Cubans

Published on December 31st, 2018 | by Ken Gargett

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Por Larranaga Belicosos Extra RR Asia Pacific 2008/ Flor de Cana 25-Year-Old Rum

Was talking to Rob about these cigars, as did the comparison for Kenfessions recently and loved it. I’ve not always had such luck. Rob was very positive on them, suggesting that they simply needed time. Well, a decade seems fair.

This isn’t the first time these smokes have featured in Kenfessions. Over a year ago, I matched one with a fave Kiwi beer, the Emerson’s Hefe-Weizenbier Dunkelweiss. The beer was great, the afternoon with a couple of wonderful books superb, but it was all rather let down by a very disappointing smoke. And looking back, my notes for this cigar, from this box – the Por Larranaga Belicosos Extra RR Asia Pacific 2008 (19/7400) (EMA Jul 08) – have widely varied. Had two from the box, when first opened, in March 2017. One was the proverbial dog; the other stellar, with caramel, creamy coffee and a little white chocolate.  Sweet, sweet cream. A few months later, another dud and then took one on the annual fishing trip that year. It was okay. So all over the place and I had not tried one since then. Scores, for what it is worth, were 84, 94, 86 and 89.

I’m hoping that what the one the other evening gave me will now be standard – it was a cracker – but in all honesty, this box has been so variable, hard to believe more surprises are not ahead.

This one? An initial hit of bitter almond which quickly dissipated. Then it was dark berry notes, leather, bitter chocolate, black cherries and licorice. All the time, an undertow of caramel. But for those who like the dark and brooding nature that can be found in a cigar, this will excite. Again for me, 94, and perhaps that should be even higher. It would surely have worked very well with that beer had that been the match.

Instead, one of the very best rums you’ll find anywhere, the magnificent, Flor de Cana 25-Year-Old.

From Nicaragua, Flor de Cana is their major rum producer and a major contributor to the country’s exports, along with knitted T-shirts and insulated cable. There is also coffee, tea and various spices, meat and gold and so forth – apparently cheese is big. I’m yet to see a Nicaraguan cheese but would love to hear from anyone who has.

The distillery is found outside of the capital of Managua, in a region which helps to provide a slightly cooler, drier environment for ageing their rums. The decision to situate the Estate at the base of an active volcano may result in ideal conditions for growing sugar cane, but one does ponder the long-term viability of the distillery.

It has been in family hands since way back in the 1880’s, when purchased by the Pellas family from Genoa and used as a sugar plantation. Their fields produce molasses with a much higher sucrose level than usual. Worth noting is that burning the sugarcane bagasse in steam turbines (bagasse being what’s left over after the cane has the be-juice squeezed out of it – sorry, a pun I have now flogged to death and am yet to find anyone else who finds it remotely funny) provides 25% of the country’s power, during the season. Flor de Cana’s rums are matured in white oak barrels, previously been used by Jim Beam. Sales, worldwide, exceed a million cases a year.

Even though the family’s focus was sugar, they produced rum for personal use and workers. In 1937, they began making rum commercially. All was going swimmingly until it was time for Central America’s favourite pastime, ’revolution’. In the 1980s, the Sandinistas, during their war with the Contras, seized the distillery. Needless to say, the CIA (and this is history, not current US politics, surely) indulged in a little of their own favourite hobby of the time, interfering in the politics of others (come on down Ollie North). In fairness to Central America, does anywhere that makes rum not have a history of war and revolution?

To digress, one of the reasons I do love DC was that the day the verdict in the Oliver North trial was announced – and for anyone who has not been there, this is a town that works on three fronts – bureaucratic, military and legal (meaning about 99% of the people you met either work for the government, are soldiers or are lawyers – or work with or in support of them). That was back when I was living there and this had been the major topic of conversation for weeks. Dinner parties, strangers on the tube, front pages, it was almost all anyone talked about. Guilty, not guilty, sentence, who else involved, would it bring the government down, and so on.

Almost anyone talked about.

The announcement of the verdict on TV was relegated to the second most important item of news to hit the air at that moment. Beloved Redskins (two words almost never heard together these days) GM, Bobby Beathard, had just announced his forthcoming retirement and this was the one piece of news considered more important than anything else.

And how he is missed – the man who brought Joe Gibbs to the Skins, against the wishes of owner Jack Kent Cooke, and then drafted Darrell Green in the first round of 1983, despite almost no one else having ever heard of him (including their own defensive coordinator who first said, ‘who the hell is Darrell Green?’ and then told the GM that ‘no one that small could ever play in the NFL’). I digress.

The war meant that large supplies of rum which the family had hidden before the war now had an extra decade of age and Flor de Cana had extensive stocks of some of the world’s oldest reserve rums for blending.

I am a fan of Flor de Cana at nearly every level. The basics are terrific mixing rums; the Seven-Year-Old can be used as a sipper or a top cocktail rum; both the 12-Year-Old Centenario and the magnificent 18-Year-Old Centenario are brilliant rums but until now, I’ve never been able to get hold of the Slow-Aged, Single Estate 25-Year-Old rum (around $400 plus). Australia’s entire allocation was a mere 59 bottles (well, technically 60, but I have taken one out of play). It is undoubtedly one of the great rums found anywhere.

For me, a wonderful array of flavours – figs, caramel, candied orange, honey and white chocolate. It is rich and yet offers an ethereal gossamer-like texture and is impeccably balanced. There is sweetness, but it is clean, gentle and certainly gives no hint of cloying. A complex, brilliant rum, with great length. If one had to score, 98.

That caramel and white chocolate meant it was an absolutely perfect match for the PL RR. A seamless melding. The flavours from each did not overwhelm the other. All balanced. One of the great matches, provided you get a PL RR 08 from the pointy end of the box.

KBG


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