Aged cigars

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.

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© 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.

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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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