Dec 2012 Tobacco & RumMy name is Philip Ili Barake, Sommelier by trade. 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.
It gives me great pleasure to close out the 2012 year, a year that has been full of contradictions about the end of the world, earthquakes and eclipses… Well, I do not believe in any of these things and so I dedicate myself to only enjoying the great moments in everyday life. It is during this season that I often recall the first two movies of “Die Hard” (both movies take place during Christmas), where John McClane faced seemingly insurmountable problems just like the end of the world prophecies we are finding around every corner. I wish I could have always celebrated these fine moments with a fine cigar rather than smoking cigarettes, but I’m not perfect…
I would like to celebrate this month in particular with two products that are unique in their respective lines: one of the world’s finest rums and a cigar that, with its form and blend, makes a great contender for this occasion.
For this pairing I decided to reunite with a great friend, David Pérez, a gourmet chef, lover of fine quality cigars and elegant dining. After the tasting, we settled down at his apartment to a wonderful barbeque with sautéed mushrooms. As you can see, we lead a very hard life.
As I stated earlier, this pairing is unique and very special to me, so the rum I have chosen for this occasion is one of my all - time personal favorites: El Dorado 21 Years Old from Guyana. This rum showcases a very special body, one developed from the blend of different stills, such as the Enmore Wooden Coffey Still, the Versailles and the Albion Savalle still.
Upon analyzing the rum, we are mesmerized by its deep and uniform amber color, characteristic of the aged rums from Guyana and Jamaica. The aroma is comprised of soft subtle notes of orange peel, toffee and some sweet spices (such as clove and cardamom), well blended with floral notes. On the palate, its initial taste is that of caramel just prior to the point of being burnt, reminding us of Crème Brûlée, as well as, the enticing spices found in the aroma. Only this time, it is also accompanied by hints of rosemary and thyme. In the first few initial analyses it shows us a very interesting ending with notes of bitter chocolate and hints of orange, very seductive to be analyzed separately.
To keep the rum in good company, I selected a cigar from the Dominican Republic that has a very interesting blend, which reminds me of the twisted tobaccos from the 19th Century. I am referring to the Double Figurado “Chubby Especial ”, from the Crown Series of Zino Platinum, with a ring gauge of 61 and 5 7/8” in length.
The cigar’s binder has a filler comprised of about 25% tobacco cultivated in Peru (from Havana seeds), and about 75% Ligero tobacco from two zones from San Vicente, Dominican Republic (Ligero: tobacco leaves that come from the top part of the tobacco plants). Both leaves are aged up to 5 years.
The binder, which has been aged for 4 years, is of Connecticut origin and the seed from the same name. The wrapper is hand selected, from Ecuadorian origins, and the seed is of Maroon Connecticut that has been aged for 2 years in the Dominican Republic.
Once we’re done with our initial savoring of this excellent rum, we prepare for the moment when we begin to light up our cigar. Normally, in a regular setting, you want to apply the cigar cut on the “knob” (the area where the cigar makes contact with the lips), unless the cigar already comes precut from the factory. In the case of a Double Figurado cigar, it is recommended to cut along the “nozzle” (the area where the cigar is lit and inhaled), a very small cut, just a few millimeters, to obtain a perfect burn and where we do not risk burning the cap.
The first third of the cigar unfolds a medium- to-high intensity, showcasing its great earthy character with notes of coffee beans, accompanied by subtle notes of spices and salt enticing our salivary glands. As we begin to blend the cigar with the rum, we now are extremely and pleasantly surprised as the cigar brings forth fruity/citric notes like those of oranges, as well as, notes of bitter chocolate that create a great balance. All of the semi-burnt caramel notes we had detected earlier in the rum begin to disappear, making this pairing thus far surprisingly well balanced and totally recommendable. As we approach two-thirds of the way of the cigar, it continues with its intensity and balance without letting go, in both cases, of a very easy draw and fabulous even burn throughout the entirety of this pairing.
As we come to the end of this pairing, we can’t think of a better way to close this year. Both the rum and the cigar are unconditionally recommendable on their own, and are matched superbly when enjoyed together, reminding us of how a pairing of this magnitude can amaze us. I hope you have the opportunity to experience this pairing before the end of this year. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season with your friends and family.
Happy New Year !
Philip Ili Barake