Islay

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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