It Takes Two to Make It Right


Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - CONTENTS - BY / SOM­ME­LIER RENÉ GAR­CÍA VALDÉS PHO­TOS / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS ARCHIVES

His­tory books don't tell about the ex­act ori­gin of brandy. Al­co­hol con­tents in bev­er­ages have come a long way from an­cient times, but brandy, as we know it to­day, came to life in the 12th cen­tury, though its fame peaked in the 14th cen­tury.

Brandy is a generic term that des­ig­nates any dis­tilled wine or grape marc. This fam­ily is made up of bev­er­ages from dif­fer­ent re­gions that take on their own le­gal spec­i­fi­ca­tions in an ef­fort to tell them apart as far as grape va­ri­eties, num­ber of dis­til­la­tions, kind of dis­tiller, grow­ing meth­ods, type of oak and other el­e­ments are con­cerned. On that ba­sis, each and ev­ery brandy will have la­bel­ing fea­tures that would iden­tify how long they have been aged in the bar­rels. For in­stance, the XO la­bel­ing for co­gnac in­di­cates six years of ag­ing at the very least.

Cog­nacs and Ar­mag­nacs are the best-known brandies out of France; their names in­di­cate a par­tic­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ing re­gion. This geo­graph­i­cal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doesn't ap­ply in the same way to pisco, a grape-based dis­tilled drink that still has Chile and Peru at odds about the re­gion that first came up with it. Ital­ian grappa also be­longs to the brandy fam­ily, even though is also made up of grape marc. The same pro­ce­dure ap­plies to the mak­ing of Por­tuguese baga­ceira, French marc, Greek tsiroupo and Gali­cia's marc.

Cog­nacs and Ar­mag­nacs are the best-known brandies out of France; their names in­di­cate a par­tic­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ing re­gion

The Cuban vi­tola port­fo­lio is rich in pos­si­bil­i­ties and each brandy matches har­mo­niously with ev­ery cigar’s tast­ing strength The multi-award-win­ning Bode­gas Tor­res, de­liv­ers out-ofthis-world brands to those who crave this par­tic­u­lar drink

Mex­ico pro­duces top-notch brandies, as well as Cal­i­for­nia. Greece also pro­poses a great brandy with fea­tures of its own, such as the chance to ei­ther fur­ther scent or sweeten it. This world-class prod­uct is called metaxa.

In Spain, sherry wine from Jerez and Cat­alo­nia cer­tify their re­gional ori­gins and give brandy lovers a one-of-akind prod­uct that rest on a dry­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tem called sol­eras and cri­aderas, in which brandy is con­tin­u­ously si­phoned on and off.

Penedes, home to the multi-award-win­ning Bode­gas Tor­res, de­liv­ers out-of-this-world brands to those who crave this par­tic­u­lar drink.

A thor­ough anal­y­sis of its tast­ing records yields a list of ma­jor organolep­tic el­e­ments when it comes to har­mo­niz­ing them with Ha­banos. The “har­mo­niz­ing” term is used ran­domly on pur­pose be­cause it fits ex­actly with the plea­sure gen­er­ated by the com­bi­na­tion of cigars and drinks in gen­eral.

Dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing traces that tell Tor­res 5, Tor­res 10, Tor­res 15, Tor­res 20 and Jaime I brandies apart are sup­posed to ex­ist. What are the most sig­nif­i­cant ones to keep in mind when choos­ing a Ha­bano?

Al­co­holic con­tents in all five ex­am­ples above hover around 38 and 40 per­cent, ma­jor val­ues in terms of strength and sweet­ness that bring them closer to Cuban cigars. Acid­ity level –just an­other stand­point to bear in mind- are in the neigh­bor­hood of 0.3 g/lt. and 0.7 g/lt.

Smelling notes are far more com­plex as years of ag­ing ac­crue, and this is a de­ci­sive el­e­ment for har­mony. Wal­nut and pruned fruit notes in Tor­res 5 come along in Tor­res 10 with spe­cial scents of cin­na­mon and vanilla, just as a to­ken of the time they spent be­ing aged in Amer­i­can white oak bar­rels. What's more, the Tor­res 15 oozes out smoked and dark-roasted notes, let alone that of dry fruits. The Tor­res 20 –it takes dou­ble dis­till­ing and si­phon­ing from new to old oak casks- makes the spirit more com­plex with notes of pruned fruits, cin­na­mon, vanilla and nut­meg. Jaime I –a blend from dif­fer­ent sol­eras that have been hand­picked from among the old­est in the cel­lar- rounds out its no­ble taste with notes of roasted hazel­nut, vanilla and tof­fee. It's ev­i­dent that the five brandies cover a dif­fer­ent range of per­cep­tion from an organolep­tic point of view.

Wrap­ping things up, the oily and tan­nic char­ac­ter of Tor­res 10, Tor­res 15 and Tor­res 20 packs a wal­lop among pa­trons with per­sis­tent, con­cen­trated and deep strength, al­ways in crescendo as the num­bers rise. How­ever, Jaime I im­poses smooth­ness out of its long ag­ing. Again, the five dis­tilled spir­its show off a some­what creami­ness and tan­nic taste, a key to choos­ing the right Ha­bano to puff on.

Each and ev­ery brandy will be har­mo­nized with the cor­re­spond­ing strength of the cigar. The Cuban vi­tola port­fo­lio is rich in pos­si­bil­i­ties. The Ha­bano's par­tic­u­lar ex­pres­sions in terms of sweet­ness, acid­ity, spicy taste, bit­ter­ness, creami­ness and salin­ity, as well as the herby, flo­ral, min­eral and fruity tastes –es­pe­cially of dry and pruned fruits- com­ple­ment the aroma and taste –as well as the struc­ture- of the se­lected brandy.

The fi­nal say is in the hands of the smoker on an organolep­tic ba­sis. If sip­ping a Tor­res brandy and puff­ing on a Ha­bano reach their full po­ten­tials –with­out over­lap­ping mo­ments or dis­par­i­ties- then the ex­pe­ri­ence of that mo­ment will have just one def­i­ni­tion: Ha­bano-drink har­mony.

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