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Part Three: Las Vegas Big Smoke Sunday Seminars

Rum and Cigars
Nov 10, 2005 | By
Part Three: Las Vegas Big Smoke Sunday Seminars
The final seminar of the Las Vegas Big Smoke weekend is always a saucy affair and this year was no different as hundreds of thirsty cigar lovers sat down for a pairing of rum and cigars hosted by Jack Bettridge, Cigar Aficionado's senior features editor and resident spirits guru. The quartet of rums consisted of 10 Cane, Appleton Estate VX, Bacardi 8 and Ron Zacapa, and the cigars were from La Flor Dominicana and La Aurora.

The seminar began with a palate cleanser -- a Daiquiri featuring 10 Cane, a new brand from Moet Hennessy that is marketed as "rum's redemption." The cocktail served was a traditional lime Daiquiri, not the banana or strawberry frozen concoctions that many people may be used to, because after all, reminded Bettridge, "we're not Philistines here."

Jose Blanco of La Aurora introduces the La Aurora Preferidos Robusto.
The recipe was provided by 10 Cane, and unlike many Daiquiris served today, which disguise the rum with artificial flavoring, the recipe highlighted the rum's excellence. Being a light rum with a scant six months age, the 10 Cane, which is made with the first pressing of Trinidadian sugarcane and no molasses, was an excellent choice for the sweet and refreshing cocktail.

The two cigars were also introduced. The first was the La Aurora Preferidos Robusto. La Aurora is the oldest cigar company in the Dominican Republic and the Preferidos line is typically perfecto-shaped, but "we've had lots of suggestions for a straight cigar using the same blend, so we developed the robusto," said Jose Blanco, La Aurora's sales director. "You are the first people in the world to smoke it." There won't be too many others, as La Aurora is releasing only 1,200 boxes for the holiday season and haven't said if it will release more.

Attendee gladly matches cigars and rum.
The second cigar was the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero 600, a powerful parejo, or straight-sided, cigar measuring 5 1/4 inches by 52 ring gauge and featuring a dark, sun-grown Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper and Dominican filler and binder grown by Litto Gomez on his farm in La Canela. In 2003, the cigar rated 90 points in Cigar Insider.

The first in the flight of straight rums was Appleton Estate VX. Made in Jamaica, the VX is a blend of pot- and column-stilled rums with an emphasis on the former spirit aged in small barrels. The rums are aged in barrels for up to 10 years, Bettridge explained, then blended for consistency and to make the rum exquisite. The rum is medium bodied with notes of apples, pears and ginger.

Senior editor David Savona speaks about the two featured cigars.
Second was Bacardi's superpremium rum, Bacardi 8. The rum is from Puerto Rico and is exclusively column-stilled, a production method the company introduced in 1860, and aged for eight years. To make the rum, Bacardi cherry-picks from the best barrels for blending and the result is a dark, full-bodied rum with caramel and butterscotch notes, and traces of Bourbon and licorice.

Rounding out the trio was Ron Zacapa Centenario, a Guatamalan rum aged 23 years using the solera method of aging. The process not only involves gradually moving the new rum from the hotter, higher levels to cooler, lower levels. It also involves draining a certain amount from each barrel and adding older rums to the barrel, so the blending is actually occurring during the aging. The age designation on the bottle, Bettridge told his audience, is the average age of the rums used in the blending. The result for Ron Zacapa is a dark, full-bodied rum with gripping, lip-smacking flavors of caramel, vanilla, fruit and citrus. It has a sweet note without being cloying.

Bettridge finishes up with audience questions and a poll for next year's featured spirit.
As for pairing the rums with the cigars, Bettridge discussed how it is a subjective and individual thing. "The one rule to consider is trying to pair full-bodied cigars with full-bodied spirits," Bettridge said. "Also pairing opposite flavors like sweetness and saltiness." He said that this rule doesn't always apply and that, in the end, it was all about experimenting with which cigars and spirits you like to find combinations that complement one another.

With the Appleton, both the La Aurora and the La Flor Dominicana had more body than the rum, but produced a nice balance. Both the Bacardi 8 and the Ron Zacapa, two full-bodied rums, held up to the stronger La Flor. The La Aurora paired well, too, though audience members agreed that the rums came through more than the cigar.

In the end, however, each of the rum and cigar pairings had their moments and created unique flavors that were not apparent on their own. While many people in the audience suggested they prefer pairing Bourbon, single-malt Scotch and Port with cigars, there is no doubt the pairings worked and many participants left with a better appreciation for rum and its ability to pair with premium cigars.

Photos by Camilla Sjodin Hadowanetz