Davidoff and Dalmore are two nobles from different worlds. Dominican cigar maker Henke Kelner and Scotch master blender Richard Paterson have the same vision of the perfect, balanced, moderate. Henrik Aflodal brings together The Dalmore Cigar Malt and Davidoff Nicaragua. And the two fall in love.
Davidoff makes light-hearted mild cigars. They are recognized by their white or golden belts. The black band signals something different. Instead of gentle Dominican tobacco the black girdle encircles more hard-core leaves of Nicaragua. But how full of character is the dark Davidoff stick? Nicaragua comes in four sizes. Master Blender Henke Kelner hasn’t repeated the same recipe, each model gets a tailored blend. For me, the shorty Short Corona is a bit tame, it doesn’t meet the expectations of power and wit. But it gets better, Kelner promises, strength will increase with size, so the toro should be crueler. Let us see.
The bronze-colored band next to the black girdle says NICARAGUA joined by three triangles symbolizing the country’s volcanoes which contribute to Nicaragua’s rich soil from which the powerful tobacco sprouts. The cigar is medium dark with splashes of gold and a reddish blush. The 10-year wrapper is a Habano-seed Rosado with superficial bulging veins and moderately oily skin. The binder beneath is from Jalapa, also Habano-seed. The filler mixes ligero and viso tobacco from Esteli with Contega-ligero and Ometepe-viso. Ligero leaves grows near the top of the tobacco plant, and are spicy and more powerful in character. They get the most sun and becomes thicker and requires more nutrients than the underlying layers. Viso is just below and has slightly more power than the more common seco leaves further down the stalk. The strength of Nicaragua tobacco is created by the fertile volcanic soil. But the concept of a more powerful Davidoff is not about maximizing spice clarifies Henke Kelner:
– Davidoff is known for its creamy, balanced style. The goal is not to emphasize the spicy Nicaragua character, but instead work with mellow sweetness and pronounced bitterness.
Sniffing the wrapper I get a sweet earthy aroma with some exciting brittle candy. The foot has the same sweet-syrupy aroma with hints of hay loft. The draw unlit gives gentle dried fruit and rather neutral earthy/hay-like tones, though afterwards a pepper mist arrives. The actual draw is pleasant and freely, it’s not a hard-rolled cigar but still firm in shape, skilled craftsmanship. Newly lit the cigar has an earthy foundation with coffee and sweet walnut in the front and a lovely taste of dried cranberries, then a touch of cedar landing in aromatic sweet ancho pepper. Irritable black peppers cling onto the palate, a rather aggressive afterplay. After a while the pepperiness lessens. After a third earthiness become more prominent. The aromatic dimension increases with cedar and the cranberry tone emerges clearly. A refined touch of saltiness create a more mature elegant smoke, typical of Davidoff. The aftermath is clean and smooth/creamy with mild espresso notes and grassy sweetness. Anyone looking for epic brutality should stop reading now. Henke Kelner celebrates balance and finesse, he’s a true connoisseur and shuns boastfulness. The final third concentrates the earthy tones, the stick gets fuller. Pre-taste of stable and earthen floors before grass/hay announces some perfume. Nutty sweetness stabilizes and saltiness adds weight. Pleasing peppery finish, yet lightweight with a hint of red fruit in the back. Still overall mild but sophisticated.
What better companion than a Dalmore? Richard Paterson is the whisky industry’s elegant, a gentleman who always strives for exquisite balance in his whisky creations. Like Kelner he shuns broad coarse brushstrokes, a Dalmore is always thorough and detailed, if you take the time to look in all the nooks. Richard is a cigar lover and in the late 1990s he developed the Cigar Malt. He simply needed a perfect whisky to sip whenever a cigar presented itself. Naturally, I asked Richard to share my experience, though in his home in Glasgow. When we afterwards exchanged experiences over phone it turned out that we both share the same pleasure code:
– When I get midway toward the second third and the flavours become heavier I bring out older whisky like the 25- or 30-year-old. I also usually end with some strong coffee. That’s pure pleasure.
