The Essence of Aging
For this pairing I wanted to explore a basic concept in our industry: aging. When it comes to rums, there are several environmental or external variables that can influence the aging, such as: geographical location, orientation of the warehouse, average temperature ranges during the seasons, the decision to employ new or used barrels and the size of the barrels.
Then there are the intrinsic or internal variables, such as the congener level (low levels for light rums and high levels for heavy rums) and the acidity.
All these and many more factors come together to give each rum its unique personality. There are so many of these personalities out there, that we could spend years and years looking for the perfect one, a mighty good task if you ask me!
For this pairing I selected Ron Añejo Dos Maderas 5+5, the result of a triple aging process: the first 5 years in the Caribbean (Guyana and Barbados, to be precise), then off to Spain to the warehouses of Williams Humbert, where the rum is aged first in used Palo Cortado barrels and later on in Pedro Ximenez barrels.
In the tobacco world a similar process takes place, during the Curing and Fermenting phases, following the harvest (here, the term fermentation does not refer to the same transformation that happens in the alcohol world), the leaves loose some of the excess nicotine content, the level of tar and ammonia also decrease, allowing for the rounding of the flavors, the development of more complex notes and, in general terms, the focusing of the tobacco notes (which varies depending on the type of leaves we’re dealing with).
The different types of leaves will play a crucial role in the manufacture of the cigar, from the Wrapper to the Binder to the Filler. For this reason, the technical descriptions of the cigars always mention the diverse origins, because certain tobacco valleys have better reputation than others. When the leaves come from different countries then the cigars can no longer be called “puros” (because they stop being “pure”). Then there are certain lines of tobacco that undergo an additional aging, such as what I chose today, a Camacho Triple Maduro Robusto (50x5) from Honduras, with 5 aged leaves, all different. The wrapper is from San Andrés, México and it features a dark and opaque color. The binder is a Corojo Maduro, a very popular and good choice and the filler is comprised by aged leaves from Honduras, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Without a doubt, this is an interesting blend and a very unique at that, since it is rare to find a cigar that is 100% aged.
To make this superb pairing even better, I had saved for this occasion a few slices of Jamón Ibérico Pata Negra, from Jabugo, made by Trujillo Etiqueta Negra. This ham has been dry aged between 18 and 32 months and is destined to highlight the concept of aging that is at the center of this pairing.
Once I have all these symbols of aging, it is time to start the pairing. Without a doubt I will start with the Jamón Ibérico, accompanied by the rum. Here the result is very predictable: the delicious oiliness and the meaty flavor with salty touches is accentuated even more by the opposing rum, whose sweet touch features the essence of the Spanish barrels, something that makes the combination unforgettable.
Once I finished the ham, it was time to light up my cigar. The aroma from the cigar’s “boquilla” (the end of the cigar that you light) immediately told me it was a difficult cigar for beginners, nothing smooth about it, but ideal for the pairing we had lined up table-side.
The first third rewarded me with a good draw, resulting from the bullet cut, ideal for a Robusto. The cigar was coming across with a medium to high intensity and the rum was able to keep up with its sweet and lingering notes in the palate.
As I approached the second third, this Camacho cigar started to impose itself, showcasing its full robust body with all the classical notes typical of Honduran tobaccos. While the rum was complex in both aromas and flavor, as a good Spanish rum, it was struggling to maintain the balance with the intensity from the cigar.
This has been my second pairing attempt with a Camacho Triple Maduro. The first pairing was even harder to pull off. And while I would recommend this second pairing blindly, I also believe that it is better suited for heavier rums, perhaps from Guyana or some specially-selected rums from Jamaica, as the cigar requires more aggressiveness or intensity from the rum, not necessarily from an aging perspective, but from a congener one.
If you are looking for a pairing where you highlight the profile of a cigar with a flavor intensity that is medium to high, this one would be ideal. Some people will be drawn more towards the rum than the tobacco, while others, particularly for tobacco enthusiasts, they will cherish the wide range of tobacco flavors within which to explore the pairing.
Personally, I think the pairing was very good, but Camacho has an even larger potential. I hope you are able to replicate it at home, where I’m sure it’ll be a great topic of discussion.
Philip Ili Barake