A wonderful cigar matched with an exquisite rum, and a pairing which I will enjoy for years to come.
By Benjamin Winokur
The Pairing: Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum with Ventura Cigar Company Project 805 Figurado Size: 6 x 52
Wrapper: Shade Grown Dominican Corojo
Binder: Dominican Olor
Filler: Dominican Blend
WITH ANDULLO THIS ARTICLE ISN’T ABOUT THE INFAMOUS PIRATES who enjoyed rum and cigars while pillaging the high seas (to which I will admit some disappointment). What this article is about though, is the pairing of a fine sipping rum, alongside a cigar that has become just as disruptive to the cigar industry as the pirates were to the shipping industry in the Caribbean.
Now to introduce the pairing of Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum, and the Project805 Figurado by Ventura Cigar Company. Kirk and Sweeney Rum originates from the folks at 35 Maple Street, the same great minds behind Masterson’s Whiskey and Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin. Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum is quite special. Crafted from raw sugarcane in the Dominican Republic, it spends 12 years aging in American oak casks after distillation. This unique distillation and aging process imbues the rum with a rich mahogany color and well-rounded flavor profile.
The Project805 is one of two brands introduced by Ventura Cigar Company in 2013 and is the first premium cigar to make use of a special tobacco known as Andullo. According to Ventura Cigar Company, Andullo is native to the south Dominican Republic and has traditionally been used as pipe tobacco. If you go searching for Andullo tobacco though, you will likely come up empty; the term actually refers to the fermentation process, not the strain of tobacco itself. The official description of the Andullo tobacco from Ventura Cigar Company reads: “Tobacco leaf from the Rabito and Quin Diaz tobacco plants is harvested and piled into a series of palm seed pods called Yagua. When filled, the palm seed pods are wrapped in a thick, natural rope compressing the Andullo into a dense, rigid, six-foot long bar nearly five-inches in diameter.” It takes nearly two years for the Andullo to ferment, and once complete, “Results in a leathery, dark aromatic, earthy sweet all-natural tobacco leaf.”
It is the use of this Andullo tobacco that has the ability to potentially disrupt the premium cigar industry and it has certainly caught our attention. Now that you’re salivating over this interesting pairing of Dominican rum and a Dominican cigar, let’s get to it.
A Dominican Rum Paired with a Dominican Cigar
I start the pairing off with a two-finger pour of Kirk and Sweeney Rum over three whiskey stones in a rocks glass. Visually striking, the rum is a rich mahogany and amber color, as the nose leads off with a sweet aroma nuanced by vanilla and hints of floral notes. As I remove the Project805 Figurado from my humidor, which measures in at 6 x 52, I take note that it’s a visually pleasing cigar, featuring a light reddish-brown Corojo wrapper, two distinct veins running the length of the cigar, with a light dusting of oils.
The Project805 is well filled with its puro blend of traditional Dominican tobaccos along with the Andullo, brought together by the Dominican Olor binder. There are no noticeable soft spots or irregularities, and the construction is superb. I make quick work of the rough cap with a slightly diagonal straight-cut, and I test the dry-draw, finding it to be well balanced with a touch of spice and earth. After toasting the foot and starting the burn, I’m instantly aware of why Ventura Cigar Co. calls this cigar “the disruption.” The flavor from the initial draw hits the back of my throat with a well-balanced spice, notably red and black pepper, followed by a rich tobacco finish. As soon as I move beyond the first few draws, the spice becomes more subdued and the flavor profile more rounded, as a sweet earthiness arises in the background.
Reaching for my glass of Kirk and Sweeney, I swirl it around to release the aroma and take my first post-cigar sip. The rum is smooth with notes of caramel and honey, finished with subtle oak as it washes over my palate. After basking in the glory of this rum, I turn back to the cigar and enjoy a few more draws. This time the spice is noticeably muted; however, there is a balance that exists between the two. Where the cigar presents spice, tobacco, and earthiness, the rum counters with a nectar-like sweetness finished with vanilla, oak, and subtle dry fruit. This quality and flavor remains consistent through the first third of the cigar, lasting until just before the half-way point.
Halfway through, the cigar is still visually stunning, neatly holding its ash until just recently, it continues on with a clean burn line all the way around. Meanwhile, the flavor has slightly diminished. Just past the halfway point approaching the final third, the cigar becomes slightly harsh — I may have been puffing a little too fast. The rum does an exceedingly fine job of mitigating this low-point, though slowing down while smoking, along with a few additional months in the humidor, would likely solve this issue. Thankfully, the harshness didn’t last long, and after slowing down for 10 or so minutes, disappeared completely. As I smoke into the final third, the Project805 moves in for the knock-out punch; full and complex flavors of molasses, earth and spice, delivered by a rich and velvety smoke take over my palate.
The Kirk and Sweeney Rum hits its stride with the cigar, and I become enthralled. Such incredibly nuanced flavors exist between the two that I can’t decide which is responsible, the spirit or the cigar. While Ventura Cigar Company pegs this as a “mild with complex flavor” cigar, I’m going to have to disagree and say that it smokes like a medium, medium-full bodied cigar. While it lacks the boldness of a true full-flavor cigar, it has more than enough complexity in its body to warrant the description. This dance of increasing flavor and complexity continued through my remaining time with the cigar. The finale arose when I could no longer hold the cigar nub between my fingers, and my glass of rum had long ago run dry. In all, it was a wonderful cigar matched with an exquisite rum, and a pairing which I will enjoy for years to come.