Friday, December 27, 2013

Drink Recipe: Karkade (Hibiscus Hot or Iced Tea كركديه) ... Awesome Cigar pairing

As promised, here is my latest discovery of a another wonderful cigar pairing... Karkade or the Hibiscus Tea! Whether you drink it hot or cold or iced out like what I did, it will sure accompany your favorite smokes no matter how complex they are.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Just to give you a brief about Hibiscus Tea, though Lord Google or Wikipedia would do a better job, is a type of herbal tea made from the Sepals and Calyces of the Hibiscus Flower. Hibiscus tea is consumed around the world with each having their own style of preparation and own names. For example, in Central & south America, the Hibiscus Tea is known as "Agua de Jamaica" or "Rosa de Jamaica". While in North Africa and parts of Europe is usually referred to as "Karkade" كركديه or "Italian Tea".

Dried Hibiscus

There seem to be many benefits relating to drinking Hibiscus Tea such as vitamins and minerals, but most notably is it helps lower blood pressure. Some studies indicates that drinking Hot Hibiscus Tea will help elevate low blood pressure and if consumed Cold it may help lower it. But please don't take my word for it and consult with your doctor if you are unsure!

But for our main reason, its a killer pairing with your smoke... lets take a look at how I make 'em:

Ingrediants to make approx Two liters:

  • 2 Liters of Water
  • 2 Cup of dried Hibiscus
  • 1 Cup of Sugar (+/- depending on taste... you can always add later)
  • 20 ml of Orange Blossom Water (optional)

In a large pan, dissolve the 1 cup of sugar in the 2 liter water and bring to a boil.

Rinse off the dried Hibiscus under cold running water for a few seconds to get rid of any dirt then dump it into the boiling sugar/water mixture and lower the heat.

Slowly keep stirring the mixture and simmer for 5 minutes then add the Orange Blossom water and turn heat off.  Let the Hibiscus steep until it falls down to the bottom of the pot. 

At this Point you should reward yourself with a nice Hot Karkade, pour into your favorite mug using a fine strainer & enjoy... Keep the rest in the pot to completely cool down (you can steep it from an Hour to 6 Hours if you want your drink to be extra dense but do not for beyond that)

Once the Mixture is cooled down you can go ahead and strain it into a jug for easy bottling. Once bottled it can be stored in the Refrigerator for up to 7 days.

To prepare your cooler or Iced Karkade (Hibiscus Tea): Crush some Ice and fill the cup then slowly pour the Karkade over the ice and enjoy that red liquid filling up. Alternate method is you can blitz in a blender a handful of ice cubes and 250mls of Karkade until you achieve a smoothie consistency.

Right before drinking, I took a wedge of lime and squeezed into my Karkade for that extra zing and light up a La Aroma De Cuba Mi Amor Reserva to relax for the night.

 There you have it folks... a wonderful smooth refreshing drink! Salut!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Vintage Encounters (Part 2) - Cubatabaco 25th Aniversario Humidor 1987

If you thought the Pre-1960s H. Upmann Cristales (Corona) post was cool, then fasten your seat belts for this one! Not to exaggerate, but literally, the hair on the back of my neck stood the moment I was face to face with this treasure. To some, this item might be considered as the Holy Grail of Cubatabaco, which myself, lucky again, got the opportunity to be up close and personal with one.

Quick History lesson:
Following the Cuban Revolution when Fidel Castro assumed power, the Ministry for the Recovery of Misappropriated Assets (Ministerio de Recuperación de Bienes Malversados) was created to expropriate land and private property as part of the newly formed socialist government. Farms, lands, businesses, and companies were nationalized and in 1962, Cubatobaco was formed to be responsible for Cuba's cigar production and sales.

image courtesy

Cubatabaco handled all production and distribution of Cuban tobacco products both locally and internationally until 1994, when the company Habanos S.A. was formed to export the cigars worldwide.

image courtesy

Not until 2001 when the production of Cuban cigars went to a company named Tabacuba while Cubatabaco continues to own the Cuban cigar brand names until this day.

