Cigars

H. Upmann Magnum 56 Edición Limitada 2015

Although largely unknown even by many passionados, the H. Upmann brand was established by the Hupmann brothers in 1844, having emigrated from Europe. It is believed that they dropped the initial ‘H’, since it has no pronunciation value in Spanish. Instead, the ‘H’ signifies either “Hermanos”, “brothers” in Spanish; or Hermann, the name of one of the founding brothers.

The fifth such habano to have the Magnum appellation, the Magnum 56 and first edición limitada of 2015 finally hit the shelves during the UK ‘summer’. Having been given a wholly new vitola de galera, the 56 cepo certainly had many waiting with great anticipation as to how the billows of expectantly flavourful smoke would taste, particularly with an inch longer than that of a traditional robusto to prolong the experience.

With this in mind, only a digestif with stamina and body would be a suitable pairing. Kavalan is not necessarily a name which immediately springs to mind when considering whiskey, nor is the country of Taiwan as a producer of the wondrous nectar. However, in only ten years Kavalan as a single malt distillery has won over 100 international awards for quality, including the coveted World Whisky Award for World’s Best Single Malt whisky bestowed upon the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength in January 2015. Thereafter, the ex-port cask from their flagship single cask Solist range became incredibly scarce. Nonetheless, having tasted it, as well as the ex-Sherry and the Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength a few weeks earlier, I was sure the latter would be more than a match to the newly released gordito habano at 57.8% strength.

Having inspected most of a box to find the habano with the right springy feel, free of blemishes and a beautiful maduro capa with a light sheen, elation took over having found the perfect example to taste. The compact to the touch Magnum 56 certainly feels impressive and makes its Magnum 50 kin positively diminutive in width. I was sure the pre-light draw would have a great deal of intermingling notes and I was not disappointed. Light mushroom earthiness, faintly moist hay and the softest of malty notes with a touch of cocoa delighted the palate.

After careful toasting of the considerable boquilla of the 56 ring gauge, mounds of billowing, tasty, almost chewy smoke engulfed the taste buds. To commence, it was very easy on both the palate and retrohale as the first few puffs featured the requisite light earthy notes of an H. Upmann. Nonetheless, the maduro wrapper immediately provided a satisfying touch of sweetness on the finish to the savoury earthiness.

The ease of the draw and the smooth and well-balanced flavours are as equal a delight as the Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask Taiwanese whiskey. The vanilla and woodiness of the ex-Bourbon cask provides a welcome refreshment to the palate but more importantly, compliments the cigar well. There is no tension, but a synergy with each flavour of the distinctive habano and whiskey having their equal play on the palate. The fact that it is 57.8% cask strength is astonishing considering how smooth the finish is on the palate.

After the first inch, cocoa notes become more pronounced on the retrohale and the more savoury notes begin to dominate. The mushroom qualities and earthiness come to the fore, leaving a long bitter chocolate and dark roast coffee bean finish. Into the second-third, the youth is exposed with a thin additional bitterness to the earthy, honeyed vegetal flavours the brand is known for. Additional spice elements appear, including a black pepper spice which is introduced on the retrohale.

Leathery notes come through in the final-third, along with toasted tobacco in addition to the earthiness. As the build-up of flavours come together with increasing richness, the precipitate is much stronger than the first half of the cigar. The spice intensifies, with a more piquant white pepper cutting on retrohale. At this stage, it is all the more important that the Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask whiskey is fully capable of providing palate refreshment for this cigar whose balance should improve with a few years of careful ageing.

The leather-style individual case for the bottle (which is numbered 60 out of a mere 201), was almost as impressive as the Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask single cask whiskey itself. For the £110 price point, Scotch producers may have a lot to learn in giving extra value to the consumer rather than having to pay double or more for a discreet touch of luxury to the packaging of your prized treasure. The only fault I would point out would be the gratuitous golden ribbon which in my view, does nothing for the aesthetics or accentuation of the quality of the whiskey. Nevertheless, it is a handsome and delectable lot and the next Solist expressions expected to be finished in ex-Manzanilla and Pedro Ximénez casks leave the taste buds in great anticipation of further delectation.

Tasting notes and details:

H. Upmann Magnum 56 Edición Limitada 2015

Factory NameMagnum 56

Size56 x 5.9”  (22.23 x 150)mm

Box code and dateOPG  MAY15

Wrapper – beautifully maduro, light sheen. No overtly protruding veins.

Draw – very good – compact but satisfying. Light mushroom earthiness & moist hay. Faint malty notes with a touch of cocoa.

First third – as expected, thick earthy smoke, cocoa notes as well as sweetness of the maduro capa on the finish.

Second third – a thin veil of bitterness exposed due to the youth and black pepper notes appear on the retrohale.

Last third – deeper, leathery notes and toasted tobacco feature alongside sharper, white pepper when retrohaling.

PairingKavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask (57.8%). This single cask, single malt from a first-fill ex-Bourbon cask initially offers clean and fresh tropical notes on the nose. Once the tulip glass has been warmed whilst gently grasped, the wonders of vanilla and gentle spices reach out. The palate is enveloped with balanced vanilla, honey and oak spices. Each sip compounds the great complexity and smoothness of the long finish. Certainly will not disappoint!

