Following the success of the Fox Upmann Sir Winston Centenary Selection & Greenspot 10yo tasting conducted in Havana during the Partagas Festival in November 2011, the directors and managers of Fox Cigar Merchants were delighted to host a Partagas Fox Seleccion No 1 & Knapogue Castle 16yo tasting at the Habanos Festival in February 2012.
The venue for the tasting was La Moraleja Restaurant in Vedado, just up the road from the Habana Libre Hotel. This is a beautiful, privately run restaurant which offers an excellent menu of top class dishes. Olga Lidia is the proprietor, and as an avid cigar aficionado she has an open door policy for cigars smokers.
The Seleccion No1 cigars are a 109 size, a double robusto with a slightly conical head shape which is now only produced by Habanos for special edition cigars. The Fox Seleccion made by Partagas spanned No1, through No6; large through small size cigars. I think it is fair to say that at the time, the Partagas No1 was the flagship vitola within the Fox house brand cigars. While this vitola was previously available in a beautifully rounded “tulip” style cabinets 25, the cabinets on offer at this tasting were of a latter vintage and therefore available in SBN boxes of 25. Certainly, the Partagas and Fox brands had a very close affinity built around the friendship developed by our late chairman Freddie Fox and Partagas owner Ramon Cifuentes.
The specific cigars we were smoking were claro/colorado, looked silky smooth, had retained a healthy sheen and there wasn’t a vein or blemish in sight. Both boxes had a reassuring aroma. We were pleased to be able to taste them with 2 of the 1900 Knappogue Castle 16yo bottles to be produced.
Attendance was by invite, and we were joined by an eclectic bunch; customers, collectors, competitors, press and suppliers all of whom now have friendship in common!
I always get a little nervous about smoking an old cigar. On one hand, not all cigars age well: there is always the chance that a poor experience will result, on the other, if the cigars are stellar you can’t un-smoke them and save them for later.
On this occasion the jury remained out for a little longer than was comfortable, as it wasn’t until after the first third that the cigar started to express the flavours and character that we had hoped for. However, the second and final thirds made up for the delay – and all agreed it was a beautiful cigar. The Knappogue was a fitting accompaniment –the tasting was more suited to a comparison as opposed to a contrast – with both at first offering smooth mellow fruity flavours. As the cigar developed, and the whiskey opened the focus moved to the comparison of spices, pepper and ever so slight sweetness.
There was a large contingent of vintage collectors at the tasting, so I was pleased that I had brought a couple of box-end vintage cigars along with me: the tasting rapidly turned into a show and tell session.
Overall the tasting was a great success and we are planning are next “Havana Havana Vintage Cigar and Whiskey Tasting” already! – all suggestions and ideas welcome.