Not a Competition, Just Fun
I wanted to do this pairing during my visit to Italy’s Show Rum. The idea was to get together with some friends and for us try different rums (since we were going to be surrounded by them), but with a twist: each person would have a cigar from a different origin, to see how the descriptors of the rums reflect each individual.
The cigars I chose for this occasion were:
• Camacho Triple Maduro, Robusto (50 X 5”) from Honduras. This is a tobacco with maduro leaves in all levels, with a high strength. The wrapper comes from San Andrés, Honduras. The binder is Corojo and the filler is a mix of tobacco from Brazil, Dominican Republic and Honduras.
• Padrón Series 6000 (52 x 5 ½”) from Nicaragua. 100% Nicaraguan cigar with a maduro wrapper that lives within the high end of the strength range, even at the end of the smoking experience. This format is box-pressed, reminiscent of the classic Cuban cigars that is now a standard for Padrón.
• Ashton, Symmetry, Belicoso (52 x 5 ¼”) from the Dominican Republic. This cigar is from the Symmetry lineup, represents the first Ashton cigar to incorporate Nicaraguan leaves, something that results in increased richness, as experienced by those of us lucky enough to have smoked them before in pairings.
The rum companies that generously gave me a bottle of rum for this pairing were:
• Damoiseau Rhum Vieux Agricole 8 Years Old, from Guadeloupe, at 42% ABV
• Ocumare, Ron Añejo, Edición Reservada, from Venezuela, at 40% ABV and
• Appleton Estate, Reserve Blend, from Jamaica, at 40% ABV
Hopefully you can tell from the lineup that these were not randomly selected: I chose them based on their uniqueness and with an aim for diversity, so each person could have a different opinion.
We started by lighting up the cigars. I asked everyone around and no one had a problem with the draw during the first third, no one experienced a “dry cigar”. In other words, it was a great start and each person slowly started forming his own impression about the pairing.
All four of us, despite having a different cigar each, agreed that Ocumare had a very high sweetness level that did not pair up well against the tobacco. The group was evenly split between the Appleton and the Damoiseau, the former offering complexity, the latter balance. This was starting to become a great nosing and tasting exercise.
As I reached the 1/3 mark of my cigar (the Padrón), I noticed that Ocumare became a bit more balanced, not coming across as sweet as it had been early on. Shortly thereafter someone else noticed the same thing and, by the time we were all into the 2/3, the rest of the group also recognized this. Perhaps I noticed it faster than the rest, because I was smoking at a faster pace than the others, but Ocumare started to find its rhythm in the pairing, coming across more balanced just as our palates needed a bit of cleansing.
Of all the rums, Ocumare, as I just mentioned, served best when our palates needed refreshing. Halfway through the cigar, for example, some people (who started off with a Damoiseau because of its balance) changed to it momentarily, but later returned to Damoiseau to smoke the remainder of the cigar.
Those who felt that Damoiseau was balanced also opted to add complexity to the pairing by going with the Appleton. One person did admit that Ocumare changed for the better during the second third of the cigar, but he was still not fond of the sweetness. Let’s remember that his cigar was the mildest of all four and that the tobacco was contributing its own sweet notes. These notes could have been the ones beckoning for the Jamaican rum.
As far as my cigar, it was very much full-flavored. The entire line can be said to have a medium body, but starting with the second third, mine turned up the flavor dial, almost aggressively. Ocumare was perfect for me then, as it allowed me to cleanse my palate with it, but I also agree with the majority of those present that Damoiseau was better all-around. For strong, bold cigars such as mine, the Venezuelan rum was perfect towards the end, I would even suggest adding an ice cube to it to make it even cooler and more refreshing.
To finish the pairing, we turned our attention to chocolate with a 60% cocoa level, which proved to be an excellent “finish line”.
I hope you can recreate a pairing like this one at home, with your friends. Sharing rum and cigars with friends is an excellent way to spend time, turning an average gathering into an unforgettable experience!
Philip Ili Barake