During this era, Cubatabaco released 2 special Commemorative humidors under their own Trademark brand name. The 25th Aniversario Cubatabaco 1987 which commemorates the 25th anniversary of Cubatabaco and the 1992 - 1492 Humidor which commemorates the 500th anniversary of Columbus' "discovery" of tobacco.

So lets take a look at this treasure...

1987 - 25th Aniversario Humidor

Length: 14.2 cm
Ring Gauge: 42
Factory Name: Corona
Vitola: Coronas
Type: Corona
Presentation: 50 cigar Humidor (only 100 made)
Release Date: 1987

This was the first commemorative humidor produced since the Revolution and since there are only a 100 made... its extremely rare to find and in such pristine condition!

Beautiful lacquered finish with its original key lock and a gold stamped Cubatabaco logo on the face

These 26+ year old coronas are in prefect condition and has an invigorating strong herbal scent unlike and Cuban I have smelled before! I can't even imagine how they will smoke!

 Up close and personal while examining the band and taking a closer whiff of this rare beauty!

As fragile and rare these treasures are, I could't let this one rest! I would have loved to smoke one but these are kept for a very very very special occasion which I totally respect. Plus the owner of this humidor would probably choke me if I asked him to. I'll probably would be on the first plane back to try one once he decides to light one up!

Again, I couldn't thank the man enough for giving me the opportunity to document this treasure. Ajay Patel from La Casa Del Habano in Teddington, UK... you're the man!

I'll probably will follow-up on this post with a review from Ajay once he smoke this beauty. But for now, please enjoy this exclusive post!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Vintage Encounters (Part 1) Pre-1960s H. Upmann Cristales (Corona)

Every once in a while you come across some nice vintage cigars and other classic smokes yet only a few that would really gives you goosebumps. That's exactly what happened when I was face to face with these rare cigars!

The first one that I will cover is the H Upmann Pre-embargo Cristales

Quick History lesson:
Herman Upmann, a German banker who settled in Havana Cuba in the early 1840s, invested in a cigar factory where the brand H. Upmann was launched. Throughout the 1800s the H. Upmann brand gained international recognition and won several gold medals which til this day are represented on the brands actual Logo. Some may argue but Upmann is sometimes credited with inventing the cedar cigar box packaging as well.

US President John F. Kennedy's favorite cigar was the H. Upmann Petit Upmann. The following video is an interview with JFK's White House Secretary Pierre Salinger about the night before the embargo was signed, and how he had gathered from Washington DC tobacconists, a total of 1,200 cigars for JFK.

As one of the oldest surviving brands of Cuban cigars, H. Upmann til this day produces a number of outstanding vitolas that caters to the whole world. Habanos S.A will commemorate the German Cuban influences during next years 16th Habanos Festival 2014 and will dedicate a night to announce the new H. Upmann Reserva Vitola. (stay tuned)

The Pre-1960s H Upmann Cristales

Length: 13.5 cm
Ring Gauge: 42
Factory Name: Cristales
Vitola: Cosacos
Type: Corona
Presentation: Glass Jar of 25s/50s
Release Date: Pre-1960 - Discontinued 1990s

Front side of the jar you see the original H Upmann brand logo and the informative red sticker about the packaging and how it help keeps the cigar in optimum smoking condition just like it was smoked in Havana.

At the side you will have the original Cuba warranty seal with half of the Cote d´Arms bent to cover the top of the glass lid.

One of the ways to know if this jar was a pre-embargo or pre-1960s release, is actually examining the warranty seal. The perforated edge (the way its cut out by punching holes) is an indication that this seal was used between 1931 to 1961.

Amazingly these 50 cigars survived 53+ years and are in excellent condition. Sometimes pictures do not do justice to the actual thing but the smell of these beauties gives a rich toasty coffee bean scent with a hint of cocoa & light earthy notes.

This H Upmann glass jar really stood by its fame and reputable packaging to make this cigar smells and looks so good after all these year.