H. Upmann Magnum 56 Edición Limitada 2015 H. Upmann Magnum 56 and Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask 001b H. Upmann Magnum 56 and Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask 002 H. Upmann Magnum 56 and Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask 003 H. Upmann Magnum 56 and Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask 004 H. Upmann Magnum 56 and Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask 005 Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask and case Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask in case

© 2015 - 2016, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225

To commemorate their 225th anniversary, Hunters and Frankau (“Hunters”) chose to give the maestros at Habanos S.A. the task to produce a very special cigar to be made exclusively for the UK market. The Hunters’ committee sifted through their archives and chose Ramón Allones as the brand of honour. As one of the oldest brands (first registered in 1845), and accredited to be the first to utilise colour lithography, Ramón Allones is particularly well favoured by experienced passionados for their strength but also tannic and spicy flavours with great complexity and balance. The association between the brand and Hunters goes as far back as 1911 when it was first bought by them outright and held until 1927. Nonetheless, the UK rights of the brand remained with them for decades until the Cuban revolution.

Another area of interest was the instruction for the cigar to not only be based on the currently in vogue gordito vitola de galera, but for it to have a cabeza tumbada or “dropped head”. This was characteristic of the forms produced during Hunters’ control of the brand around a century ago. My curiosity was piqued by the fact that not only were the 50,000 cigars all rolled by just three top grade torcedores, but that their production was as early as February to May 2013. They were then shipped to the UK and aged in secret in a specially contained warehouse for two years before being unveiled at their 225th anniversary party in June this year.

With such a unique cigar and plenty of flavour expected to delight the palate, I did not take the decision of the digestif pairing lightly. One special whisky from Kilchoman (“Kil-ho-man”) which, in 2005 was the first Islay distillery to be constructed in 125 years, came immediately to mind. The gold medal-awarded Loch Gorm 2015 limited release was not only exclusively matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks as before, but for this release, they were also matured for a period in the smaller hogshead casks (being under half the capacity of a standard sherry butt of 500 litres). This would increase the ratio of surface area to whisky, intensifying the whisky contact with the sherry elements; giving not only richer colour, but more importantly, a deeper intensity, richness and sweeter finish to marry well with the earthiness and spice Ramón Allones is known for.

Having sifted laboriously through a full box of 25 to purchase one of the Aniversario 225, it wasn’t the best start, particularly with lack of uniformity in the colour of the relatively lighter shade of the capa and most of them too tightly rolled for my liking. Finally having made my choice, the wrapper of the cigar for degustation was colorado in colour and smooth to the touch. However, as aforementioned, the capa had uneven hues and was not as alluring as I like to see, with a couple of green spots visible on closer inspection.

Thankfully there were no issues with the pre-light draw, which was close to perfect. The two years of warehouse ageing clearly had an effect as no trace of bitterness expected of such a youthful habano was detectable. Instead, notes of straw and light earthiness delighted the palate. Bountiful smoke provided notes of earthiness and spice from the start. The Kilchoman Loch Gorm with its ex-Oloroso sherry hogshead ageing afforded the perfect balance of gentle smoke, peat and a soothingly long, sweet finish to refresh the palate. What’s more, at 46% it was the right strength to enjoy neat, unadulterated by extraneous meddling.

Subtle smoked tea and woody elements were later exhibited and towards the final part, elements of black pepper became more pronounced on the retrohale. The strength gradually increased and the earthiness developed in the second third, with a subtle, thin layer of burnt caramel and toasted flavours on the top notes. The spice on the retrohale intensified into white pepper notes.

The final third was a delight as the nutty creaminess of the smoke increased and there was still none of the bitterness detected from such a youthful cigar. Hints of anise and cocoa make their way through the tannic earthiness and spice on the retrohale to finish off what was a remarkably good-tasting cigar for its age. But then again, one may never discount the part the Kilchoman Loch Gorm had to play!

Tasting notes and details:

Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225 Edición Regional Gran Bretaña 2015

Factory NameGordito (with cabeza tumbada)

Size50 x 5.5”  (19.84 x 140)mm

Box code and dateMUR  MAY13

Wrappercolorado (but slightly patchy) in colour and smooth to the touch.

Draw – very good (after searching most of a box of 25). Pre-light notes without any bitterness but with lovely notes of straw and light earthiness.

First third – plenty of smoke with earthiness and spice from the start. Subtle smoked tea/woody elements and towards the end, black pepper becomes pronounced on the retrohale.

Second third – the earthiness increases with traces of burnt caramel on the top notes while white pepper tingles on the retrohale.

Last third – nutty creaminess develops in the smoke, still without any of the expected harshness. Hints of anise and cocoa meander through the elements of spice.

PairingKilchoman Loch Gorm (46%). This single malt Islay vatted from fresh (first-fill) Oloroso sherry butts and hogsheads has a delightfully soft, yet spicy and rich nose with gentle smoke, dark cacao nibs and some fruitiness. The palate provided soft fresh fruits with peat smoke enveloping the palate to give a long and rich, sweet finish and lingering smoke with great balance. A superb whisky in its own right.

Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225 001 Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225 003 Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225 004 Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225 005

© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Bolívar Super Corona Edición Limitada 2014

Simón Bolívar was one of the great historic figures of the 19th Century who liberated much of South America from Spanish rule and it is only fitting that this eponymous brand created in 1902 is comparatively intense in its strength. With eight regular production cigars in the current brand portfolio (half of which are tubos), experienced habano passionados of the stronger blends would surely be gleeful of another powerful Bolívar edición limitada (EL) after the great success of the petit belicosos released in 2009.

