Smoking with a Century-Old Tawny
Posted: June 14, 2013
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Seppeltsfield 1913 Para Vintage Tawny (42.4 proof, or 21.2 alcohol by volume; 100 years old; tasted from bottle number 109; $330 a 100-milliliter bottle, $990 for 375 milliliters)
APPEARANCE: It seems to be the color of very dark chocolate at first glance, but a closer inspection shows hues of red, yellow and amber, almost like iodine, if iodine tasted really, really good. The liquid is hugely viscous and syrupy, and we hesitate to talk about it in terms of legs as it more or less coats the glass.
NOSE: This old lady is still a bit kittenish as she feeds aroma in dribs and drabs. First comes a floral note, distinctively rose attar, and then bits of orange peel before the heady red-wine bouquet—a fine Claret or Cabernet Sauvignon—that one expects from a Port. Suddenly, it deepens with rich wood aromas with leather and a pleasant lacquer smell that we associate with the antiques stored in grandma's attic.
PALATE: Mouth feel is the overwhelming first impression. This wine is so viscous you're tempted to spoon it onto your tongue. Once you get used to the syrup sensation, the taste of a full-bodied Claret takes over with hints of licorice and hard candy. After a flash of deep dark cherry, the wine's acidity breaks up to be followed by a parade of mellower, more savory flavors, including caramel, molasses, pecans and almonds.
FINISH: The ending is almost a dessert, flirting with chocolate and presenting the distinct sensation of coffee ice cream. Almost as if it's trying to show off the years that went into its making, you'll be reminded of this wine's flavors for hours after it's finished.
CIGAR PAIRING: Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto (4 inches by 50 ring gauge, £10.82, 91 points, Cigar Aficionado, August 2013). Medium to full in body, this sawed-off robusto starts out leathery and brawny with black pepper notes as well, though the smoke has a creamy texture. With the Tawny the cigar gets a marked increase in body as the leather transforms into a very chocolaty taste. In fact, the whole pairing is suffused with chocolate as that flavor is teased out in greater abundance from the Seppeltsfield as well. A successful pairing, if slightly one-dimensional.
Padron Family Reserve 85 Natural (5 1/4 inches by 50 ring gauge, $20, 94 points, Cigar Aficionado No. 4 Cigar of the Year 2012). A neatly box-pressed cigar whose complex smoke starts with an earthy, herbal character. Flavors become both sweet and savory with black cherry and black truffle. The cigar becomes quite nutty with a sweet praline character. In turn, the Padron coaxes out more chocolate and elicits huge nuttiness from the cigar with an increase of the truffle notes as well. While it becomes hard to distinguish which component is contributing more, a synergy of flavors occurs, which widens the parameters of sweet berry and savory notes. This one is the bang up pairing you're hoping for with a spirit of this age—a gigantic, complex marriage of smoke and spirit.
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