News

A matter of taste

It seemed like a good idea, and in the end the event turned into a great evening's tasting with some interesting company, cracking spirits and one belter of a cigar. Rob Allanson Reports
By Rob Allanson
There are some moments in a journalist’s life when you realise that you are doing the hard work so your readers don’t have to.Fortunately in this mammoth tasting I had a little help because tasting 11 spirits to find the best pairing with a lovely Montecristo Edmundo was, in one of my fellow taster’s words “mission impossible.” The idea for the tasting came after a discussion with London restaurant owner and cigar fan Ranald Macdonald of Boisdale.The idea started life as a tasting of classic French digestifs, and following some excited discussions it snowballed into something bigger, much bigger as it turned out.The final plan was to taste three whiskies, three rums, two Cognacs, a bourbon, a grappa and an Armagnac. Not an easy task but a fun one.The tasting panel was a good mix of journalists and drinks experts, all aficionados in their fields and after a decent lunch they were eager to get down to work and see which of the spirits would come out on top.The spirits were served in random order, blind and judges were asked to mark out of 10 and make comments on how they thought the pairing performed together.The spirit to come out on top at the end of the three hour session was the Hine Cigar Cognac closely followed by Glenmorangie’s Lasanta.THE PANEL
Rob Allanson (RA)
Whisky Magazine
Lizzie Aubrey-Fletcher (LAF)
The Spectator
Lucy Buglass (LB)
Monkey Shoulder
Sean Croley (SC)
Hunters and Frankau
Rob Curteis (RC)
William Grant and Sons
Simon Goodley (SG)
The Telegraph
Nick James (NJ)
Pol Roger
Ranald Macdonald (RM)
BoisdaleTASTINGS
Henessey VS Cognac
NJ:Full and rounded.Runs sweet but a
little light
LAF:Too light.With the cigar tastes like
it’s been watered down
RA:Sweet hints,flinty with oranges but
overall too light together
SC:Too light for the cigar.The cigar
overpowers the very subtle flavours of
this spirit
LB:Fruity,zesty and light.Needs more
kick,more oomph
SG:Abit bland but excellent without
the cigar
RC:Too light,sweet.Wanted more from
the pairing,it complements the cigar
but I wanted more
RM:Delicious soft sweet with low
aciditysmoke,loads of citrus
Hine Cigar Cognac
NJ:Better balancethis time,more
even matching
LAF:Good complement,good depth
RA:Again sweet barleysugar.Short
sharp finish which needed more for me
SC:Quite a good match.Spirit needed
slightly more.Spicy finish and a winner
for me
LB:Sweet and buttery,almost brioche,
with the cigar
RC:After cigar get sweet syrup flavours
but still wantmorefrom the pairing
RM:Creamy,soft and fruity with loads of
caramel.Sits well with the cigar
Armagnac Marquis de Puysegar
NJ:Could this be a malt judging by its
taste.Works well but a little thin
RA:Slightly bitter with the cigar and the
subtle spirit got lost
SC:Similar tonumber 2 (Hine – ED) just
not quiteenough weight together
LB:Vanilla,caramel and smooth with the
cigar,almost creamy
RC:Opens up nicely.A little spicy on
the finish but not nearly the best with
the cigar
RM:Soft and complex with the cigar.
Gives caramel with a hint of spice
Eagle Rare Bourbon
NJ:Curious.Don’t really like it,does not work
with the cigar
RA:Candy floss,toasted nuts,coconut and
cedar.Big with the cigar and they tame
each other
SC:Fruity and floral flavours.Not a good
match as the flavours clash with the aromas
from the cigar
LAF:More floral.Too sweet for the cigar
LB:Vanilla,floral,fruity.Goes ok but not quite
the match
SG:Very pleasant caramel taste.Would not
want it without the cigar
RC: Hugely long finish.Smooth and sweet
nearly there as a pairing
RM:The spirit is not sufficiently sweet for the
cigar and the pairing is not the best
Monkey Shoulder
NJ:So,so good this one.Great grip and works
well together
RA:Oranges,marmalade,popcorn.Did not
work as well cigar was too much for it
SC:Cigar spicyness bosses the soft flavours
of this spirit
LB:Orange,marmalades and vanilla
complement the cigar
RC:Balanced with vanilla and a slight
sweetness.Maybe needed more body for
this cigar.Adryfinish
RM:Aharsh finish with a touch of soap at the
back.But still a big spirit
Nardini Riserva15 Anni (Grappa)
NJ:Clumsy with almost a fungal note.Great
with company but just not with a cigar
LAF:Strong liquorice tones and good
strong flavour
RA:Not working but fine on its own
SC:Almost there.Needed more bite to
score higher.Suited more to a medium to
lightHabano
LB:PlayDoh,sharp syrupy with the cigar
SG:Slightly harsh before a good drag on the
cigar,but far more pleasant after one
RC:Very grassy.A decent spirit,very tasty but
not with the cigar
RM:Medicinal and soapy,but with the cigar
is sweet and delicious
Glenfiddich 21 Years Old
NJ:Dryand rich.Sits well with the cigar
RA:Abuttery,corn on the cob note to this.