The Hermosos No. 3 vitola de galera was last seen as the Partagás Serie C No. 3 (EL 2012) and has proven to be an interesting deviation from the nascent arrival of the very heavy ring gauge cigars in Habanos. Having smoked regional Bolívar puros of 54 cepo, the intensity at the end of the last third of this type of vitola (sublimes), have certainly been testing at times. The Hermosos No. 3 should provide an interesting balance between intensity of flavour and strength of tobacco at the end of the tasting of this Bolívar.

Having put off opening the lengthily named Bruichladdich Cuvée 382 La Berenice MG41 (L’Age D’Or) for several months, the Bolívar Super Corona EL 2014 proved just the excuse to experience the allure of a 21 year-old whisky with a saccharined ex-Sauternes wine cask finish to what is typically a distinctly Islay dram with its customary smoke and peatiness.

The comparatively rougher texture of the colorado-maduro capa of the Super Corona to the other ELs 2014 that I reviewed (Cohiba Robusto Supremos and Partagás Selección Privada), may have initially advocated some discrimination of tobacco selection to its detriment. Apart from a couple of noticeable veins, the slightly firmer but good draw delighted the palate with pre-light notes of the inimitable Bolívar earthiness and toasted flavours I was looking forward to.

The first few draws were flavourful, with hefty earthy notes of straw, moist wood and a hint of dried fruits in the relatively bountiful smoke. Initially, the strength was unexpectedly mild, being medium-bodied and retrohaling gave access to delicate cedary spice notes. However, by the end of the first third, the strength and spices increased noticeably, above all on the retrohale.

The gradual progression in strength continued into the second third, as it advanced to being medium-full bodied. Some toasted flavours and bitter cocoa notes appeared alongside the ever-present earthiness, but with the slightest touch of raisins on the finish. With three drops of still mineral water, the aroma and the sweetness of the unpeated whisky opened up to give a longer finish which married well with the earthiness and spice of the cigar.

In the final third, the youth of the cigar became more pronounced as the flavours muted somewhat, with the exception of some leather and anise. The finish of the cigar became longer and earthier but was still enjoyable, only thanks to my previous experience proving utile in my fortitude to withstand the waves of strength at the very end.

Tasting notes and details:

Bolívar Super Corona Edición Limitada 2014

Factory NameHermosos No. 3

Size48 x 5.5” (19.45 x 140)mm

Box code and dateEML JUL14

Wrapper – unmistakably oily sheen and colorado-maduro. A little rougher in texture than the other ediciónes limitadas 2014 but still a great looking cigar.

Draw – slightly compact, but still good. Pre-light notes are full of spice, and musty-earthy mushroom qualities.

First third – chunky earthy notes of straw, moist wood and a hint of dried fruits.

Second third – toasted flavours and bitter cocoa appear alongside the ever-present earthiness, this time with the slightest sweet touch of raisins on the finish.

Last third – some leather and anise notes but the increasing strength intensifies greatly.

PairingBruichladdich Cuvée 382 La Berenice MG41 (L’Age D’Or) 21 Years Old (46%). With a rich and fruity nose of baked pears, this was surely to be a smooth whisky. With time, the whisky opened up to reveal more of the vanilla, honeyed dark fruits and toasted oak but was not markedly sweet; keeping true to its Islay roots. The finish became longer and warmer and some of the oiliness lingered further to prolong the finish. The whisky certainly stood up to and interacted well with the latterly full-bodied cigar, but in my opinion, it is one to enjoy in its own right over a décontracté, long whisky tasting session.

Bolívar Super Corona Edición Limitada 2014 with Bruichladdich Cuvée 382 002 Bolívar Super Corona Edición Limitada 2014 with Bruichladdich Cuvée 382 003 Bolívar Super Corona Edición Limitada 2014 with Bruichladdich Cuvée 382 004 Bolívar Super Corona Edición Limitada 2014 with Bruichladdich Cuvée 382 005

© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Padrón Family Reserve 50 Years Maduro

As readers of my website will have noted from the Lexicon page and previous posts, my favourite cigars are Habanos and for the great reason that the soil, climate, centuries in the making of skill in manufacture and finally taste, are unrivalled. Nonetheless, there are “New World” cigars that are also world-class in their tobacco, manufacture and taste – predominantly those from Nicaragua, in my opinion. With that in mind, I chose to feature my first non-Cuban cigar from a brand that stands above the rest in their consistency, quality and great taste – Padrón.

The story of Padrón is one of humble beginnings a few years after the Cuban revolution in Miami, Florida where many Cuban exiles and cigar producers reside to this day. In 1964, the founder José Padron began with only one torcedor selling cigars at several US cents each, and a few years later, only with modification to the design and marketing, started to enjoy success. In the last ten years that the American publication Cigar Aficionado has been featuring their annual “Top 25 Cigars” article, the brand has never been out of the top ten best cigars and made number one on an unprecedented three occasions.

The Family Reserve brand is their premium line and features cigars produced for particular milestones and their 50th anniversary would certainly be the one I intended to feature. Its commercial and personal significance, with José’s son, Jorge now at the helm with his father’s eagle eye and taste buds still partaking in the blending decisions, made it the right choice. Since the Padrón Family Reserve 50 Years is not yet available in the UK, I had great luck as my great friend Jonathan was visiting family in Miami this month and was very kind to procure a couple of these beauties for my delectation.

