Cigars & Whisky

Cigars & Whisky

Two minutes with Kyle Gellis, founder of Warped Cigars

Cigars & Whisky | 02 Jun 2017 | Issue 144 | By Christopher Coates

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How do you feel about the Cuban/Non Cuban distinction?

I believe the iconic status of Cuban cigars is partly a result of how they blend their tobacco: medium body, almost no ligero, and enjoyable by anyone. It's easy to see why the world has separated cigars into two divisions - Cuban and Non Cuban. I love the tradition and the uniqueness Cubans offer, but I do also smoke cigars from all over the world. On account of local climate and soil, each country has its own flavour profile.

What do you think of the term 'New World' for Non Cuban cigars?

This is a term used in countries like the UK, France and Germany to refer to US-based cigar companies because those markets are used to smoking Cuban cigars. New World cigars (ie. popular US brands) most of the time offer very different strengths, flavour profiles, and sizes compared to Cubans. So it is a useful distinction. Historically, the preference in the US has been for a full-bodied smoke, larger sizes, and heavy spice. But thankfully we have started seeing a shift in the trend and it's coming full circle back into traditional ring gauges such as 42, 46, and 50, while the body is coming back down towards medium.

How does Warped fit into all this?

Warped Cigars would be considered a New World brand by the 'across the pond' standard, but in truth we draw our inspiration directly from Cuban cigars. My preference is classic sizes, medium body, and very little or no ligero present in the blend. I blend for flavours of fruit, wood, and minimal spice. I also have a deep obsession with blend consistency and construction of the highest calibre.

Are there any current trends that you're keeping your eye on?

I regularly visit Havana, as I like to make sure I stay in line with the roots of my inspiration. Although traditional Cuban ring gauges have been smaller, I notice that a shift is being made in the Habanos Regional Editions programme to larger sizes. So it seems that a little bit of the New World style is blending into Habanos SA's portfolio!

The Experts

Kyle Gellis

Entrepreneur Kyle Gellis founded Warped Cigars back in 2009 at the age of 19, and his company is making waves in the world of cigars. All of Warped's vitolas are hand rolled 'the Cuban way' and only true Category 9 rollers work on the products - so authenticity is a core trait of the range. As a result, Warped's marques are already rubbing shoulders with the long-established greats of the cigar world.

Tom Thomson

Brought up in a house where whisky was a key component of any celebration, Tom has never looked back and now has more than 20 years of accumulated whisky knowledge. Well known for his arm full of tattoos dedicated to whisky, he loves to talk passionately about his favourite drink. Tom enjoys a cigar on a regular basis, preferring lighter bodied smokes that allow the whisky to shine through.

Christopher recommends

The 'Masters Of Time' Pairing

Warped Cigars El Maestro del Tiempo 6102R and The Macallan 18 Years Old

The result of years of research and blend tweaking, Kyle says the lengthy development process for the Maestro del Tiempo range taught him patience and to embrace the passage of time. Thankfully, he persevered and the result is a marque that has become much sought after. The 6102R in particular is limited to just 150 cabinets of 100 cigars and features Nicaraguan Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 filler, Nicaraguan binder, and a Nicaraguan Jalapa Corojo 99 wrapper. Nuttiness, custard creams, and caramel come to the fore upon lighting, with a savoury note developing into the second third. The nuttiness - think salted cashew - continues to develop, with occasional flashes of Camp Coffee. This sophisticated blend doesn't try to overwhelm the palate and pairs wonderfully with the rich sherry notes of the single malt whisky, think blackberry pie! Part of the sherry oak series, The Macallan 18 Years Old delivers a sumptuous yet refined palate of raisin, candied orange and clove. Neither are heavy hitters, instead both dram and smoke exude the quiet confidence of two masters who needn't shout to catch your attention.

Tom recommends

The 'Netflix & Chill' Pairing

The Drew Estate Undercrown Shade Corona and Deanston 12 Years Old

Founded in New York City in 1996 by Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel, Drew Estate started out as a small kiosk in the World Trade Centre. In '98, Drew (who spoke barely a word of Spanish) moved to Nicaragua and lived above their ramshackle factory. Today, it is one of the leading New World Cigar producers. Their Undercrown Shade range features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Sumatran binder, as well as Dominican Criollo 98 and Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo fillers. This beautifully rolled cigar produces a creamy, sweet smoke. There's robustness there, with gentle spices and balsa elements, but it doesn't pass a medium body throughout. The Deanston 12 Years Old works incredibly well with this cigar as it delivers light satsuma orange notes and a zesty citrus streak that compliments the creaminess of the smoke. Some mixed nut notes and caramel come through on the palate of the whisky, which pairs wonderfully with the light spice of the cigar's second and final thirds. This is the ideal 'brunch time' or lazy afternoon pairing for when you want a light smoke and a gentle dram that are sure to get along rather well indeed.
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