ESTEBAN CARRERAS MR. BROWNSTONE
Mr. Brownstone is a brand-new blend from Carreras, introduced this Spring at IPCPR 2017. Wrapped from ring to foot in a wax-paper label, unwrapping a Mr. Brownstone reveals a waxy, oily wrapper with a mineral-and-wood scent. The maduro wrapper implies richness, a strong, flavorful smoke, and the Mr. Brownstone doesn’t disappoint.
Somehow, the name of this cigar seemed more and more appropriate as I smoked. There are two significant “brown” flavors at play here: dark chocolate and oiled, aged wood. The two play together in a way I’ve never experienced, the sweet and milky with the musky earth, reminding me of roasted apples and rosemary.
The Carreras Mr. Brownstone burned straight and even, with a medium draw and at medium-to-full strength. After about the halfway point, the stick mellows to a less complex dark chocolate for the remainder of the time.
I paired Mr. Brownstone with an aged gin, Ramsom Old Tom. “Old Tom” style gins are sweetened and sometimes aged, usually with a more citrus-forward palate. In this case, Ransom has lived a short time in wine barrels, and has taken on a complex flavor appropriate for pairing with the Mr. Brownstone.
The two played together well, mostly because of the richness of both. Ransom’s Old Tom fills in the citrus, sweet and spice that Carreras’ cigar is missing, while the cigar provides an earthy chocolate profile that complements the gin as well.
AGING ROOM SOLERA SHADE
Aging Room’s Solera line is characterized by using the same “Solera” aging method for their tobacco that often is used in Caribbean rums (like Zacapa 23, for instance). This process blends the final product from a mixture of ages, from quite old to relatively young.
The Shade blend of the Solera line is characterized by its pigtail on the head and it’s Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. It’s a dry, creamy cigar, like peppered ice cream, and mild and smooth. Shortly, you pick up subtle flavors of tropical fruits. For me, I got banana and mango.
The Shade is on the thicker side of rind gages, and I was thrilled to see that the burn is impeccable, not a bit of wavering from a perfectly straight line as it burned down.
I paired the Aging Room Solera Shade with a neat glass of Calvados Boulard V.S.O.P., a French apple brandy. This is almost a one-for-one pairing, with complementary flavors across the board. While mostly dry on the palate (like the Solara Shade), Boulard blends a similarly tropical-fruit flavor profile with caramel and sweet wine. The two pair together so well, it’s like they were made together and not on opposite sides of the world.
MONTECRISTO MONTE BY AJ FERNANDEZ
The Monte line from Montecristo has allowed the ancient brand to take some liberties with experimental blends without compromising their primary line of classic cigars. The Monte by AJ Fernandez is no exception, and if you smoked it without the label, you would likely guess it to be a more modern brand than from the house that Monte built.
With a slight box press on the maduro wrapper, the Monte by AJ is a spicy smoke from the get-go, with flavors of asphalt, pepper and Asian chilis. It produces lots of smoke, too, and stays lit well until your fingers get hot.
As the Monte had me all spicy and peppered, I grabbed a bottle with a similar profile: Watershed Bourbon. Watershed is a 5-grain bourbon distilled in Columbus, Ohio, and the resulting bourbon is delicious. Often, young distilleries struggle to produce a product that’s balanced in the early years, but Watershed is really delivering with this bourbon. It’s old enough (up to 3 1/2 years old), and balanced enough (thanks to the mash or corn, rye, wheat, barley and spelt) to be a delicious and valuable sipper.
The cigar and the bourbon pair great and the spice is across the board. Watershed’s Bourbon smells of cinnamon, vanilla and caramel and has flavors of spice and a surprisingly easy drink, even at the relatively-high 47% ABV.
LA AURORA CONNECTICUT
La Aurora makes a mild, yet flavorful, cigar, and the Connecticut is no exception. This deceptively small cigar is packed relatively tight, and the smoke you get from it it much longer-term than you think. A grainy and waxy wrapper houses a cigar that’s sweet on the tip of your tongue and delivers a flavor and scent just like snickerdoodle cookies.
Let me tell you how much sugar/cinnamon you get from this cigar: as I was smoking it for this pairing, my wife came out on the balcony and asked “are you eating cookies out here?” Yeah, the smoke and flavor are both that obvious.
Just as with most of my other pairings this month, I knew exactly what would complement that flavor of sugar and spice: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask Scotch. Aged twice in both oak and ex-rum barrels, Caribbean Cask is a sweet scotch, with undercurrents of scotchy-barley sourness. It also has a good amount of spice, thanks to it’s 14-year age.
Together with the grainy cinnamon-sugar of the La Aurora Connecticut, the Caribbean Cask adds a richness and some balance against an all-sweet pairing experience. Caribbean Cask, particularly with a mild cigar like this one, is dangerously easy to drink.
Cigar & Spirits Panel Pairing
Recently, we had the opportunity to enjoy the exquisite pairing of Ventura Cigar Company/Phillips & King’s Hugo Chairman and the Glencadam 13 YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
The Hugo Chairman Toro (made for Hugo Cassar by Rocky Patel) is nutty and rich and smokes through with a magnificent ash. Punchy but not biting to the palate, the finish has overlaying tastes of leather and coffee.
The Hugo Chairman and Glencadam 13 YO make for an artful pairing. The Glencadam is a refined spirit for its age. The liquid is appealing as it shimmers with gold. The tones are floral with hints of summer fruit that delightfully meshes with notes creamy vanilla.
This pairing is visually pleasing, too. The sturdy construction of the Hugo with its impressive coat and the rich gold tones of the spirit are soothing to the eye. The combination of these elements made an enjoyable hour for all involved.
We recommend you break out this pairing at your next gathering with friends. They’ll be as impressed with your pairing expertise as they with this elite combo.