I would like to Thank Mr. Ajay Patel from La Casa Del Habanos in Tenddington UK for showing me this rare and beautiful gem. This guy amazes me every time I visit him with his awesome collection & finds. Stay tuned for my next post if you think this was cool... you have no idea what he showed me next!

In keeping with the H Upmann theme... I was smoking a not so vintage early 2000s Magnum 46 while writing this post! I hope you liked it.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

PARTAGAS Lusitanias Gran Reserva Cosecha 2007 Tasting & Review

Length: 19.4cm
Ring Gauge: 49
Factory Name: Lusitanias
Vitola: Lusitanias
Type: Double Corona
Presentation: Box of 15 cigars (Only 5000 Serial Numbered)
Release Date: Last quarter 2013
Price: N/A

I have finally decided to smoke the Partagas Lusitanias Gran Reserva Cosecha 2007 after putting it off for almost 2 months. This cigar came from the sample giveaway from the last Habanos Festival and was given to me by my dear friend Mr. Mishal Almisnad to taste and review. As I have done in the past, I try my best to rest the cigar for a while to make sure its ready for smoking... nah... actually that's just an excuse to not smoke it until it close to the actual release of this cigar (hoping it will be end of fourth quarter this year).

Also prior to smoking this Gran Reserva, I have revisited the Lusitanias twice by smoking a 2007 and a 2010 cigar to see what I might be expecting from the Gran Reserva. So lets take a look...

The Construction - a smooth shiny dark colorado claro wrapper with no visible veins, firm cigar from foot to cap with a superb elegant finish. The Gran Reserva Band has a new element of the GR logos on the back of the band. As for the Partagas, its the standard band used similar to the normal Lusitanias.

The Draw - slight resistance in the draw from the Gran Reserva Lusitanias size but not totally obscured. The wrapper gives off a nice delicate caramel scent with a toasty finish and you can also pick up from the draw some sweet tobacco flavor that are signs of extra fermentation which is not present in the normal Lusitanias.

The First Burn - after toasting the foot a clear coffee scent is present and a sweet mellow caramel notes are tasted in the very first draws. Unlike the normal Lusintanias, the Gran Reserva offers little of the peppery start with light cedary notes. Some spices are present but very mellow and reminiscent of cloves without the tingle aftertaste. Smoke is very light and draw resistance is just perfect.

The Middle Burn - here is where the Gran Reserva excels from the regular Lusitanias in my opinion. We often experience a distinctive spicy and earthy notes in Partagas which gives it its character we are familiar with. The woody notes in the Gran Reserva tend to be very sweet with a nutty finish, the accent of caramel and cloves lingering lightly in the background makes for a subtle aftertaste while producing an even burn with a silky smoke to be enjoyed fully! Even though I like the full spicy notes and heavy cedry taste of the normal Lusitanias, this velvety smoke of the Gran Reserva makes it a classier version and more refined in this vitola.

The Final Burn - towards the final part of this smoke the characters intensify to really showcase the robust flavors of the Partagas Lusitanias Gran Reserva. White pepper and sweet woodiness profiles brings out more tasty notes that really make this journey to the end so wonderful. Even though I have rested the final part for a few minutes to cool off the burn, relighting it continued to deliver great flavors and creamy nutty smoke. The build up of tar, heat and concentrated flavors made this Gran Reserva worthy of smoking til the nub.

The Pairing - As the Partagas Lusitanias  Gran Reserva turned out to be a very elegant and refined smoke with mellow and not too over powering flavors, I highly recommend going with the Nespresso Arpeggio, with intensity level 9, the cocoa notes and a heavy roast will complement the silky characters of the Lusinatians.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nespresso Brings Back KAZAAR and DHARKAN as part of the Permanent Grand Crus!

Originally launched as a Limited Edition in 2010, Kazaar, the most intense Nespresso blend yet, is back and is here to stay! Responding to Club Members' requests, Nespresso is introducing Kazaar for the third time, this time permanently, making it the only Limited Edition Grand Cru to be released more than once.


