50 ring gauge

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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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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