Edición Regional

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.

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© 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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