Whether in the morning, at noon, or at night, the time spent enjoying a Habano is an important moment for each individual.At times you may prefer to concentrate on the essential flavours and aromas of the cigar alone. At other times you may choose to match its fragrance with something else that will enhance the flavour in your mouth.
Liquors or spirits like Malt Whiskies, fine Cognacs or Vintage Ports are perhaps the traditional partners for cigars. In recent years, however, there has been a surge of interest in extending the range of possibilities to tempt the Habanos smoker’s palate. The finest food, drinks with tastes as diverse as wines and Champagnes have entered the stage along with cocktails, the finest grades of coffee and tea, and even tasty morsels such as chocolates and certain types of canapés.
At the forefront of this movement have been the Habanosommeliers. Almost unheard of in the last century, today most of the finest restaurants in the world where smokers are accommodated include a thorough knowledge of Habanos within the skills demanded of their sommeliers, or wine waiters.
Every year since 2002, Habanos s.a. has staged a global contest for [tippy title="Habanosommelier"]The waiter in a bar or restaurant skilled in the art of selecting and serving Habanos as well as recommending matches with drinks or other products like coffee, tea or even chocolate. A contest to find the world's best Habanosommelier is staged as part of the Festival del Habano each year.[/tippy] at which the winners of countless regional contests all over the world meet in Havana during the Festival del Habano to decide who will be the world champion for the year. Contestants must study the way in which tobacco is grown and cigars are made in Cuba. They must be familiar with every size in the leading Habanos brands and be aware of all their different flavours. Each is required to present a personal recommendation for an ideal combination of a particular Habanos with a specific drink and is assessed on the preparation and service of both products.
Armed with a storehouse of knowledge, Habanosommeliers are broadening the horizons of ways in which to enhance the enjoyment of Habanos in conjunction with other products of similar quality, heritage and tradition.
How to match tastes
The list of drinks with which Habanos have been associated since 2000 is bewildering. To spirits like cognac can be added, Armagnac, Jerez brandy, both single Malt and blended Whiskies, Tequila and, of course, Rum from Cuba. And the wine category now embraces Ports, Champagnes, Sherries, as well as red and white wines from many prestigious denominations of origin of the world. The delicate, taste of Iberico ham in a canapé has been identified as a suitable cigar partner as has high grade chocolate sometimes with tobacco leaf included in its recipe.
When you consider that there are over 250 different standard Habanos in 27 different brands to choose from, not to mention the specialities that are produced each year and aged Habanos bought many years ago and kept at home by Habanos enthusiasts, the number of possible combinations is enormous.
Perhaps the most traditional approach to selecting a match is to pick examples of both products with similar strengths to ensure that in the combination one does not overcome the other. Consequently it would be appropriate to try one of the full flavoured Habano brands with a powerful rum aged for many years in oak barrels. However opposites can attract too, so you should not avoid putting a full flavoured cigar up against, for example, a lighter tasting Armagnac.
In any case the object is to find combinations of great products that please your palate. Take your favourite Habanos, seek the advice of an expert like a Habanosommelier and start to explore.