Cubans

Published on April 26th, 2019 | by Ken Gargett

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Quai d’Orsay Imperiale/Lighthouse Gin; Monteith’s Apple Cider

A Quai d’Orsay type of weekend, not originally intended but very much enjoyed, and a nod to our New Zealand brethren, after the recent tragedy, but before we get to all that, may I just say, why, Habanos, why? And boo, hiss. 

I would like to say that I had never tried this cigar before, but after the debacle with the QdO Corona, who knows. I certainly do not recall it. Rob kindly left one with me for Kenfessions and to have a squizz at it. 

So, after up at sparrow’s, a solid day working, I settled down to enjoy this cigar with a couple of New Zealand drinks and some top books in the afternoon. Rob has also given me a book on Churchill in Cuba, but I did not get to it. The brilliant ‘Champagne’ by Peter Liem, to open proceedings and then to an absolute cracker, ‘The Force’ by Don Winslow. With the sound of the ocean in the background. Have enjoyed a few of Winslow’s, but this might be a whole new level. Hard as nails cop drama in NYC. Suffice to say it is unlikely to ever be made into a Disney movie of the week. 

I’m told, and the endlessly valuable internet confirmed, that the QdO Imperiale was discontinued in 2014. It had been brought into existence in 1973, when French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (actually Secretary of the Treasury at the time), wanted a Cuban just for France. It is no more. 

The cigar was thoroughly pleasant. Notes of light caramel, and quite subtle. Some florals, perhaps a hint of wood. Light dusting of cocoa. Not for those who seek blockbuster flavours. For me, ideal for an afternoon with a good book. Some say it is a beginner’s cigar. I understand that, but would also say that there is nothing wrong with it. 

I very much enjoyed it and regret its passing. I would also suggest that anyone with these in their humidor (good choice), be in no hurry. Glacial ageing potential. 

To the drinks. After the horrendous events in New Zealand lately, I thought why not go with a couple from our neighbour. 

Monteith’s is a large brewery and have cider in their portfolio. So we are not talking some small craft effort. These come out by the truckload. And it is a fine, certainly inoffensive cider. Fresh, slightly bitey apple notes. Has a touch more sweetness than I would have preferred. It is an easy drinking style and, being on the simple side of the style, worked nicely with the cigar. 

The next effort was a little more interesting. Lighthouse Gin. Named after the Cape Palliser Lighthouse located at the very southernmost tip of New Zealand’s North Island. This is a stark, windy part of the world, but also spectacularly beautiful. I remember wandering around the beaches – it is not far from the Martinborough wine region – and being fascinated by the black sand. Very odd. 

The gin uses the fresh, clean water from the nearby mountains and various citrus characters, oranges and lemons, as well as a range of botanicals. It is also quite subtle, with the lovely citrus notes. There is an oyster shell note to it, as well.

The project started in 2005 – yes, yet another craft gin but a very fine one. Sugar cane is imported from South Africa (seriously, you are right next to Australia – you can’t get sugar cane here?). It took some five years of experimentation to perfect the recipe. The result is a fresh, gentle, balanced gin with good flavours. Again, not for those looking for a blockbuster. I enjoyed it very much. 

With the cigar, again, the simplicity and balance, and the lightness of being, worked well. These are probably not matches we’ll be talking about on our deathbeds, but they worked well. And after all, thanks to the scorched earth policy that Habanos seems to have taken to so many fine cigars, not really something we’ll have to worry about for much longer. 

KBG

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