Cigar Pairings

Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente celebrates the 50th anniversary of the TAA, the Tobacconist Association of America, with this exclusive release. Made of Nicaraguan tobacco aged 5 years, this 6 3/4 x 50 pressed cigar is an extension of the Antaño Gran Reserva brand.

This stick is full of wood spice and leather, with very slight hints of candied fruit. It’s a wonderfully balanced cigar that leads to a satisfying, hour-long smoke. Full bodied but not overpowering. I decided to pair it with Hennessy XO and I never looked back. The cognac’s big caramel and fruity palate complemented the cigar’s wood beautifully and brought out more of those leather notes.

This cigar is available to TAA members at $12.50 per stick and available in three other sizes: Robusto Grande Box-Pressed (5 1/2 x 52), Belicoso (6 x 54), and Gran Consul (4 3/4 x60).

Thanks to Joya de Nicaragua for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are are my own.

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Louisiana Barn Smoker Photo Recap

A few weeks ago at L.A. Poche in St. James parish, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, Drew Estate kicked off their first Louisiana Barn Smoker. More than 300 attendees joined Drew Estate founder Jonathan Drew, Master Blender Willie Herrera, and Carrie & Louise Van Winkle for a firsthand look at the barrel fermentation process unique to St. James parish.

St. James parish grows Perique tobacco, and has been barrel fermenting for a long time. Tobacco typically ferments in covered piles. Using an ex-bourbon barrel for the fermentation process helps impart a touch of the spirit’s qualities into the tobacco as well as breakdown the leaf’s unwanted flavors. A few years back, Jonathan Drew got together with L.A. Poche and started barrel fermenting their Kentucky fire-cured tobacco. It is this tobacco that is used as the wrapper near the head of the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigars, giving the cigar its signature character.

Jonathan Drew and Willie Herrera walked attendees through the process of how tobacco is processed, from tiny seedling to ready-to-smoke cigar. These guys answered all questions honestly, which is something not always found in the spirits industry. Transparency and education seem to be major themes of the Barn Smoker events. Kudos to Drew Estate for that!

A raffle was also held at the event, which generously raised $12,000 for Cigars for Warriors. The group sends cigars overseas to deployed soldiers, providing a little comfort in the process.

Angel’s Envy, MB Roland and Jonathan Drew’s own spirits were also available for attendees to sample. Add to that the deliciously spicy Cajun catering that was served for lunch and the gorgeous weather, and it was a recipe for an unforgettably entertaining, educational and relaxing event. If you have even a passing interest in cigars, you have to make it out to one. Let me tell you, future Barn Smoker events are now on my radar.

L.A. Poche, the site of the first Louisiana Barn Smoker.

Cured tobacco awaiting rehydration.

A rehydrated tobacco leaf.

The warehouse was filled with barrels fermenting tobacco. On a side note, the smell in here was quite nice.

A closeup look at fermenting tobacco. All that’s added to the barrel is tobacco and water.

Jonathan Drew giving attendees a bit of the Drew Estate history. The company, founded in 1998, is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year.

Drew Estate Master Blender Willie Herrera recounting how the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigars came to be.

Every attendee walked away with a few sticks and some swag as part of their ticket price.

A special thanks to the good folks at Drew Estate for the invite. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Cigar Pairing: Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy & J Shephard Butchertown Blend Cigar

(Edit: This article was edited to clarify that the cigars are suspended over a barrel of brandy.)

I’m not a big cigar smoker, though I do occasionally enjoy a stick with a great spirit.  When I heard that Copper & Kings sold a cigar especially made to pair with their Butchertown Brandy, I had to check it out.

The cigar is blended by J Shepherd Cigars in Louisville.  According to the cigar blender:

“The cigar is a private blend made by a third generation Cuban cigar maker producing cigars in Nicaragua.  The wrapper and binder for the cigar is a Cuban seed Corojo grown in Ecuador, while the filler tobacco is a Cuban seed Criollo grown in Nicaragua.  Both wrapper and binder are from 2003, so there is a limited supply.”

The cigars are suspended over Butchertown brandy where the spirit evaporates up through the cigar, adding another layer of flavor.  Copper & Kings sells the cigar at their Louisville distillery boutique for $12.

As for Butchertown, it’s a bruiser of a brandy!  Bottled at 124 proof, Butchertown Brandy is aged mainly in ex-bourbon barrels alongside a small amount of new American oak barrels. My original tasting notes for Butchertown still hold true:

I get strong notes of spicy white wine, burnt caramel, and vanilla. In the background is a bit of oak and a lovely perfume note. Surprisingly there are no expected alcohol vapors. The entry here is softer than expected at first, with the high proof slowly revealing itself, tingling your tongue in the process. I’m smacked with a blast of stewed red fruit and brown sugar. Some old oak dries things up just a little. Small waves of butterscotch and vanilla carry over into the long finish, where a fresh, sweet berry note appears.

The cigar immediately gives off sweet fruits and spice, along with hints of earthiness, dark chocolate and and oakiness.  The sprinkling of Butchertown brandy is evident.  Sips of ice-cooled Butchertown brandy in between puffs really accentuates the fruiter notes.  About a third into the cigar, spicy notes begin to emerge, along with more pronounced wood notes.  Quite a lovely pairing!

Thanks to Copper & Kings for providing the cigar.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.