Tuesday last week was a long overdue cigar evening, co-ordinated by Eric. We were four in total and arranged to meet at 10 Manchester street for a pre-dinner smoke. Eric had organised to provide this stick so we could all smoke the same thing and discuss. The selection was a Ramon Allones Superiores which is not a standard release and was brought out as a Casa del Habanos release in 2010 and is made from time to time. I do not have the exact box code for these but this was from 2012 and a good looking stick. The size is a Corona Gorda (46 by 5.6″) to my mind not far from the perfect size, wide enough to smoke cool but not too wide and long enough to allow evolution through the cigar. I had never had this before but love Ramon Allones so was excited. It was a young and punchy smoke with some spice and a definite element of stewed fruit (an RA signature), it never got too much but also due to age it did not change to much, in 2-3 years I would say this will be in its stride. Very good 16.5 out of 20 right now with potential to go to 17 or 18?
Having had a couple of drinks – Ardbeg 10yr old followed by Talisker in my case – it was time for food on route to our final destination. The food was to be Lebanese at Fairuz which I would recommend…really good starters followed by some lovely meats…I could have eaten more but then I am greedy. A couple of bottles of decent but weirdly conventional grape variety Lebanese wines had been good too.
In a cab and off to Knightsbridge, I’d love to give the full location but fear I would be lynched for giving it away (email me). It is the only place I know where you can take wine and drink it indoors in lovely surroundings with no corkage charge. All you have do is buy the cigars there, retail prices and a great range, and away you go. They even have a backgammon board, I love backgammon. Two of our number – Eric and Egon – went for Montecristo Sublimes, an LE from 2008 that is a double robusto (54 by 6.5″), Tino for a Partagas Lusitanias a promientes (49 by 7.6″) and my choice was to continue with Ramon Allones and have a Gigantes, also a promientes.
The successes seemed to come from the longer smokes. My Gigantes was surprisingly mellow, a good smoke throughout, never too bold but not dull (16.5-17 out of 20). Tino’s Partagas seemed to have more weight and more spice with a really bold and rich pepper-laden finish. The two Sublimes seemed from reports to be a little underwelhming, not bad but not much better than ok. This makes me feel that, as with wine, expectation appears to be the mother of disppointment. I will be trying very hard not to expect the earth to move from any smokes and therefore the good ones are a joy…easier said than done mind you. I must not forget to mention what we took to drink as all three bottles were enjoyable – Tattinger Comtes de Champagne 1998 was a very generous bottle from Tino and a fascinating wine, still youthful but not too much so, it was balanced and the end of the last glass was classy in the extreme, very good. The white Egon brought was Nuits-Saint-Georges Blanc La Gerbotte 2009 from d’Arlot and very nice too, rich but not flabby with good white fruit, not serious but great now. My bottle was, here’s a shock (not!), Cascina Francia Barbera 2009 from Giacomo Conterno. Red wines and cigars is not as easy as you might think but this worked, you needs wines with a lushness of texture and a sweetness of fruit and this was just that, 2009 being very good and ripe for Barbera. All three worked well with the smokes, Champagne and whites are safer but reds like Barbera, Malbec, Tempranillo etc can be great but certainly don’t “waste” good Pinot Noir of Nebbiolo on cigars!! We had a cracking evening and will be back (in fact Eric and Egon already have!)
To end the week I thought I would have one more Ramon Allones last evening and that had to be the Allones Extra (LE from 2011) a dash thinner than the Superiores at 44 by 5.6″, technically making it a Franciscos. I have had a couple of these before, near the release, and was very impressed, enough to buy a box that I have resting, this was to see how they were going. I love the smoke, it is rich without being heavy or spicey it is more a density of great dark fruit than anything. I don’t think I will keep the box tucked away for too much longer as some of the joy here is in the dense vitality of them…oh well what brand next? Ramon Allones remains a firm favourite.

I’ll be back to play on this beauty