Works ok but nothing shocking
LAF:Not distinct enough and is over
powered by the cigar
SC:Not enough character to match the cigar
SG:Improves further down the cigar
you get
RC:Clean citrus but it needed something
morefuller flavoured to satisfy
RM:There is a slight sulphur here with a
sweet custard and a little sugar.Watery on
the finish
Mount Gay Rum
NJ:Lithe on the nose.Not to my tastes but
actually worked well with the cigar,but a
little reluctant and clinical
LAF: Subtle but got lost in the strong flavours
of the cigar
RA:Apples,pannacota but seems to be in
neutral with the cigar
SC:This one is definitely interesting.Probably
would have scored higher if taster earlier
LB:Sweet winey notes,just gets a little lost
SG:Starts as a neutral taste but lingers.Not as
good as the cigar though
RC:Not enough flavour to complement the
cigar.The finish is lacking as well
RM:Citrus,soft and sweet.Is a clean match
with the cigar
Glenmorangie Lasanta
NJ:Very light in style.Works fine on its own
but not with the cigar
RA:Spicy with cedar.Cigar brings out almost
arose hint
LAF:Very strong,very woody with a
distinct aftertaste
SC:Quite a good match.Good finish on the
palate and complements the cigar
SG:Very smooth drink but not hugely
complementary
RC:Similar to number five (Monkey Shoulder
–ED) but with morevanilla though
RM:Complex light with good citrus
overtones and a touch of caramel
Havana Club Especial
NJ:Better balanced than the previous one
with the cigar
LAF: Subtle but with a morebutterytaste
RA:Demerara sugar,candy floss,goes very
well indeed
SC:The smoothness in a funny way hampers
the match with the cigar.Nice spirit but not
quiteawinner
LB:Grapes,fruity and sweet with the cigar.
Has a good kick in the finish
RC:Spirity finish.Clean but surprisingly
characterless with the cigar.
Alittle disappointing
RM:Verysweet and easy.Unremarkable with
the cigar but very drinkable
ElDorado 15 Year Old Rum
NJ:Arguably the best on showfor me.
Works tremendously with the cigar
LAF:Good rounded flavour and
slightly sweet
RA:Burnt sugar,cough syrup works well just
don’tadd water
SC:Too sweet preventing the cigar aromas
from being tasted
LB:Sugar and caramel dominatethe cigar
RC:Lovely,but best with a smoke first.
Beautifully smooth texture,warming
flavours.A little spirity but works well
RM:Super sweet with the cigar,almost like
aliqueurHOW THEY STACKED UP AFTER THE
SCORES WERE WORKED OUT
Hine Cigar Cognac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Glenmorangie Lasanta . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Armagnac Marquis de Puysegar . . . 52
MountGayRum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Havana Club Especial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
ElDorado 15 Year Old Rum . . . . . . . . . 50
Glenfiddich 21 Years Old . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Eagle Rare Bourbon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Monkey Shoulder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Nardini Riserva 15 Anni (Grappa) . . . 44
Henessey VS Cognac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
All the spirits performed really well with
the Edmundo,but with some of them
the cigar either overpowered or was
overpowered by the drink.
To really work with a cigar a spirit should
add tothe flavour,adding a new
dimension to the match.As with
marriage both elements have their part
toplayand sometimes thereareclashes.
Atthe end of the daythe choice of a cigar
and after dinner drink is a personal one
but hopefully given the workput into
this wide ranging tasting you may
decide to experiment and try something
different with your favourite smoke