THE ART OF CIGAR & PAIRING
Suck in a mouthful of mellowness, savor cocoa, toffee, honey and peach. Wonder what whisky gives such rich and delicate tastes? It is actually whisky's best partner - cigar.
Cigars have always been regarded as upper class hobby. Louis Lee, who has smoked cigar for more than 20 years also agreed. He developed the hobby since the 1980s, when he was working finance in Central office. Many of his clients loved to enjoy a cigar after a meal ( there wasn't indoor smoking ban yet, he pointed out, it was common to smoke cigar in fine dining restaurant. ). "Cigars are very different from cigarettes. You would only want a cigar when you feel relaxed or have something to celebrate. In contrast, you smoke cigarettes are upset or on a deadline. You never smoke a cigar when you feel down." He reckons that although there are tar and nicotine in cigar as well, but at a lower intensity. Cigar is not a matter of addiction, but more of part of the culinary culture.
The taste for cigars of the eighties was quite different from now, although Hong Kong people has always preferred Cuban products, "Davidoff was a clear favourite at that time, which was then still produced in Cuba. Montecristo and Partagas were popular as well. But did you notice Cohiba wasn't on the list? It was too new as it only began to produce in the eighties." According to Louis, film director Johnnie To is also a cigar lover, cigar appears often in his movies. For example, in "Life Without Principle", when Lau Ching-wan was still a thug, he envied Keung Ho-Man when he smoked cigars; when he got an accidental fortune, the first thing he did was to go to a cigar shop, wanting in particular that he wants the one "with a red ring". "That was Partagas," Louis said.
It is only natural to dwell ourselves into matching cigar with food and beverage. The robust taste of Cigars pairs perfectly with spirits. While whisky is popular recently, people used to have more brandy. "That was the era of cognac. But the mouthfeel of Cognac is actually too soft for cigar, those who knows their brandy go for Armagnac." To decide for the best match, taste of the cigar should come first," Cuban cigar generally tastes robust with rich flavor with sweet spices, like cocoa and toffee. To pair with the rich flavor, the whisky has to be stronger. Those Isle Scotch, for example those from Islay, with deep smoky aroma, the salty taste of the sea, and high minerality, would be a good match. Dominican cigar also popular in Hong Kong. The taste is lighter, with a nutty taste and the aroma of Vanilla, and it is famous for the craftsmanship. It is best pair with the Speyside and Highland Scotch, which are more elegant in style. "Louis explained.
Whiskey is very popular, but the cigar is a minority hobby. If you are a beginner in cigar, what should you pay attention too? "First, smoking cigar is different from cigarettes - more like wine tasting in fact. When you take a cigar, let the smoke stay in the mouth and taste it, do not to inhale into the lungs. If you took too much smoke into the lungs, you may get ‘drunk’. Makes you feel uneasy, nausea, and hypoglycemia, etc., discomfort may last for several hours. In addition, one may start with a smaller size cigar, as they are more affordable and requires less time to finish, about half an hour. Although smaller cigars are simpler and lighter, it is easier to understand for the beginners.
Soft and sweet, with chocolate, caramel, citrus and other aromas, the elegant Singleton 12 pairs well with cigars, but it is also good for mixing cocktails. With Singleton 12, Pullman Hotel Skye Bar's team mixes this rich and sweet Done & Dusted.
With 50ml Singleton 12, 5 ml of Mancino Chinato Vermouth, 10 ml of coffee flavored chocolate and 3 ml of Angostura bitter, plus smoke that had treated dried orange peels, a here come a nice and sweet cocktail. The cocoa powder sprayed on the outside of the glass not only makes it looks more fancy, but also dissolves on the lips when drinking, making the sweetness of Singleton 12 more prominent.
八十年代的口味與現在不太一樣，雖然香港人始終較偏好古巴，「當年最多人抽一定是Davidoff，當時仍是古巴出品，另外Montecristo 和Partagas也很熱門。但你發現沒有Cohiba 嗎？因為Cohiba在八十年代才開始生產，當時還太新。」Louis笑指名導演杜琪峰也愛抽雪茄，在他的電影裡常雪茄出現，例如在《奪命金》裡，劉青雲還是個倒楣小混混時看著姜浩文抽雪茄，到他自己意外發財後，就去買雪茄，指明要「紅圈那款」，「那就是Partagas了」Louis說。
味道柔和，富巧克力、焦糖、柑橘等香氣，甜味而優雅的Singleton 12當然適合配雪茄，同時也很適合用作沖調雞尾酒之用。Pullman Hotel Skye Bar的團隊就以Singleton 12 ，調配成濃郁甜美的Done & Dusted。
材料用上50毫升的Singleton 12、5毫升mancino chinato 苦艾酒、10毫升咖啡味巧克力力嬌酒和3毫升苦精，加上燻過乾橙皮的煙，就成為一杯甜美雞尾酒。酒杯外圍噴灑的可可粉不單令視覺效果更佳，喝酒時更會溶在嘴唇，令Singleton 12的甜美感更突出。