Whisky and Cigars...
Whisky and cigars are a classic combination, combining to heighten the taste of each, but which cigars are best and how do you choose your whisky match? Simply Whisky's Man In Havana is here to help with his 'A Dram Good Smoke' series of articles in which he adventures around the World discovering and matching the best cigars with the best whiskies.
A Dram Good Smoke No.2 - Our Man In Havana visits Rome in Italy
Salve! Lord Byron called Rome the city of the soul and indeed it is! I was there the week before Easter before the hordes of pilgrims arrived.
Location and environment play an important role in appreciating a cigar or whisky and Rome formed the perfect backdrop for both!
I discovered two amazing places where you can happily spend an hour or two enjoying a cigar and making the most of just being in Rome. For Rome, like Italy, is best enjoyed slowly – if you try and tick off all the sights you just won’t enjoy it. The Italians have a great saying: la dolce di far niente, “the joy of doing nothing”, which I can recommend adopting as your personal motto whenever you are in Italy.
The first port of call was the terrace of the Caffè Capitolino on the Capitoline hill (Caffè Capitolino, Capitoline Museums, Piazza del Campidoglio 19, Rome), the most important of the seven hills and what was the spiritual heart of the mightly Roman Empire. It’s where, incidentally, both our words ‘capitol’ and ‘money’ come from. The terrace of the café has great views over Rome looking towards the Janiculum hill and the dome of St Peter’s in the distance. It’s a perfect setting to watch the sunset.
The Cigar - El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme
I chose what is arguably the coolest and most pretentious Cuban brand name, El Rey del Mundo, “King of the World”! It was a fitting choice as this was literally the centre of the ancient Roman world and next door to where the Emperors lived on the Palatine hill. The El Mundo Choix Supreme is a very dry, mild smoke with notes of truffles, pine resin, cedar, and earth. It’s a well balanced, subtle cigar and perfect for beginners.
A well balanced, subtle cigar and perfect for beginners
Dae ye ken?
Very good for daytime smoking – not recommended for after an evening meal as this particular cigar is too light
Cuba - All sizes are made with tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo region using the "totalmente a mano, tripa larga" - totally hand made, long filler method
Light to medium
A very dry, mild smoke with subtle notes of truffles, pine resin, cedar, and earth
Originally founded in 1882 by the Antonio Allones compnay the name means “King of the World”. They are made in the Romeo Y Julieta factory with other medium-flavoured brands.
To accompany it I chose a classic Italian aperitif, the Aperol Spritz, which consists of aperol, prosecco, a dash of tonic, and a slice of lemon. It’s not what I would usually drink with a cigar but it surprisingly went quite well, the dryness of the cigar accentuating the bitter orange of the drink.
The Whisky Match - Ardbeg Corryvreckan
I then brought in the big boys – the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, an iconic Islay malt, which I knew by experience would be a great match as the powerful Islay malts go very well with mild and aromatic cigars. Always useful to have a hipflask to hand as any gentleman will tell you! It definitely won out over the Aperol Spritz and made for a much more interesting combination – it brought out a sherbet sweetness from the whisky while the whisky accentuated the herbaceous aspect of the cigar and brought to the fore a spicy creaminess!
A cracking Ardbeg, one of the best!
Dae ye ken?
The Corryvreckan is a huge whirlpool that you can sometimes hear when on the island of Islay
Combination of French oak and American oak ex-bourbon
Tarry ropes, creosote and linseed oil, waxy dark chocolate, warm blackcurrants and muscovado sugar, then a burst of plump cherries and earthy pine needles
Chewy peppered steak spicy honey soaked in pepper sauce with the tang of crispy seaweed. Black tarry espresso coffee with rich melted dark fruits and bitter almonds
Long, deep and powerful
Founded by the MacDougall family in 1815 making it the 2nd oldest distillery on Islay after Bowmore. Seizure of a large quantity of illicit whisky by Excise watchmen led to the start of a legitimate operation
The next day I smoked the second half of the cigar at one of the best café's in Rome, the Caffè Sant’Eustachio. It’s an unassuming café that is widely regarded as serving the best coffee in town. If you are an espresso fanatic, it’s worth the trip to Rome alone. It is located in the small piazza of Sant’Eustachio near the Piazza Navona.
Grab one of the outside tables, order a doppio, a double espresso with a thick, rich crema, light up, and people watch – a great place for an afternoon, post-prandial cigar! It was so good that I ordered two double espressos which gave me the buzz I needed for an evening stroll around Rome – not unlike Kramer after one too many! Check out the video!
These are moments you ultimately remember where the place and the whisky and cigar combine to make for a memorable experience. Capisce?
I can recommend smoking the El Rey del Mundo and tasting the Ardbeg Corryvreckan whilst grinning and mandolining to On An Evening In Roma (Sotter Cela De Roma) by Dean Martin.
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