Cubans

Published on February 15th, 2019 | by Ken Gargett

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Cohiba Esplendido (May 2014)/Glenmorangie ‘Quinta Ruban’ 12-Year-Old Malt Whisky; mystery port.

Been thinking about this matching concept. I have a feeling that when one has a decent cigar and a decent drink, there is a subconscious tendency to think, all is well and that they work. Now, I am more than happy to smoke/drink whatever if I am enjoying them, but I wonder if, as far as combinations go, this is falling into the easy trap. So on occasion, I’m going to try a couple of different drinks to go with a cigar and see if one works better than the other. I think that, in order not to confuse the palate too much, it has to be one after the other rather than back and forth. We’ll see. 

First up, the Cohiba Esplendido. This one had some age and looked in exquisite condition. Hopefully the photo will show some of that russet colour that this one exhibited. Rob and I have a ‘history’ with this fine cigar – thanks Jose – who very kindly gave me a superb box of them many years ago. He gave Rob a very fine box of something (forgotten what – Mag 50s?) at the same time. Rob, rather than showing the appropriate gratitude, has bitched about the fact that I got the Esplendidos ever since, and did his best to smoke as many of mine as he could while we very still on the Island (the fact that until that moment, our host had never even met Jose and should have considered himself fortunate to get squat has never dawned on him). I will say, cigars don’t come much better than that box. 

The Esplendido is an interesting cigar. Back when I first got interested, I think if you asked most of the authorities just what, perceived or in reality, was the best smoke coming out of Cuba at the time, they would have said this one. Cohiba was the undisputed leading House (yes, fully accept that many smoking back then may have others which they preferred, but I am talking in general terms) and the Esplendido was the jewel in the Cohiba crown. Hence, king of the smokes! There were no Siglo VI’s or LE’s and so on. 

It had been a while since I looked at them – tragically, price does play a factor in these things – but I was excited to try this one. 

Delightful. A really good cigar. Not the finest Esplendido I’ve seen, but you’d not be unhappy to have a box of this quality. Immediate notes of cinnamon and honeycomb. Good spices, hints of new kid leather. No driftwood. Immediately, there was that lovely velvety smoke, great texture. I assure you I was extremely careful in lighting it and it burned beautifully until around the last third when it did become a smidge wonky (I use the technical term, of course). What was very obvious was that this was very much under medium bodied. A lovely subtle cigar. For me, a solid 93. 

First up for the match was a fine malt whisky – the Glenmorangie ‘Quinta Ruban’ 12-Year-Old. It showed heaps of delightful flavours and many of them were remarkably (as I discovered from looking at the notes later) similar to those of the cigar – honeysuckle, leather, cinnamon and a character very reminiscent of Austrian apricot marmalade. That might sound an odd note, but I have a friend who sends me a couple of bottles of a special, and apparently very famous, marmalade from Austria (from the Wachau region?) every year. It is nowhere near as sweet as our traditional marmalades here. Love it. Great texture and balance. A very fine malt, and one that I am certain will be familiar to many members. 

The second was a small sample bottle of an old tawny style port. It was unlabelled and exactly what it was is lost in the mists of time, and my disorganisation. I wondered if it might be a small sample of the famous Seppeltsfield Centenary Tawny – these are ports from a single year, originally put into barrel by the family back in the late 19th century and every year since, with instructions that the first, and every subsequent year, not be bottled until it had spent a hundred years in the barrel. On tasting, while it was very fine, I’m sure it was not. It did not have the superb balance of those wines, nor the mindboggling length. That said, there was considerable age. It was raisiny and rich and enjoyable, though perhaps too sweet. Have not included a photo as it is simply a small glass bottle. 

So, did we have a winner? 

The closeness of the flavours from the Malt and the cigar made it the hands down victor. They melded perfectly. The port was simply too sweet and overwhelmed all the subtleties of this fine smoke.

KBG


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