I agree, when the weight of the cigar increases, you want an older whisky that can absorb the darker tones. But were not there yet. Today’s edition of Cigar Malt matures initially in bourbon barrels, then it’s moved to sherry butts, finally it spends 18 months in cabernet sauvignon red wine barriques. The point of a cigar whisky is that it must have a cautious approach, not smashing the delicate cigar smoke. Initially the cigar is diminshed. Davidoff gets milder and cleaner, still earthy but lacking fruit with a strong pepper push in the closing, though softened by fatter coconut. Progressing one third, the match clicks perfect, the whisky acting catalyst for accented cigar aromas. Fresh tobacco and cedar with a salty touch and drier aftertaste, a grassy/baked smoke feeling. Next to today’s Cigar Malt is a bottle of 1998, Richard’s original formula with a combination of bourbon barrelled whisky (60%) and sherry ditto (40%). This version is sweeter and more sherry dominant, yet elusive in the finish. The effect on the cigar is bigger: Sweet rich cigar aromas with cherry undertones, late dried cranberries and a light clean taste of dried tobacco leaves with some whisky fumes. Davidoff affects whisky flavour even more. First yummy olde esters and sherry but towards the end some smoke from the cigar that lays out a long ethereal cedar finish with easy-going airy smoke on top of a semi-dry oloroso foundation. I switch back and find that the 2016 Cigar Malt bloom. Gently apple fruity entrance followed by Stimorol-gum and a long cedar dominant epilogue where cigar-pepper sparkles. The last third, I return to the predecessor from 1998. The whisky is as wonderfully dominant as before with olde esters and rich fruit, late the cigar takes over and adds oily sweetness and bold smoky coconut. Magnificent directions where Davidoff adds weight to the aftertaste without interfering with the great sherry flavour initially. Happy I take a sip of this year’s Cigar Malt plus a puff. Oh dear what effect. Mighty typical cigar tones of long-dried tobacco leaves with black stable notes and embedded saltiness/earthen floor. Nutty sweetness wins with a spice spike towards the end. The aftertaste is long introducing sweet pralines (from whisky) while grassy and easy-going. The peppers last forever. The whisky is the conductor who brings out the best in the Nicaragua smoke, deep heavy cigar aromas yet light and volatile in the true spirit of Davidoff.
You get a box of Davidoff Nicaragua for some £280, a single cigar is £25. Expensive it may seem, but it’s nothing compared to what The Dalmore costs. The 30-year is £1400, or more. Un-corking the treasure, spilling some drops of the precious mix of 1st fill oloroso sherry butts – both Matusalem and Amoroso. It tastes of liquid dark chocolate and liqueur-soaked savarin, then oloroso/cherry juice takes off. Delightfully tasty and exclusively old. My Davidoff is halved starting to show its attractive dark sides. Instead the cigar is brightening, backed by 30-year Dalmore! The taste becomes less earthy with more fruit reminiscent of cherries, towards the end spun caramel – an earthy aromatic sweetness with a light peppery touch. The cigar also changes the whisky taste: Big rich sherry mouth with heavy tobacco/cedar tones, late light cherry aroma. Long oloroso-sounding finale with fat buttery cigar notes. A little water in the glass gets unexpected effect on the cigar experience that becomes more complex when sherry-cherry is mixed with cigar-cranberries. At the same time seductively aromatic with cedar, pine and floral rose air entering a greasy oily reverb. Perhaps shameful to water such a rare oldster. I spill a few drops into another glass. The cigar is in its final third. Now I get lots of sherry fruit on the palate, but the coffee/cocoa from the cigar grows. Towering aftertaste with sharp oak, while buttery fatty and smoke trickling. Rather cool that the oak is triggered while the cigar aromas magnifies. Extremely luxurious noble combination. I send a thought of gratitude to Richard Paterson and realize that he too is in this liquefied state of mind, a quiet almost supernatural state of pleasure exclusive to us cigar lovers.
The Whisky Report sent a Davidoff Nicaragua Toro to The Dalmore’s Master Blender Richard Paterson asking him to savour it with his own Cigar Malt: “The Dalmore has always had a long association with cigars especially when the character of the spirit is both complex and rich in flavours – it is therefore the perfect partner to cigars. Although Partagas has always measured up to many of our different Dalmore expressions, in particular the aged ones in excess of 21 years old and beyond, I was excited to try The Dalmore Cigar Malt with the Davidoff Nicaragua Toro. It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. It was a glorious evening and the ideal time to enjoy a good cigar and to reflect on a somewhat hectic frustrating day with a comforting feeling knowing the weekend was just around the corner. As soon as I lit up this 14 cm dark skinned beauty I knew I was in for a treat as the peppery, slightly spicy earthy notes awakened my senses – the draw was even and satisfying (tight draws is one of my pet hates!). But as the cigar settled down to a slow even burn, flavours of soft dark chocolate, black toffee, moist pecan cake and balsamic began to come into play. This was then the perfect time to have a generous mouthful of The Dalmore Cigar Malt – holding it long on my palate to allow the rich flavours of aged Oloroso Matusalem to roll over my tongue. At 44% the additional alcohol balanced delightfully with the body of the tobacco. Towards the conclusion of this warm friendship just as the wind was beginning to stir up the flavours, the cigar began to reach its final level with a seductive fusion of Old English Marmalade, molasses, treacle syrup and just a whisper of roasted walnuts. Memorable especially when I finished it with another glass of The Dalmore and a cup of hot Rich black coffee.” THE CIGAR Davidoff Nicaragua Format: Toro 21×140 mm Price: 230 kr THE WHISKY The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve 44% £72/$119 The Dalmore 30 YO 43% £1400/$2200