My experience of having tasted the previous iterations of the “natural” and “maduro” versions of the earlier released Family Reserves led me to choose the maduro for the extra richness that their near-oscuro gloriously oily wrappers hold. With plenty of flavour from the start, I could tell it would be a strong cigar despite 10 years of ageing to the rare tobaccos prior to being rolled. Around an inch into the tasting, the characteristically earthy notes of the Padrón Family Reserve series really enveloped the palate and some white pepper notes tingled on the retrohale.

The second third stabilised to bring dark cocoa, clove spice and even a subtle black cherry sweetness on the finish. The vast smoke continued to provide plenty of flavour, burning perfectly with a razor thin line and there was no mistaking its full-bodied blend. The final third strengthened further with espresso notes joining the earthy and leathery long finish yet kept perfect balance. The cigar is certainly befitting for the 50th anniversary of the company and as with Habanos, these will surely age further only to become even better.

Glenfarclas has been a relatively recent revelation to me, and their typically full-bodied and sherry cask finished single malts would instinctively be the right choice for this full-strength cigar. During my last sojourn to Paris (to visit Septième Largeur), I made best use of my time and visited La Maison du Whisky. Here I found a very welcoming and modern boutique with an enviable collection of the golden nectar. I stumbled upon the Glenfarclas 17 Years Old which, with a quick check online, was stated as: “bottled in limited quantities primarily for the North American, Japanese and Travel Retail markets”. Oddly enough, a British online retailer had it priced at £100, but the Parisian price tag of 69€ (£51) only confirmed my intent to purchase my first bottle of Glenfarclas at that opportune moment.

With the right cigar to pair it with and after months of waiting, I finally allowed myself to crack open the bottle. The notes of sherried fruit and the slightest hint of peat smoke were a delight for the nose and the beautifully full-bodied and long sherry finish was refreshingly cleansing for the palate. The Glenfarclas 17 Years Old married well with the cigar since its flavours were enhanced rather than silenced by the well-bodied sherry cask finished single malt which on a later tasting, was confirmed to be a delight to savour on its own.

Tasting notes and details:

Padrón Family Reserve 50 Years Maduro

Size54 x 5.0”  (21.43 x 127)mm

Cigar serial number – 156714

Wrapper – gloriously evenly dark maduro wrapper and box-pressed with Padrón’s characteristically short cap. Lovely oiliness yet no veins or blemishes visible.

Draw – very good, but maybe too good. Will need to take care not to overheat the tobacco. Pre-light notes of some sweetness of cocoa and a cedared earthiness prevalent from cold draw.

First third – voluminous smoke from the beginning, presenting plenty of earthy coffee notes. Some stronger than expected white pepper spice notes tingle on the retrohale.

Second third – with the strength calmed and stabilised, further flavours of dark cocoa, black cherry sweetness and clove spice appear on the nose.

Last third – the strength increases, with some dark espresso notes joining the earthy and leathery flavours on the long finish.

PairingGlenfarclas Aged 17 years (43%).

Nose – sherried fruit with the slightest hint of peat smoke.

Palate – full-bodied, yet balanced with sherry notes developing slowly.

Finish – long lasting smooth finish with hint of spice and oak.

Padron 50 Maduro - 02 Padron 50 Maduro - 03 Padron 50 Maduro - 04 Padron 50 Maduro - 05 Glenfarclas 17 yrs Obverse Label Glenfarclas 17 yrs Reverse Label

© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Partagás Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014

Purchasing Habanos has always been a joy for me and the quality of Cuban cigars in the UK market has generally marked them out as superior to other locales thanks to the internal self-imposed higher standards that Hunters & Frankau has set since appointment as sole distributor in 1990 for the UK, Ireland, Gibraltar and Channel Islands markets.

The release of the first batch of the Partagás Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014 a few months ago were a literal reminder for consumers and retailers alike of this marked difference. A section of print that should have been “SELECCION PRIVADA” embossed and printed on what has been known as “Standard Band B” for the Partagás brand anilla since 2008 was missing entirely (as it is on the cigar I tasted). Some speculate that these complete boxes of ten that somehow only filtered into the UK market will be collectors’ items in the future. In my view, the only reason to purchase a cigar, box or boxes of them should be the present enjoyment of tasting them and the great pleasure to see how they may develop in five, ten years’ time or longer.

In that spirit, my interest was its taste, particularly in a pleasingly stout size of a double robusto vitola de galera or newly titled Magnum 50 (the first such appearance for the brand). I was certainly pleased to have decided to taste this hefty cigar postprandially, as its peppery aroma was only but a modicum of an indicator as to its strength. As an Edición Limitada, the tobacco enjoyed two years of ageing before having been rolled but its fortaleza is clearly evident from the beginning, with an earthy spiciness cutting through on the retrohale. Several puffs along and the youthful richness of the tobacco permeates the palate leaving a much longer lingering after-taste than that of an aged Partagás.

To my delight, the blend calmed in the second third and the remarkable balance of the blend shone through with subtler dark chocolate notes evident on the retrohale. The spice was still there and even included nuances of clove. The strength sharpened somewhat into the final third but the balance held on, even for a young cigar. It will certainly be one to watch in the future, as the strength (that usually should be present for ageing purposes) will surely develop and its maturity will be even more of a delight for the senses.

