Monday, 22 August 2011

El Rey del Mundo Tainos 2001

The first time I have had one of these. A good, proper size at 7 x 47.
The appearance was great, nice richly coloured wrapper and nice oils in it too. The aroma cold was of tea and a little linseed oil…a classy yet mellow aroma.
My initial thoughts: great draw and even burn, lots of cool smoke, it started at light to medium bodied with a woody, tanned tobacco and a touch of vanilla cream (not sweet Vanilla cream). As an aside, I had wondered what a glass of Palo Cortado (E. Lustau) sherry would be like with the was awful, not a good combo…anyway I discarded the sherry and cracked on with the smoke.
The first third; stayed at a mellow, medium level with a little hint of spice and a subtle note of nutmeg there was an element of tea loaf there too, not fruit cake but tea loaf, it was hitting its stride.
The second third was to my mind the very best as a nutty note arrived, roasted almonds and (now really going for it) a touch of macadamia.
The final third had a bit for spice and continued well. The post smoke aftertaste was of dates which was un expected. If I had to rate it I would go a mellow but solid 90. The only reason why it is not higher is that I expected a bit more richness.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Partagas Culebras

One, or should I say three, of the cigars I brought back from the trip to Spain mentioned in my last blog was a Partagas Culebras. I looked up the history of this cigar (on ) and it is an interesting one. Until 2005 Culebras was a standard (but machine made) production cigar. Re-released in 2007 as a LCDH cigar and discontinued in 2011 as part of the new policy of releasing LCDH cigars in limited numbers. It is a unique smoke in a physical sense and I was kind of thin king it’d be ok but actually it had a great draw a really good burn and that Partagas spice but if anything a touch more mellow. It was a real joy to smoke, I had forgotten to take a drink into the garden but this cigar was so balanced and enjoyable that it didn’t matter.
The flavour profile didn’t change much but that didn’t matter. I wonder if the other two are going to be as good, no reason why not other than the fact that I know expect them to be good, and from recent wine and cigars tasting this can be dangerous territory. Under promise and over deliver is the best way. Try a Culebras…another reason Partagas is definitely by brand of the moment.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A holiday in Spain...lots of smokes...

A recent week away with the family and friends in north-eastern Spain, as well as being a great break with loads of food and wine, was a great chance to smoke several cigars. I took a few with me but also found a good cigar man in the town of L’Escala which meant I could take advantage of the good pricing (30-40% cheaper) of Cigars in Spain and try a few new cigars. First up after lunch on the first day was a Cuaba Tradicionales, it had been a while since I had tried a Cuaba and sadly this was not a good start. The look and feel was fine but the construction was so tight at the head that I had to cut about an inch off to get it going, the eventual flavour was ok but by then the smoke was all but done…I have some more so will try again soon. On day two I thought I would put the Cuaba behind be so went for an old Favourite - Hoyo Epicure No2 (pictured) it was on its normal glorious form with some Tawny port after dinner, mellow but not dull. The wrapper was a bit pale and from the “sandpaper” category but flavour excellent. The following night we drove in land for a great dinner at our friends brothers house, rabbit on the bbq as well as more different types of sausages than I think I’ve ever had in one sitting. The wine flowed but at the end of it all it was time for a R&J Short Churchill (picture). This was a cigar I had heard mixed things about but never tried before. I was really impressed and will definitely be getting some more…very classy, a little spice, great construction and a good size (if silly name). The next day it rained proper cats and dogs all day so by the evening it somehow felt wrong to launch into a big cigar so I went for one of my favourites a Partagas Short, this was from a box I am trying to leave for a while but have already smoked 4 of, a slightly loose draw but all that spice and gorgeous Partagas character. I love this cigar as it is small but not a compromise. My mid-afternoon smoke, I was on holiday after all, the following day was the other smaller cigar that I am a massive fan of, the Trinidad Reyes, it is very different from the Partagas, as different as Bordeaux and Burgundy in wine, but as good. Creamier, latte coffee flavours but not too smooth. I have never had a Lancero from Trinidad but I must as I suppose it is the Reyes older brother. I can see those two smaller format cigars being cornerstones of my smoking in years to come, both can be smoked in 20mins or preferably a little longer. Next up after a hot day and large dinner was Partagas Serie P No 2, like the R&J this was a first and also a smoke I had heard mixed things about. This was my highlight of the week smoke wise, really dark oily wrapper I wondered if it was going to be a young monster but it was delicious from the off, dark chocolate but not harsh a real after dinner treat, very impressive and also nicely different from the Serie D No 4 in style…I like the size too, not a massive fan of pyramids but this longer one makes sense, I would love to lay some of these down for 2-5 years. The last but one day of the break saw me in the Cigar shop again to buy a few other sticks I had not tried before, two of which are mentioned after this next one which was a nostalgic choice, Toscanello (pictured), I had to buy a pack when I saw them. I last smoked a Toscanello on honeymoon 12 years ago when I first got into cigars and I remember loving these veined cheroot’s dark, rich, earthy, rustic flavours with Italian Espresso. This time I had it with normal coffee, it would be a great after lunch smoke when you had little time. The other two smokes I bought were Joya de Nicaragua Robusto and Vegas Robaina Famoso (pictured) the former was creamy and light, very easy to smoke, lots of thick smoke, a little one dimensional to be critical but a good smoke and a good choice for a larger ring gauge but at any time of day. The Robaina was disappointing, it had an overly tight draw which is always off putting but even so it smoked very plainly, nothing wrong with the flavours but not enough of anything or any development…I will give Robaina another chance at some stage but this was a shame…so now I can turn my mind to my next smoke which will probably be something like an HdM Epicure No1 I should think…

