the tobacco and those from the cigar, the rum kept dominating with its botanical and fruit notes, including juniper berries, dry figs and licorice, all these elements combined to remind us of a Spanish sommelier friend of ours, a landmark in the industry here in Chile.
As we reached the second third of the cigar,the conversation among all present was taking us in many different and pleasant directions, almost making us forget the task at hand. This means the balance between the cigar and the rum was closer and more harmonious, making it a pleasure to allow the senses to explore both products at their fullest. The Habano showed an even stronger profile and the rum, as if fighting back, was showcasing a more prolonged and lingering aftertaste.
As I’ve mentioned in previous occasions, a pairing is not only about witnessing the interaction between a drink and its counterpart. A pairing is also about the atmosphere created by the people involved and, taking all these factors into consideration, this pairing was absolutely perfect!
Philip Ili Barake