Whiskey

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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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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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.

Padron 50 Maduro - 02 Padron 50 Maduro - 03 Padron 50 Maduro - 04 Padron 50 Maduro - 05 Glenfarclas 17 yrs Obverse Label Glenfarclas 17 yrs Reverse Label

© 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.

Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 3 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 4 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 5 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 6 Romeo y Julieta Pirámides Añejados - 7

© 2015, Harmic Davidkhanian. All rights reserved.

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