THE SALTY KISS OF CONNIE B
The beginning of 2019 has been an exciting time in the cigar world, many new vitolas have been drawn into existence and there was one in particular that I’d been waiting with baited breath to get my hands on, the H. Upmann Connoisseur B. I had taken quite a shine to the H. Upmann brand over the past year, sampling as many of their stogies as possible, so the prospect of trying a brand new La Casa Del Habano vitola, was highly enticing indeed. As the story goes, the H. Upmann brand was founded by Herman Upmann, a German banker who loved cigars so much that he picked up sticks and moved to Cuba to set up a bank there. His bank reportedly closed in 1920, but his cigar brand lives on! The brand itself won gold medals in 11 exhibitions during the 19th century, and as a mark of pride they are adorned on their packaging to this very day. In all Upmanns, you can hope to experience a very light to medium bodied smoke, not overpowering you with intensity of tobacco strength, allowing a magnificent range of flavours to develop and progress as you smoke. As for the lineage of the Connoisseur B, it is the third release of the Connoisseur series, following on from the Connoisseur No. 1 and the Connoisseur A.
With such a light bodied cigar as the basis of the pairing, I knew I had to be somewhat careful in picking it’s peers, as it would be easy to overpower the smoking experience, but I had something in mind. A long time ago, the boss preached the virtues of combining sour beers and cigars to me, and I’ve often heeded that sage advice, after all, who am I to pass up good advice from someone far more well versed in these matters than I? With the mantra of “sours and stogies” firmly in mind, I was beckoned to our fridges, keeping in mind that I couldn’t be picking something too outrageous, after scouring the wealth of options available to me I eventually came to a conclusion: Salty Kiss by Huddersfield kings Magic Rock! Salty Kiss is a Gose infused with fruit, namely Gooseberry, to enhance its tart, lip-smacking sourness. Goses are a traditional German wheat beer style, originating from the town of Goslar, similar to the highly popular Berliner Weisse style, but with a savoury edge, as Goses are often brewed with salt, either added during the brewing process or naturally occuring from the water source. In the case of Salty Kiss, sea salt and sea buckthorn have been added.
If you’ve happened to read any of my past pairing blogs, it should come as no surprise that I more often than not will try my best to pick a suitable whisky to accompany my sticks, I just love whisky that much, it’s a pretty regular occurrence that I’m referred to as a “whisky nerd” by my peers and our customers. Following my generally held theme of “don’t go too crazy, keep it sensible, and light,” I figured I’d better keep myself in the realm of Highland whiskies, known for their smoothness and light body (depending on where in the region you’re looking of course, as a region Highland covers a vast swathe of the country). After pacing back and forth up the bar with stogie in hand and nosing about 12 bottles of whisky, the choice became clear, I was going with the Dalwhinnie 15, a highly regarded dram and winner of at least 3 gold awards at spirits events. It’s an exceptionally clean and crisp drop that bears a light, fruity palate, with just the tiniest waft of heather and smoke to give it some backbone, which I figured would make it an excellent companion to the beer and cigar.
Gleefully, I took to the cigarden armed to the teeth with stick, beer and dram, ready to sink my teeth into what I expected to be a winner of a pairing, and I was not disappointed! After a few moments of difficulty getting a decent draw from the Connie B (and fearing that I’d fallen prey to my personal curse of always ending up with plugged cigars) and a swift trim of the cap end, we were cooking with gas! The Connie B smoked like a dream, the sour and savoury tang of Salty Kiss helping to bring out the spiciness of the cigar in the later stages, and the soft fruitiness of the Dalwhinnie 15 helping to add an extra dimension of taste that very much rounded out the experience. A truly magnificent trio!