The superlatively saccharined and equally regally named single-origin Ximénez-Spínola Liqvor de Brandy Diez Mil Botellas proved a superb counterbalance to the Selección Privada. As the only producer to exclusively use dried Pedro Ximénez (“PX”) grapes and being aged for a minimum of 15 years in oak barrels in the solera system, only the finest average of the ‘heart’ of the distillate is used and its class was unmistakable from the very start. This particularly rare blend only has 10,000 bottles made annually, with each bottle individually numbered, hand-signed and beautifully embossed in both black and luxurious gold lettering on both front and back labels.

It was more than able to withstand the overbearing earthy, leathery tones and spice of the Habano. The sweetness which PX is renowned for was particularly refreshing for the palate and much sweeter yet refined, than any brandy I have come across. With time it continued to develop as Spanish fig and tannins distinguished themselves on the palate with its superbly long finish demanding yet one more delectation for the senses. And at half the price of an XO cognac even when shipped to the UK, it is undoubtedly one to savour.

Tasting notes and details:

Partagás Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014

Factory NameMagnum 50

Size50 x 6.25”  (19.84 x 160)mm

Box code and dateAUM  JUL14

Wrapper – unequivocally maduro with a scintillating sheen and oiliness. Silky smooth with no blemishes or overtly protruding veins.

Draw – compact to the touch but good. Pre-light draw exudes spice, subtle earthiness with bitter cocoa.

First third – distinct peppery notes to begin on the retrohale. A leathery earthiness later dominates.

Second third – it calms down and the balance shows itself by introducing subtler dark chocolate notes on the retrohale.

Last third – the delicate flavours continue to trickle through with some clove spice and the balanced strength satisfyingly intensified.

PairingXiménez-Spínola Liqvor de Brandy Diez Mil Botellas (40%). With plum conserve, brandied cherries and a hint of dark cocoa beans of the nose, it is sure to be a sweet one. The palate does not disappoint with Spanish fig and tannins dominating. The finish is very long and refreshing for the palate, particularly with such a strong bodied cigar.

Partagás Selección Privada EL 2014 - 02 Partagás Selección Privada EL 2014 - 03 Partagás Selección Privada EL 2014 - 04 Partagás Selección Privada EL 2014 - 05 Ximénez-Spínola Brandy Diez Mil Botellas - 02 Ximénez-Spínola Brandy Diez Mil Botellas - 03

© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados

The words Romeo and Julieta bring to mind an ancient Italian tale made famous by the fabled scribe Shakespeare, featuring a tragedy that has been translated into more than 80 languages. Thankfully for Habano passionados, the words Romeo y Julieta bring to mind rather different thoughts – particularly those of an illustrious Cuban brand tracing its roots back to 1875 that showcases the zenith of natural aromatic sweetness of Cuban premium tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo out of all the 27 Habanos brands.

The latest vitola from the brand to hit the shelves is the second of the Añejados series, along with the recently tasted Montecristo Churchill Añejados, the rolled and boxed cigars were aged for a minimum of 5 years in their natural storage environment in Cuba and made available for the delectation of cigar lovers only after having been certified as ready by the Ligadors. In a new size for the brand (the current production Campanas being shorter at 140mm), the supplementary length and ageing (to the standard minimum 12 months) should permit the cigars to develop a deeper, mellower and more refined taste.

Japanese whiskey has enjoyed much veneration in the last few months, with the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 whiskey voted the “best whiskey in the world” for 2014 by one celebrated whisky writer in November last year. Having enjoyed Japanese whiskey for several years, and particularly being a fan of the range of Suntory (which was established in 1899), I unexpectedly stumbled upon the previously unknown Hibiki 12 Years Old blended Japanese whiskey. However, as the words “blended” and “whiskey” paired together are not my favourite at the best of times, I needed some assurance of its value. Fortunately, I was impressed to learn of the numerous celebrated international whisky golden awards bestowed upon it, as well as its reasonable price (as Japanese whiskey tends to be much more expensive than the equivalent range Scotch in the UK).

I seized the opportunity to try this much-lauded sweet and perfumed whiskey (which utilises both grain whiskey and some interestingly matured in ex-plum wine casks in addition to the standard malt), with the latest medium strength Romeo y Julieta – and it proved to be rewarding. The delicious taste of the Hibiki reflected perfectly the initial nose that featured marmalade and orange pieces with a detectable hint of the grain element, giving the whiskey greater body and a slightly chewy texture covering the whole palate with a pleasingly long and cleansing aftertaste.

A perfect draw was a great start for the Pirámides, with the pre-light notes exhibiting sweetness and very little ammonia, as expected with over 6 years of box ageing. With a minor uneven initial burn, the ample smoke was a little earthier and stronger than expected. Stabilising after the first inch, the mellower and sweeter notes were a true delight on the retrohale. The second third was where the true character with subtler flavours of dried fruit and clove spices were revealed on both the palate and retrohale. The final third increased in strength to subdue the subtler and spicier elements, but still smoked well with only an inch remaining to give me a favourable view of the latest addition to the Habanos collection.

Tasting notes and details:

Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados

Factory NamePirámides

Size52 x 6.125”  (20.68 x 156)mm

Box code and dateGEA AGO08

WrapperColorado-maduro with a light sheen.

Draw – Perfect. No hint of ammonia but some sweetness and a hint of toasted wood present on the pre-light draw.

First third – Plenty of aroma and smoke to begin and a little stronger than expected. Stabilises after the first inch and mellows with sweeter notes on the retrohale.

Second third – Ageing becomes more apparent with crisper, subtler flavours of dried fruit. Some more spice developing along with sweetness and a roasted woody undertone.

