Double robusto

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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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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