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

An Italian day...

A very Italian day yesterday with a tasting of Andrea Franchetti's two latest sets of wines and then lunch at Zucca...

The tasting was hosted in the office by Alex Burge who works with Andrea on the sales and marketing side. We looked at the wines that C&B last released and then ones we will next release in November (all shown in the photos). As background I buy the Cupole and Passopisciaro every year for myself and normally in large bottle formats - I love large bts and these come in mags as well as double mags!). I was as impressed as ever. I won't go on about the wines as they can all be found on the C&B site but the vintages are both good ones. The Sicilian wines are getting better and better. The Nerello Mascalese grown on slopes of Etna has definite similarities to both Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo - both very good things as far as I am concerned. Andrea produced four single vineyards wines (Contrada is the word for this, a little like Lieu dit in France) in 2009 as he did in 2008 the only shame is that the productions are pathetic. The Tuscan wines were all on great form with real richness but not overly powerful, delicious, Palazzi 2010 possibly sung the most at this stage.

Lunch that followed at Zucca was a good relaxed affair, Alex had kindly given up some holiday time to see us. We had one white and one red. The white was 2007 Chardonnay from Hyde de Villaine in Carneros. I have shown this blind a few times and the elegance and poise always means people say burgundy, Alex thinking Puligny, I though Meursault last time I had it blind. Either way decanted it was delicious with an array of starters (always the way to do it at Zucca). For the red (to go with a mammoth Veal chop in my case) I wasn't going to miss the chance to further explore the wonderful Piedmont list. This time I opted for one of the growers I buy blind for myself every year now - Guiseppe (Beppe) Rinaldi - it was his 2005 Barolo Brunate-Le Coste, I expected it to be enjoyable but obviously too young and whilst I will keep the case or two I have for a long while yet I was staggered at it's balance and openness now...a very classy bottle. If you can find his wines I strongly recommend buying them, failing that get to Zucca and try them there.

Then just as I was about to post this blog Mr Bird, plonked a glass on my desk, it was totally delicious, sweet but with real balance obviously not young but not old either, I had an inkling of Sauternes but settled on it not was Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Vendage Tardive 1999 from Zind Humbrecht, seriously good so I went to see what else was in the tasting room and there was the "same" wine but the Selection des Grain Nobles (SGN) but from half bottle. I like this too but the added sweetness to my mind slightly affected the balance...those that love SGN's will certainly love this...