The Premier Palace is indeed one of Kyiv’s finest Hotels. Exuding all of the wealth and opulence that is royalty, the hotel was once the home of Prince Dimitri Zhevakhov. In essence and in atmosphere, the Premier Palace is inseparably connected to the history of Kyiv.
Today I am joined by friend and fellow sommelier, Nadiya Moroz. We are also joined by my best friend and Barista, John Sherer. Nadiya is visiting from Moscow and John is visiting from Long Beach, California. We have come together to hold a very special tasting and will be pairing cigars with coffee, wine, and spirits.
Over the years, enjoying a good Cuban cigar after dinner has become all the rage in Kyiv. We have decided to hold our tasting in the Cigar Room of the hotel’s elegant Terracotta Restaurant. The Cigar Room has a serene affluence all its own. It is the perfect setting to enjoy a drink, a smoke, and the company of good friends.
“Gregory, knowing you do not smoke,” Nadiya paused to contain her laughter. “When you first suggested including cigars, I was a bit puzzled.”
“I’ll second that,” John was quick to agree. “Will you be joining us in a Cuban?
“I’ll just breathe the air,” I chuckled softly. Turning to Nadiya I offered to light her cigar.
“I think we should first cover the cutting and lighting of a cigar,” she politely waived me off.
Both Nadiya and John began with:
- The Proper Cut. I learned that a cigar should be cut just above the cap line. The goal is to create an aperture to ensure a smooth stream of smoke. For best results, Nadiya recommended a double-bladed cutter, while John opted for the single blade.
- The Pierce. A small hole is punched in the end of the cigar. The idea is to produce a concentrated stream of smoke that hits the tongue.
- The Guillotine Cut. This is a straight-across slice with a razor-sharp cutter. The result is a clean, open drawing area to avoid bite. John also added that this was the preferred type of cut in the States.
- The “Y” Cut. This allows for ample air circulation and keeps the bitter tars away from the tongue. Nadiya added that this was the preference for most Europeans.
Next I learned the ritual of lighting a cigar. In order to best enjoy a cigar, always use a butane lighter, or a cedar or wood match stick. Take care to light the cigar properly, and with the utmost patience. A badly lit cigar is sure to ruin the experience.
Another important point is warming the cigar. It needs to be held at a 90 degree angle above the flame. Slowly rotate the cigar until all parts have been evenly charred. Next, place the cigar to your lips and puff gently as you continue to rotate the cigar while blowing. This will ensure an even burn.
As for ashing the cigar, John was quick to point out to never tap on the ashtray as with a cigarette. It is preferred to carefully roll the ash off using the edge of the ashtray.
“Shall we begin?” John queried.
Nadiya had selected a small cigar. This type of cigar is ideal for a 20 minute smoke. Montecristo was her cigar of choice. The famous Cuban family is renown worldwide for their excellence in cigar making. The Mini is a luscious cigar that has all the spiciness one expects from a Montecristo. A box of 50 cigars is reasonably priced at $55.
“I often enjoy a good Malbec from Argentina with a Montecristo,” Nadiya swirled her wine as she spoke.
“Mendoza Valley?” I queried.
“But of course,” she said with an alluring smile. A nicely balanced Malbec, with just enough spiciness, works together with an earthy cigar.”
“As for coffee, John began. “I’d go with a Guatemalan. This style of coffee has smooth acidity and a smoky tobacco aroma. Coffee from Guatemala works nicely to bring out the cigar’s spicy aromas.”
“I would go with dark rum to pair with the Montecristo. Dark rums are meant to be enjoyed neat. Since the cigar has some sweetness to it, the molasses from the rum will not over power, and will serve as a compliment.”
“Anyone who is new to cigar smoking might also want to try a Cohiba,” Nadiya was quick to add. “It has an intoxicating allure that is sure to entice you to hours of smoking pleasure. A box of 100 sells for $150.”
“A Cohiba calls for what type of wine?” I queried.
“As for coffee,” John paused to collect his thoughts. “I’d select an organic Colombian. I prefer the organic because it is mildly acidic. The body is creamy with hints of plum, yet a slight pepperiness for zest.”
“With that in mind,” I paused lightly. A good Brandy with hints of dry fruit flavors of dates, figs, and prunes would be the perfect match,” I concluded.
“If we are talking smalls,” John broke in. “I would recommend a Patargas. Not only does it have character, it is very satisfying and reasonably priced. A box of 100 is priced at $100.”
“Nice selection,” Nadiya smiled softly. “I would pair a Patargas with a good vintage port. A mature port is ideal in that it smooths out and balances the cigar’s tobacco blend.”
“A Nicaraguan coffee would pair nicely. Coffees from this area have gentle cacao hints with fruit nuances,” John clearly showed his excitement. “I especially like the powerful finish which will also enhance the character of a Patargas.”
“A small batch Bourbon immediately comes to mind. The whiskey’s complexities, along with its subtle wood hints, will add to the character and slight spiciness of the tobacco.”
As for John’s personal selection, he decided on a Cuban legend. Saint Luis Rey Lonsdale. The production year of his cigar was 2002. This is a vintage cigar that is filled with all the subtleties and nuances preferred by the experienced palate. The Saint Luis Rey is the essence of what makes Cuban cigars so special. It is a rich blend of fine tobacco that has a strong body, with hints of honey, and floral sweetness. The Saint Luis Rey is most definitely the Cuban cigar for the true aficiondo. A box of 50 cigars is priced at $675.
“For such a cigar I would recommend a classic Bordeaux. A wine that is filled with a complex array of aromas will adeptly enhance the cigar’s rich blend of tobacco,” Nadiya moistened her lips with anticipation.
“When I enjoy a vintage cigar,” John smiled in fond reflection.” I always select a Cuban coffee. With a Saint Luis Rey Lonsdale, my choice would be a Santiago. This is an exotic style of Cuban coffee. It is smooth, buttery, pleasantly sweet, and the perfect companion for this type of cigar.”
“Such a vintage cigar calls for an equally distinct Single Malt Scotch,” I said flatly. “A peaty whiskey that is complex, and with a plethora of nuances, would serve well to round out the entire experience.”
If you are not willing to take on the extravagance and expense of a vintage cigar, John was quick to recommend a Montecristo No.5 It is filled with cedary and oaky flavors with notes of dark espresso, and just a touch of sweetness. A box of 25 cigars retails for $150.
“I would pair with an elegant Tempranillo,” Nadiya paused to collect her thoughts. “The wine’s red fruits interact perfectly with cigars.
“My choice for coffee would be from Kenya. The coffee is filled with herbal juiciness that brings out the cigars woody and nutty qualities.
“John” Nadiya called for his attention. “I am just curious, you are primarily a Costa Rican coffee buyer, yet you did not recommend this type of coffee with any of the cigars.”
“Costa Rican coffees are perfectly suited for cakes and pastries. The coffees are big-bodied and grandly acidic. Such a sophisticated coffee would clash with cigars as opposed to enhancing the smoking experience.”
“Greg,” John called for my attention. “Keeping in mind your penchant for Indonesian coffee, I recommend you try a Bolivar Royal. It is a Robusto cigar with floral aromas of Asian spices that will satisfy the most exotic of palates.”
“But that my friends …. Is another story.”