Words by Richard, Rathfinny Brand Ambassador

Last month I had the privilege of hosting a wine pairing evening with a difference. My co-host for the evening was the acclaimed cigar aficionado Eddie Sahakian the co-owner of Davidoff of London (with his father).

Davidoff have their delightful shop situated in St James’s in London and this event was held within the Edward Sahakian Cigar Lounge which is ensconced in the exquisite surroundings of the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. So I needed to bring my sartorial A-game!

Rathfinny Wine Served at a Bar

Cigar appreciation is often associated with spirits such as brandy, whisky and rum but the attributes of fine Sussex Sparkling should not be overlooked. Lockdown was my personal catalyst for further exploration into cigars with all the online training courses available and when contact was made with the cigar sommelier at the Bulgari – a plan was formed fairly swiftly.

Cigar pairing is just the same as food and wine pairing.  Cigars come in a myriad of flavours, lengths, sizes (ring gauges) and of course from different producers and countries of origin.

The individual cigar itself has varying elements within it just like a fine plate of food. The overall flavour and aroma of a cigar is brought together from the filler, binder and wrapper. ‘Inside’ the cigar we have the filler which is held within the binder. These parts will give the cigar its draw/burn, size and contribute to the flavour. Typical fillers will be made of 2-5 different tobacco plants and will in turn be made from different parts of the plant e.g. the Seco, Ligero and Volado. The binder usually has a smaller part to play in the cigars flavour as its main role is to hold the filler. The wrapper is vital for appearance (no imperfections), texture and to a lesser degree flavour. So you could argue that the wrapper is the star of the show and requires the other elements of the cigar to produce the overall performance for us to enjoy.

Wrappers can be anywhere on the spectrum from Candela (Double Claro) which is a greener hue to Oscuro (Double Maduro) which is dark brown to black.  Candela being a milder smoke and Maduro being more flavourful and sometimes sweeter due to its ageing and fermentation.

So all these elements had to be assessed, just like tasting through the main part of a dish with its jus and accompanying sides when pairing food. Thankfully I had the talented Lounge Manager, Nico Folini to assist me. I’ll say some tasting and smoking was undertaken and the world was put to rights! We decided on a unique experience for our guests. The evening was based around the Anniversaro No.1 from Davidoff. A mammoth smoke measuring approximately 9 inches in length and made from Dominican Republic filler, Ecuadorian binder and the wrapper is made from Connecticut seed grown in Ecuador.

The key for me from a taste profile point of view was the wonderful change in flavour and mouthfeel as you progress through the smoke. When I say “progress” it will take around 1.5hrs to smoke this cigar. However, on the night, with all the chat and discussions these cigars were still going well after 2-2.5hrs.

The initial part of the cigar greets the smoker with some herbal notes, a cedar edge and a delightful creamy palate which was paired with our elegant Blanc de Blancs 2019.  The citrus creamy Sussex Sparkling was an amazing start to the evening. The freshness of the wine also providing a clean palate after sip to return to the cigar.

The mid section of the Anniversaro introduced a savoury nut edge to the cigar and we decided the wine therefore required a little bit more ‘crunch’ and complexity to the palate – Rathfinny Classic Cuvée 2017 served from magnum was a crowd pleaser. It was a pairing that lifted both the cigar and the wine. The Classic Cuvée’s red fruit jumped out of the glass and it was wonderful to see our guests going back to the glass to explore more and more fruit after each draw on the cigar.

As we progressed further along this cigar we were introduced to a walnut spice richness which was a partner for our Blanc de Noirs 2019. The huge mouthfeel from this pinot dominated sparkling matched beautifully with the powerful poise of the Davidoff cigar. Yum.

All in all it was an incredible evening for us all to explore the exceptional cigars of Davidoff with our unique Sussex Sparkling wines – new tastes were found and new friends were made.

Already looking forward to the next one…