Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho used to have the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors.
Don Q 2007
Don Q rum is a rum brand from Puerto Rico with a legacy that spans more than 150 years. The rum distillery was an extension of the sugar cane production of the Serralles family and the brand is still family-owned. If you include the sugar cane business, the Serralles family business is more than 200 years old. Each year the family releases a single barrel release, hand selected by the master distiller and bottled after 10 years of aging in oak barrels. I happened to have a bottle from the 2007 release, bottle 13025 if anyone cares the 2007 Single Barrel release has an ABV of 40%. I was saving it for a special reason, but then again, I don’t believe in keeping things for a special reason so I opened it to pair it with a few nice cigars.
The rum is not too dark in colour, it’s beautiful and amber. The aroma is nice too, apricot and vanilla beans with that white American oak from the barrel it has been aging in. The flavour of this rum has it all, from wood to liquorice, nuts and a little caramel sweetness without being overly sweet. There is a bit of spice and a slight hint of salt. This is a very pleasant, non-evasive sipping rum. Not the most complicated but then again, Don Q is a very reasonable priced rum and price-quality wise this is a winner for sure. I paired this with an Inch Nicaragua that Ernesto Perez-Carrillo handed me last time I saw him and that was a perfect pairing. An Oliva V Belicoso would also work well, or a big and fat Cuban cigar. This rum on the rocks fits a fat cigar.
Mai Tai might be the ultimate tiki cocktail, and I have always stayed away from tiki style cocktails. A tiki drink is a category of cocktails that are often made with rum and are usually colourful, fruity, and lavishly garnished. The drinks became very popular and famous in the 1930s and 1940s in California with Dan the Beachcomber and Trader Vic as the most notable players. I stayed away from making tiki cocktails as it involves juicing a lot of fruit, as most store-bought fruit juices are sweetened, or are mixes of different fruits changing the flavour of the cocktail. Plus, they are killers, due to the fruit juice you have no idea that you’re actually consuming alcohol before it’s too late.
The Mai Tai has a strong nose of vanilla bean, fruit and lime. The rum has a little burn. But the tardiness of the lime combined with the almonds from the orgeat is beautiful. There is a slight wooden undertone and sweetness from the Don Q 2007 Single Barrel. This is a well-balanced cocktail that looks good and tastes even better. An earthy and peppery cigar works great with this cocktail. I smoked the Drew Estate Undercrown 10 Tuani and it was bliss. I can imagine that a slightly aged Montecristo #2 will give that same satisfaction, and that goes for both the Cuban version and the non-Cuban Montecristo 1935.
And now for the Mai Tai recipe:
1½ ounce or 45ml of El Rumba white rum
¾ ounce or 22½ml of Orange Curacao (or Triple Sec)
¾ ounce or 22½ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of orgeat (I make homemade orgeat)
½ ounce or 15ml of Don Q 2007 Single Barrel
Garnish: lime wheel and mint sprig.
Add the El Rumba, Curacao, lime juice and orgeat in a shaker with crushed ice and shake lightly for just a few seconds. Pour the drink in a double rocks glass and float the dark rum over the top. Garnish with the lime wheel and the mint sprig.
Another tiki style cocktail, and one that you can make complicated if you want to juice pineapple yourself, or easy if you just get store bought pineapple juice. But be aware, often the store-bought pineapple juice contains a lot of apple juice as well, as well as other juices. After juicing pineapple once I went out for a hunt to a good, 100% pineapple juice as juicing pineapple is a pain in the ass. Luckily, I found some locally. I say luckily as my wife fell in love with the rum punch and I made many for her after the first one, for this article.
On the nose I mainly get orange from the garnish. The cocktail itself is so cold from all the ice that it blocks all aromas. The flavour is very tropical with all the fruit juices. There is a bit of tart from the lime and lots of sweetness from the pineapple. The pineapple juice also makes the drink quite thick. The El Rumba gives that white rum bite, although you really don’t taste that you’re drinking alcohol. Nearer to the bottom of the glass there is a berry sweetness that comes from the grenadine. This is a cocktail that goes well with a full bodied, earthy and peppery cigar, just as the Mai Tai. Maybe something from Padron, A.J. Fernandez, My Father Le Bijou, or if you have the Cohiba Aniversário 55 that would be a good fit too.
And now for the Rum Punch recipe:
1 ounce or 30ml of El Rumba white rum
1 once or 30ml of Don Q 2007 Single Barrel
2 ounces or 60ml of pineapple juice
1 ounce or 30ml of orange juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of lime juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of grenadine
Stir all the ingredients except the grenadine in a mixing glass. Strain it into a hurricane glass with fresh ice. Top with the grenadine. The grenadine will settle to the bottle, creating a gradient effect. Garnish with an orange slice and a cocktail cherry.