Cubans

Published on April 4th, 2019 | by Ken Gargett

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H. Upmann Sir Winston Churchill/Flor de Cana ‘Spresso’; Sullivans Cove Single Cask XO Brandy

I’m not one for spiced rums, although I quite like the Stolen Spiced Rum for its enticing smoky characters, and a note that is almost peaty, but I just love the new offering from Flor de Cana, their Spresso. In fairness, it is much more of a rum/coffee liqueur than a spiced rum, but what’s in a name. We are not likely to be including Spresso in any discussion of the great rums, even great liqueurs of the world. But it is seriously delicious and very moreish.

The flavours are slightly treacly, strong coffee and dark chocolate. Intense and quite sweet. The base is Flor de Cana’s very fine 7-Year-Old rum, giving it is a spirit level of 30%. Needless to say, Nicaragua is not short of quality coffee, though interesting, the product is caffeine-free. This is a liqueur that, I think, will make a fine match with a great many cigars. $55 Aussie. It seemed like an ideal drink for one of our two drinks with this week’s cigar – the H. Upmann Sir Winston Churchill (from July 2010). 

Yes, we continue on with the double-bunger theme. Our other drink of the week is another cracker but a local one – the Sullivans Cove Single Cask XO Brandy. This is only ever bottled cask by cask, meaning any release is tiny indeed. I’m looking at bottle 40 from just 138. Alcohol is 47.5%. Around the $280 mark, if you can find it.

Aussie brandy has come a long way in recent years and much of that is thanks to the efforts of small, high quality distillers like Sullivans Cove and others from Tasmania. Aussie whisky has certainly come further and it could be said that brandy is either an afterthought or it is riding on whisky’s coattails, but does it matter? 

The distillery also does a lovely Double Cask XO Brandy, not quite as rare or expensive and also worth chasing – it is a little lighter in character. They come from a project started around a decade ago when Sullivans Cove distilled around 40 casks of Huon Valley wine – mostly chardonnay and pinot noir, but also sauvignon blanc and gewürztraminer. The casks were French oak, previously used for fortified wines. We are now seeing the fruits of their labours. Or perhaps the fruits of their non-labours, as they have stood aside and let the contents of the casks mature into the gems we have today. The uniqueness of each bottling comes from the fact that a single cask only is used each release.

This represents an exciting new era for Aussie brandy and we can only hope that Sullivans Cove, and others, persist. 

This release certainly exhibited some oakiness, but offered an enticing texture and great complexity. It is as finely balanced as any brandy one could hope to drink. The flavours waltzed through spices, cinnamon, nectarines, glacéd orange and vanilla with a hint of honey. Fantastic length. Loved it. 

The cigar, the famous Sir Winnie. No doubt I am preaching to the converted as I am certain that everyone either has them in their regular rotation, enjoys an occasional splurge when they are available (sadly, too rarely), or has them on their bucket list. If none of these categories apply to you, you need to have a long hard think about your cigar habits.

All that said, this one from 2010 was a good Winnie but not great. Leather, orange rind, cinnamon and a quite subtle array of these notes. Still tight and still youthful. Years ahead of it. What really did appeal was that the cigar morphed into lovely peanut notes from about halfway. This nuttiness really emerged ahead of all other flavours. Right at the very end, the merest hint of a caramel note. 

So, as matches? The Spresso was so utterly decadent that it could not help but work, though it would be even better with a chocolate bomb cigar. The Sullivans Cove, with its wonderful complexity, soft texture and length was an ideal match. 

Hard to fault anything for all that. 

KBG

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