Last third – Increase in strength and subtler flavours as well as the spicier elements become muted. Sweeter notes still shining through with only an inch left.

PairingHibiki 12 Years Old – Japanese blended whiskey – 43%. Very refreshing for the palate and a perfect harmonious companion to interact and enhance all the flavours of both the cigar and whiskey itself. Certainly a great whiskey in its own right.

Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 3 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 4 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 5 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 6 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 7

© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Edmundo Dantes Conde 54 Edición Regional México 2011

With it having been nearly ten years since my last trip to Mexico and with sadly no plans to go back soon, I jumped on the opportunity to purchase an Habano brand created solely for the Mexico market – Edmundo Dantes. With its primary brown anilla embossed with the eponymous protagonist of Alexandre Dumas’ arguably most famous novel, trademark issues and Habanos S.A.’s own internal designation of Montecristo as a “global brand” were the reasons that this cigar was not simply sold as a Cuban Montecristo cigar. This was the second regional edition, with only 1,000 numbered boxes each containing 25 cigars having been produced, making this a rare cigar only four years on.

For a while, I had heard much praise concerning this cigar, with the Sublimes vitola de galera being one of my favourites. Moreover, the rarity, originality and mild ageing proved too tempting to pass up on. The Montecristo Edición Limitada 2008 in the Sublimes size would be a very high benchmark to live up to, and for that reason I tried to be as objective as possible whilst tasting this puro.

I carefully caressed the boquilla with the scalpel-like fine point of a blue flame cigar lighter and drew the first few puffs full of expectation. A couple of minutes into the tasting, the erratic burn was as displeasing as the lack of both flavour and smoke. Expecting big, earthy Montecristo flavours mingled with spice left me wondering where they had escaped to. I carried on into the final part of the first third to at last perceive a modicum of spice and depth which finally appeared after an almost entirely herbal prelude.

A gentle massage of the body of the well-filled cigar improved the volume of smoke and a nutty creaminess started to permeate. Some clove spiciness on the retrohale was a welcome addition to what seemed too bland for a supposed Montecristo blend, particularly of this grand a vitola.

Without great need of relighting, at least the composition of the volado and capote leaves and combustibility generally seemed very good. Some complexity finally emerged in the final third along with until now, a critical lack of Montecristo earthiness. Regrettably, it was too little, too late with what I presume to have been overexposure to prolonged, dry conditions for the taste was far too lacklustre to be a Montecristo. Nonetheless, with one more example in the humidor, I will be able to certify my current view of this cigar – not worth it.

Tasting notes and details:

Edmundo Dantes Conde 54 Edición Regional México 2011

Factory NameSublimes

Size54 x 6.5”  (21.43 x 164)mm

Box code and dateNot available

Wrapper – Smooth, colorado wrapper.

Draw – compact to the touch and draw a little too tight. Pre-light notes exude a hint of woodiness and earth. No ammonia or spice.

First third – Very mild almost herbal and aromatic first inch. Very faint Montecristo taste in the distance. Finally a hint of spice appears well into the tasting.

Second third – Draw improves and a nutty creaminess starts to permeate. Some clove spiciness on the retrohale. Earthiness not quite there.

Last third – Aromatic with subtle floral spice. Very late on with only two inches left, some earthiness intensifies along with a hint of dark cocoa.

PairingHavana Club Selección de Maestros Cuban rum 45%. Refraining from putting a customary ice cube in the glass may have hampered the experience. That said, it proved to be a good quality rum to sip straight and also to pair with a medium-strength, earthy cigar.

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© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Montecristo Churchill Añejados

Montecristo is the most ubiquitous of all Cuban cigars brands, with the majority of Habanos S.A.’s revenue coming from sales of the soon to be octogenarian brand (having been established in 1935). This is the first documented release of Montecristo cigars for public sale of this vitola – a parejo of the Julieta No.2 factory appellation, commonly known since 1947 as the “Churchill” size, and showcased with great fanfare at this week’s Festival del Habano XVII as part of the new line of Añejados (rolled and boxed Habanos aged between 5-8 years before release).

At first glance, its sturdy structure certainly makes it look like a flavoursome cigar to enjoy after a grand meal in the evening with a worthily paired digestif. On closer inspection, the light and somewhat speckled colorado shade of wrapper exhibited in all the boxes when they were first made available in the UK may not be that impressive – especially to those like me, who prefer a darker shade on the capa.

Contemplating an accompaniment to this aged Montecristo left me concerned not to choose anything overpowering, yet still embodying a crucial sweetness and long finish to compensate the expected earthiness the brand is famous for. A bottle of Rémy Martin Reserve Cellar Selection Cellar N°28 cognac that I shrewdly purchased in LAX duty free (set for first European release in April 2015) came to mind. Rémy Martin’s twenty-nine ageing cellars in Domaine de Merpins in the Cognac region of France each have different layouts, temperatures and humidity levels to induce different aromatic impressions to their respective maturing liquid gold. The Maître de Chai (Cellar Master) selection of Cellar N°28 celebrates the unique aromatic style of the eaux-de-vie from that particular cellar with its “rich candied fruit notes”. Designated as an XO (above 20 years old), using some of the rarest blends available, I hoped that this would be the right match.

The good pre-light draw without any bitter ammonia notes turned out to be a misjudged indication as to what came next. The first few puffs had expected earthiness but certainly more spice than I anticipated. Barely an inch into the tasting, a sudden kick of white pepper flashed on the retrohale. Furthermore, the somewhat ‘meagre’ cepo felt awkward to begin with, as the volume of smoke was not as generous as I have grown accustomed to, principally smoking much thicker cigars.

