Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
It’s a monumentous time on this side of the border, as we see Covid restrictions being eased and after what feels like several trillion aeons we are reunited with our beloved cigarden. To celebrate the occasion I decided to reunite with another good old friend, the Partagas Serie D No. 4!
One of the best selling stogies of all time, the Serie D No. 4 is an iconic robusto that helps form Partagas’ legendary Alphabet series, a range of cigars dating all the way back to the 1930’s. Considered by some to be the definitive robusto, the Serie D No. 4 is a timeless, purebred Habano; earthy, woody and spicy in equal measure; it has a raw, visceral power to it but manages to restrain itself and deliver these qualities in a very slow release, growing incrementally inch by inch until the final third of the cigar where it ramps up exponentially to a veritable explosion of leathery, spicy goodness. I’m always awed by the sheer production quality of the D4; over the years I have never encountered one that failed to provide a laser-sharp burn and an effortless draw. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that it is this particular attention to detail in terms of construction, and the circumspect progression of strength and flavour throughout the smoking experience that have propelled this vitola to the auspicious status that it now holds.
Assembling the components of this pairing was something of a fun challenge for myself, I knew I wanted at least one of the drinks to be as complimentary as possible and have another provide a slight contrast and nuance to the proceedings, but which would be which?
I opted to make the beer element of this pairing the complimentary factor, setting my sights firmly on the handsome selection of Trappist Rochefort 10 that currently adorns the fridges in our shop.
First devised during the overhaul and modernization of the brewery at L’Abbaye Notre Dame de Saint-Remy in 1952, Rochefort 10 is a sumptuous beast of a brew. Boasting a not inconsiderable ABV of 11.3%, this much beloved Quadrupel is overflowing with notes of figs, dates, treacle, nuts and the distinct herbaceous bittering tang of hops. It was this distinctly earthy flavour profile and sweetness that cemented the Rochefort 10 as the ideal weapon of choice to accompany the D4 in my mind.
The particular whisky I had envisioned adding the nuance to this pairing was one I was all too familiar with, having sampled many times in the past, featuring it in our Whisky Club in 2019, and having received a bottle as an anniversary gift from my partner in the previous year: Isle of Raasay Distillery’s While We Wait.
While We Wait is the first release we had seen from the eponymous island’s first legal distilling outfit, a non-age statement expression crafted from stock available in the interim period until they released their inaugural Single Malt. Combining some peated and unpeated spirit then treating it to a finishing period in impeccable red wine casks from Tuscany, this is a fantastic representation of a lot of things I like about modern whisky: innovation, unusual provenance, wine casks, and the phen(ol)menal combination of peat and sweet.
It’s fruity, it’s leathery and has that tantalizing dry tannic oak finish that I love from a wine cask. Were it not for the deftly woven peat permeating the spirit, I would easily class this as being just as complimentary as the Rochefort 10. What a dram!
Setting foot in the cigarden for this pairing was somewhat surreal, especially considering that my booking coincided with that of a group of good friends and fellow cigar enthusiasts, all of us remarking that it had felt like a mere five minutes since we’d all convened for a good herf, the last year of lockdowns having passed in something of a blur, but it was time for our homecoming at last.
Perhaps it was due to the almost spiritual circumstances surrounding the pairing, but this felt like one of my finer selections in recent times, with every piece falling harmoniously into place, as if it had always intended to be there, a convocation of bold flavours; with the D4’s earthiness and later leathery qualities resonating mellifluously with the leathery and tannic features of the While We Wait, which in turn accented the sweet earthy flavours abound in the Rochefort 10. I even marvelled at the manner in which the aromatic peat struck a chord with the subtle hoppy notes present in the beer.
If you’re looking for a new way to try old familiar flavours, I would highly recommend taking this pairing for a spin, even if you’re not a fan of peaty whiskies, hell, it might even be a great place to start!