Kazaar is authentic and powerful with a raw intensity of 12 – the strongest in the Nespresso Grand Cru collection. Its powerful bitterness and notes of pepper, nutmeg and cloves are balanced by a full and creamy texture. The intense coffee is a daring blend of two Robustas and a separately roasted Arabica from South America. Its unusual origins and blending method, together with its strength create a one-of-a-kind taste experience.

Dharkan is exceptionally intense, yet distinctively silky.  This Grand Cru is a complex blend with hints of bitter cocoa powder and toasted cereals, comprised of washed Arabicas from Latin America and Asia.  Dharkan was created using a technique of long roasting at low temperatures unveiling the powerful, seductive and velvety character of the blend.  Its silky and smooth texture creates a subtle balance of bitterness that lingers on the taste buds.  Dharkan also breaks the existing Nespresso scale with an intensity of 11.

With the new addition of Kazaar and Dharkan, the Nespresso Grand Cru permanent collection has expanded to include six new coffee offerings over the past year – Kazaar, Dharkan, Linizio Lungo, Vanilio, Ciocattino and Caramelito. The permanent range of Nespresso Grands Crus now includes 21 coffees.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

EL RAY DEL MUNDO Infantes Exclusivo Cuba 2013 Tasting & Review

Length: 12.4cm
Ring Gauge: 50
Factory Name: Infantes
Vitola: Robustos
Type: Robusto
Presentation: Box of 10 Serial Numbered (only 5,000 boxes made)
Release Date: 3rd Quarter 2013
Price: $170.00 - $250.00 / box

Image courtesy of Mr. Muqdad Alqattan

As the news hit that the El Ray Del Mundo Infantes Regional Cuba 2013 was released, a friend of mine was lucky enough to score a box from Cuba just a day after its release. Let and be hold, I too was lucky as he offered me one to try and maybe write up a review about. Anxious and in the same time worried, I know this smoke will be too young to savor its real characteristics and give it a fair tasting. But on the other hand, it might show potential and what to expect. So without further do, lets take a look at the Infantes

The Construction - a light Colorado claro wrapper with few small visible veins, a rough texture and rigid in appearance. It is firm from the foot and cap but is a little soft in the middle. This cigar is fresh out of the box and did not have much time to rest in my possession except in a cedar lined tubos for a almost a month.

The Draw - offers a good draw but not too open or loose where you can also pick up a subtle taste of fresh tobacco. It has a distinctive floral scent, little reminiscent of freshly opened teabag with a slight cedery accent.

The First Burn - offers a blast of white peppercorns that gives a tingling sensation in the back of your throat and nose with a taste of dry cedar wood. It burns nicely but with a bitter aftertaste from the smoke and after a few draws the highlighted character showcases as a spiced dry wood.

The Middle Burn - ash holds up pretty well but had to drop it because I had the feeling it might fall off. Spiced wood seems to be the dominant flavor I keep picking up but it settled down a bit to make way for some citrusy taste, Grapefruit maybe? the smoke keeps giving me that bitter aftertaste. The bitterness isn't as bad as it may sound but its clearly is pushing against the woody flavor. Another interesting note I'm picking up is that floral scent which is slightly sweet but again turns it into that bitter citrusy aftertaste.

The Final Burn - comes with a deeper woody note and a little sweetness with the smoke. Naturally, the spicy kicks are reintroduced but not as strong as the first part yet bitterness keeps on sticking around with the smoke. Overall, the Infantes keeps burning perfectly and only once did it die out in the middle where I had to relight it again. Main characteristics stuck throughout the smoke leaving it a single journey with not much flavors.

It goes without saying that the EL RAY DEL MUNDO Infantes are fairly young cigars and would definitely use a quiet bit of aging. I think a 3-5 years resting and conditioning period would make this a very enjoyable smoke. Will try to revisit this cigar in a year or so to see how the flavors develop.

The Pairing - Since I only sipped on some water throughout this tasting, I can fairly say the best Nespresso Grand Cru pairing with the Infantes has to be Capriccio, with intensity level 5, it offers a cereal notes with light acidity to help balance out the woody and bitter flavors of the cigar.

Thanks again for my friend Mr. Muqdad Alqattan for his generosity and support