Nonetheless, a sip of the Selection du Maître de Chai refreshed my palate with rich dried fruits and a wonderfully long finish. The Churchill may have sensed my plea for more subtlety and mellower and creamier, milk chocolate notes graciously came to pass. With the second third starting to showcase the complexity of the aged tobacco, a hint of anise on the retrohale was satisfying. The last third developed further with darker chocolate notes veiled with complex earthiness and spice. With barely an inch left, my Añejado experience concluded with the promising thought that only a few more years of ageing would refine the balance and pleasure of a future tasting.

Tasting notes and details:

Montecristo Churchill Añejados

Factory NameJulieta No.2

Size47 x 7.0”  (18.65 x 178)mm

Box code and dateASB  JUL06

WrapperColorado capa with no protruding veins. A few faint beauty spots present.

Draw – Good draw. Box age very apparent as pre-light notes exhibit complete lack of ammonia. Faint nuances of earthiness.

First third – Earthiness from the start but also a burst of white pepper which thankfully mellows out to some delicate milk chocolate notes.

Second third – Starts to further show its age with greater complexity coming through. A hint of anise in addition to more milk chocolate and earthiness on the retrohale.

Last third – Darker chocolate veiled by earthiness and stronger spice. Still smoking well with only an inch left.

PairingRémy Martin Reserve Cellar Selection Cellar N°28 (travel retail exclusive) cognac – 40%. Nose of red candied fruits does not disappoint with the silky texture wrapping the taste buds with a lingering finish and refreshing the palate for the later complex flavours of the cigar.

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© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Partagás D No.6

As a devotee of history, Cuban cigars and their chronicles do not disappoint. Flor de Tabacos de Partagás (its full name), has to be one of the most interesting of the Cuban cigar marques. Founded by the Catalan Don Jaime Partagás Ravelo in 1827, its success due in part to his ownership of many of the best vegas finas in the Vuelta Abajo region, culminated in the construction of its famous (and for the time, very large) factory in 1845 which still stands to this day behind the Capitol building in Havana. Don Jaime is accredited to be one of the earliest pioneers of innovation in cigar production, having explored the fermentation and ageing of the tobaccos rather than undiscerningly relying on customary techniques. Unfortunately for Don Jaime, his luck ran out in 1868 when he was shot and mortally wounded in one of his plantations for reasons that have never been clear; rumours the slaying being revenge for his extramarital amorous activities.

Production stopped inside the factory itself for long-due renovation to this iconic and arguably best known cigar factory in early-2012 and has not yet been completed. Notwithstanding, the Partagás Factory Casa del Habano store remains open and is certainly one of the best in Havana.

The publicity images of the Partagás Serie D No.6 during the Festival del Habano XVI in February 2014 did not in my view warrant interest befitting for the brand. At 90mm long, it looks akin to a cigar like a D No.4 (robusto, 124mm) that has been cut partly through smoking to finish later, (Cubans depreciatingly call this a “cabo de tabaco” – literally ‘stub of tobacco’). Surely, the D No.5 (petit robusto, 110mm), would be satisfying for a cigar lover yearning for a full flavoured, strong cigar that didn’t take more than 30 minutes to smoke? Furthermore, at £13.50 each for a D No.6 in the UK, a few pounds more for its aforementioned elder brother would make its market placing an unlikely commercial success.

Even so, I took the plunge and sampled one to decide for myself. For variation, I decided to enjoy the Habano with an afternoon Nespresso Arpeggio capsule which has the strength of a dark roast Arabica coffee to match the full-flavoured classification of the Partagás, whilst having a creamy texture to counteract the spiciness of the latter. With a hint of spice thinly veiled by an earthiness akin to a recently produced D No.4 robusto present on the pre-light draw, I knew there would be strength to this cigar and it didn’t disappoint.

The spice was certainly there, accompanied with an astringent woodiness at the back of the palate in the first few puffs. The Arpeggio espresso thankfully counteracts this well, with its intense body enhanced by cocoa notes. However, this does not suggest that any lower quality tripa larga tobacco has been used, if compared to the larger vitolas in the Partagás range; merely its expected youth is being conveyed.

With the first third of the cigar over whilst forming a consistent ash, the Arpeggio also happens to be finished. Therefore, I seize the opportunity to test the Decaffeinato version of the Arpeggio to verify its comparison to the original. The difference is noticeable, as is that of a non-alcoholic beer with its genuine kin, but it mercifully still measures up to the intensity of the Habano. The second third brings some more flavour but the earthiness of its youth still pervades. With only a couple of touch-ups and very good combustibility shown, the final third steps up the peppery character along with a particularly astringent woodiness and more black-pepper spice on the retrohale.

In summation, the quality of the tobacco was there, but with such little length to the cigar, the complexity was shackled to abort prematurely. This would not be an Habano of choice for me in the future, as I solely enjoy Partagás in the evening after a hearty dinner and would much prefer a vitola larger than even a robusto, with its added complexity. If I was constrained for time and the only full-flavoured cigar available was a D No.6, I would much prefer to practice patience until I could enjoy the full aromatic depth and unrestrained complexity of a bigger and preferably aged, alternative. Therefore, I suggest that only those passionados truly limited to 20-25 minutes of smoking time may enjoy this size with its voluminous smoke, along with the noble intention to avoid the waste of any precious Cuban tobacco.

