Rafael Nodal (at the podium), speaking about H. Upmann smoked with tequila and mezcal during the final seminar. At the table, from left to right: Jack Bettridge, Gordon Mott, Allison Contreras and Alan Ruesga-Pelayo.
Did you know that all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila? If you attended the Tasting Away in Tequilaville Sunday seminar at Big Smoke Las Vegas 2019, you would have learned this fact – and much more about good agave spirits.
You would also have learned that tequila and mezcal are both having a little time, as sales have increased in recent years. This was emphasized by both Cigar lover Senior Editor Jack Bettridge and Contributing Senior Editor Gordon Mott, who co-hosted the final event for the celebration of the smoke-filled weekend cigar.
The duo were joined on stage by two brand ambassadors, Alan Ruesga-Pelayo de Cazadores and Allison Contreras de Ilegal (pronounced ill-ee-GAHL) Mezcal. Spirits giant Bacardi owns Cazadores and has a minority stake in Ilegal.
Cigar aficionados looking to pair their smoke usually turn to brown alcohols such as bourbon or scotch. However, as Mott pointed out, tequila and mezcal can also be good partners for premium handmade cigars.
To put this theory to the test, brand ambassadors provided the rooms of 550 smokers with verses of four different types of tequila and mezcal: Tequila Cazadores AÃ±ejo, Tequila Cazadores Extra AÃ±ejo, Ilegal Reposado, and Ilegal AÃ±ejo.
But what is a cigar accord without cigars? Tabacalera USA fortunately offered each spectator two good cigars: the H. Upmann Connecticut of Grupo de Maestros Toro (87 points) and the Monte de Montecristo AJ Fernandez Robusto (90 points).
Rafael Nodal, Product Manager for Tabacalera USA, took the stage to briefly preview the cigars the crowd would smoke.
The first seminar cigar was the smoother of the two, an H. Upmann Connecticut, which measures 6 inches by 50 ring gauge, and is made in the Dominican Republic. The smoke is covered in a wrapper of golden brown Connecticut seeds from Ecuador, with a binder from the Dominican Republic and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The cigar has an intriguing design element, a small circle of dark and maduro wrapper at the very top of the cigar, which contrasts with the otherwise light cigar wrapper.
Toast to the Cazadores. âWith water, we ask for advice. With Tequila, we make decisions.
The second, stronger smoke was Monte de Montecristo, which measures 4 1/4 inches by 54. Its wrapper leaf is also native to Ecuador, but it is a much darker variety, grown from Habano cape. . The rest of its blend is filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but the cigar is rolled in Nicaragua and is made with a Nicaraguan binder.
As the public eagerly awaited to dive into their drinks, Mott explained that while tequila and mezcal are both agave-based spirits, tequila is distilled only from Weber Blue Agave. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be produced from any of the 28 varieties of blue agave.
âSome plants take 25 to 30 years to mature before they can be harvested for distillation,â Mott said. âAnd all of the spirits we drink today are made from 100% blue agave. Everything else uses other types of sugars.
According to Ruesga-Pelayo, Tequila Cazadores AÃ±ejo rests for a year in new American oak barrels, which gives the alcohol a beautiful golden color. This rest period also adds barrel notes such as vanilla, cinnamon and a citrus finish. The Extra AÃ±ejo, known as Ruesga-Pelayo, matures in a new American oak barrel for a period of three years. This can be seen as the alcohol has a deeper gold color, with more pronounced barrel notes, including toasted apples and nutmeg.
Both mezcals, Contreras said, also use American oak barrels for aging, but a little differently. The Reposado is housed in a moderately charred barrel for only about four months. This means that the characteristic smoky flavor of mezcal is a bit more pronounced, but still offers hints of caramelized pears, butterscotch and cloves. The Illegal AÃ±ejo, however, spends around 13 months in barrels that were once filled with Bourbon. This gives the spirit a much more rounded profile, offering maple, dark chocolate and cloves along with the characteristic mezcal notes.
Tequila, mezcal and cigars closed the show.
As the crowd listened, they smoked H. Upmann Connecticut and paired it with each of the four spirits in front of them. Many agreed that the smoke pairs best with the Illegal AÃ±ejo.
As the seminar progressed, the crowd was invited to light up the Monte by Montecristo. Again, they associated the smoke with each of the four pours. Freehand, many thought that this cigar paired better with Tequila Cazadores Extra AÃ±ejo, as it gave off a little more chocolate and caramel from the cigar.
While the seminar officially ended at 12:30 p.m., many participants did not want to leave. And so the panel answered questions from the audience until, finally, people started to slowly walk out of the room. The 24th Las Vegas Big Smoke was officially over.
Save this date
The next Big Smoke will take place in Hollywood, Florida from April 3-4, 2020, with Big Smoke meets WhiskyFest, an event combining the best of cigars and whiskey.
The Big Smoke Las Vegas returns to the Mirage from November 20-22, 2020.
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