Whisky Magazine Issue 24
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Whisky and cigars can be a perfect combination. And the best way to taste them is in their country of origin-Cuba- as Damian Riley Smith finds out.
The Mexican Embassy has just been stormed, a stolen bus colliding with the front gates. Many of the key roads are closed, but not enough to prevent us from reaching the Palacio de Convenciones, the focal point of the Habano Festival 2002.
The Habano Festival is the ultimate gathering of the greatest cigars in the world. Whether you're a retailer, wholesaler or enthusiastic customer (as we are) this is the time and the place to enjoy the finest in cigars and associated products. Which is precisely why Whisky Magazine is here; to explore the combination of whisky and cigars, the flavours and the potential marriage of the two. Before we could get to the heart of the whisky and cigar marriage we became immersed in some of the pleasures of cigar tasting and education.
The Sommelier Competition acts as a catalyst of discussion about what is the best way to serve a cigar. The finals are split in two, chaired by Simon Chase, a director of Havana Cigar importers Hunters & Frankau. Thankfully the translation earpieces are working well as Spanish and English speakers interchange.
Each of the three finalists first review a cigar list and identify which cigars have the incorrect size listed. Rolando Blanco of El Floridita in Havana starts the ball rolling, confident and quick, followed by Emilio Blanes of La Boheme in Zaragoza, Spain and finally Denis Bucant of Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, England. They all fare well, but the real crux comes when they return to select and present two ci...