Tasting notes and details:

Partagás D No.6

Factory NameNo.6 (totally new vitola)

Size50 x 3.5”  (19.84 x 90)mm

Box code and dateRAE  NOV14

Wrapper – Smooth, colorado capa with a glimpse of oiliness present.

Draw – compact to the touch (properly filled with tripa larga) but very good. Pre-light notes of some subtle spice and a hint of earthiness indicating its youth.

First third – Clearly a spicy Partagás blend with a hint more earthiness, like that of a young D Series vitola.

Second third – With more woodiness and earthy aromas, there is continuation of the strong flavour.

Last third – The astringent qualities pique and spice is even clearer on the retrohale. Complexity is clearly lacking.

PairingNespresso – Arpeggio capsule. With robust dark roast Arabica beans and creamy body, this pairs well as an espresso with the diminutive D No.6. The Decaffeinato version of the Arpeggio still works, but it does have a slightly more acidic finish compared to the original. Even so, it is a good replacement if there is concern for overindulging in caffeine.

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© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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Trinidad Vigía

The brand Trinidad (named after the southern Cuban city of La Santísima Trinidad), like Cohiba, was for a long time only available as a diplomatic gift from the Cuban government and both were produced at the world-famous, yet mysterious El Laguito cigar factory in Havana (which is still off limits to most visitors, with only Cohiba Behikes as well as diplomatic cigars currently produced there). However, whereas the Cohiba brand was launched in Madrid in 1982 and released to the world the following year to great acclaim, Trinidad was made commercially available only as late as 1998. By late 2004, demand outstripped production capacity at El Laguito which forced the brand to be made in Pinar del Río City, at the heart of the Vuelta Abajo. The decision at Habanos S.A. to discontinue both the relatively new Robusto T (50 x 4.9”) and the Robusto Extra (50 x 6.1”) vitolas baffled many in the premium tobacco industry in 2012, without either having reached a decade of production.

The following year, I was fortunate enough to be gifted a test-blend white numbered banded puro by a good friend, who told me that this Habano was going to be a new Trinidad cigar (of particularly stalwart build, if I may add). Accordingly, with a long-held attraction to try new cigar sizes or blends, especially those of a more rotund construction with their added depth of flavour and voluminous smoke, I secured the most favourable moment to taste what seemed to promise to be something to remember. Fortunately, I very much enjoyed the blend and this was confirmed having sampled another, this time an officially banded example several months later in Havana on New Year’s Eve 2013 and in great company. With my encouraging tasting notes scribed the following morning, it was something undoubtedly to look forward to, for what I knew to be customarily released at the end of the year of its debut at the Habanos Festival XVI 2014. My judgement was vindicated with many passionados having sampled a festival pre-release example and given favouring reviews.

With their official UK release delayed to mid-January 2015, I decided to revisit the satisfyingly wide Vigía (“watch” or “watch tower” in Spanish) and thus justly epitheted Habano, as an afternoon enjoyment upon its UK release. Offered in boxes of 12 (the only Cuban brand to do so as a dozen or for some other Trinidad vitolas, its twofold), they at first seem short, being the same length as the diminutive petit corona. Nonetheless, once in hand, the sheen of the colorado-maduro wrapper bathes you in a sense of serenity and assurance of what delights await.

Its milder medium-strength classification drove me to decide to distance myself from a digestif, and dive straight into the tasting after a satisfying afternoon lunch. Having not tasted Trinidad for a while, the cedared dry notes came flooding back along with a mighty initial rush of leather. The subsequent softer notes of the first third gave way to a youthful second stage with greater intensity and depth of woodiness and hints of spice on the retrohale with a somewhat dry finish. The final third and its growing earthiness were rather more intense from what I recalled and the balance was not quite there.

Nevertheless, with its excellent combustibility and the unmistakable class of tobacco shining through, this vitola would certainly be one to wait to mature into what should be a wonderful medium-strength Habano. The scarcity of stock within a few of weeks of their release (with more “coming at the end of February”) was somewhat surprising, but the consensus appears to be that they are worth tasting, even now. Admittedly, it is ever so tempting to investigate this premise of ageing forthwith considering I have one more example of the restricted white-banded test-blend Vigía in my humidor!

Tasting notes and details:

Trinidad Vigía

Factory NameTorres (totally new vitola)

Size54 x 4 3/8  (21.43 x 110)mm

Box code and dateSUE  OCT14

Wrapper – lovely colorado-maduro wrapper with some alluring sheen. One faintly protrusive vein visible.

Draw – good draw with a slight pull on it. Pre-light notes of cedar, touches of leather and a hint of grassiness.

First third – flavourful from the start. Its youth is evident as it packs a bit of an unexpected punch; unusual not only for its medium strength classification, but also the fact that heavy ring gauge cigars are usually mild at the very beginning. Thankfully this dissipates within a few puffs into a more mellowed, soft smoke with a bit of a dry, cedared finish.

Second third – the strength certainly develops and becomes bolder. A toasty, leathery and slight clove profile present on the retrohale. With lots of smoke, it becomes grassier showing its youth.

Last third – richer with more spice and peppery notes coming through along with ever-present trace of grassiness and earthiness. Balance not quite there yet, but nothing that a few years of aging cannot solve.

PairingSparkling mineral water – simple but effective for a medium-strength quality Habano.

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© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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