Fine Sips, Premium Draws

The Draw of a Premium Cigar

For those who enjoy a premium cigar, there are few things more relaxing than sitting in a comfortable leather chair, puffing away among friends and acquaintances while discussing the topics of the day. Stress just seems to melt away with each draw of the cigar as the flavorful smoke fills the air.

Few cigar connoisseurs in Central Pa. know the pleasures of a fine cigar better than Greg Zimmerman, co-owner of The Tobacco Company in Lemoyne.

There are two main classifications of cigars – mass-market and premium, says Zimmerman. “A mass-market cigar does not have 100 percent tobacco products. A premium cigar is 100 percent tobacco, 100 percent handmade and is made with long-fill tobacco.”

A premium cigar primarily consists of three parts: the wrapper, the binder (a full tobacco leaf) and long-fill tobacco, which differs from the chopped-up variety in the mass-market cigars. The three countries of origin where most premium cigars come from in the U.S. are the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. If they were legal stateside – even though the U.S. is the top consumer of them – Cuba would be the fourth main producer of premium cigars.

Just like any fine alcohol, there are many tastes to consider and enjoy in a cigar. “There are tasting notes,” Zimmerman says. “A lot of tasters will describe cigars using terms like vanilla, creamy, coffee, chocolate-y, leathery, caramel, fruity, grassy, woody. It’s very similar to fine wines or Scotches.”

And just like a fine wine or Scotch, there are proper ways to fully enjoy a premium cigar – from cutting the cap to lighting it. “Premium cigars are mostly capped, so they need to be cut,” Zimmerman says. “The three primary ways to cut a cigar is the guillotine cut, the punch and the v-cut, but it’s all preference. …You want to use either a non-sulfur match or a butane lighter to light it. A big mistake I often see is putting the flame directly on the end of the cigar, creating a black mark on the cigar, causing a build up of carbon, which could affect the taste of the cigar. What you want to do is toast the end of the cigar, so the flame is not directly touching it. Once it begins to smolder, that’s when you take the first draw.”

When it comes to choosing a premium cigar, Zimmerman says it’s all about personal preference. Although, for the beginners, Zimmerman recommends a less-rich choice. “A first-time premium cigar smoker, they will be steered to a more mild cigar. If you jump right into full-bodied, it could turn you off to cigars.”

For those considering a fine premium cigar, Zimmerman highlights his personally preferred smokes.

Top 5 Cigars

by Greg Zimmerman, co-owner of The Tobacco Company in Lemoyne

1. Ashton VSG (Dominican Republic)

2. Padron Anniversary 26 (Nicaragua)

3. Arturo Fuente Anejo (Dominican Republic)

4. Arturo Fuente Opus X (Dominican Republic)

5. Flor de Las Antillas (Nicaragua)

The Distilled Nectar of Scotland

The Delancey Scotsmen is a midstate club made up of 10 men, ranging in age from 37 to 92, brought together under the unifying force of Scotland’s most spirit-filled export – the distilled nectar of the Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown known simply as Scotch. Founded by Chuck Kern and John Brokenshire in 2001, the Delancey Scotsmen have purchased, tasted and rated some 150 different Scotches over the past 13 years. Kern has also led numerous local Scotch tastings as well as educated many on the topic. He also holds several titles – some bestowed upon him, others self-appointed – which include certified qualified Irish whiskey taster by order of Jameson distilleries, Scotch distillery inspector, the Delancey Scotsmen’s scribe of scribes and “Legend in His Own Time.” To put it lightly, he is an expert in the field of Scotch. And Harrisburg Magazinerecently caught up with him to get a primer on the fine art of its consumption.

The first thing all Scotch drinkers must realize is that for it to be called “Scotch,” it must be made in Scotland. The next aspect of Scotch drinking is learning to enjoy and identify the many flavors hidden within a fine Scotch.

“When I do tastings, my primary goal is to teach people the breadth of taste you can get with Scotches,” Kern explains. “I pick three – one that is typical of a traditional, very smoky Scotch; a single malt that is not nearly as smoky but very complex; and then one with a wood finish.”

Using the right glassware is also an important factor that can affect the experience of tasting Scotch. “Typical tumblers are wide and deep, and while they set off the color of the Scotch, they also dissipate the aroma that emanates from the spirit,” writes Kern. “Smelling good Scotch is part of the enjoyment of the drink, so it helps if you have a glass that will concentrate the aroma.” Kern recommends the Glencairn nosing glass, the Riedel Vinum Single Malt Scotch glass or the Michael Jackson Whisky Connoisseur glass.

Once you have the proper glass, it’s time to partake.

Kern says to first appreciate the color by tilting and rotating the glass, noticing its consistency and how it runs down the inside of the vessel. Next, take a big inhale through your nose, and consider what you’re smelling. Is it smoky or are there hints of fruit, floral, caramel or chocolate? Now it’s time to taste by taking a small amount into your mouth and rolling it around with your tongue, spreading it throughout your mouth. Does your palate sense a delicate sweetness, a rich fruitiness, a hint of nuttiness or a bit of spicy pepperiness? The second taste reaction to contemplate is the finish after you swallow. How long does the aftertaste linger, is it pleasant, does it burn? Once you’ve consumed the first glass, try again, but this time add three or four drops of water to the Scotch – you just might be amazed at how much a little H2O changes the flavor.

Pennsylvania liquor stores carry many fine Scotches, but for those who become aficionados, Kern suggests visiting Park Avenue Liquors in New York City to discover the hard-to-find Scotches.

Having trouble picking out a good Scotch? Kern names his top five.

Top 5 Scotches

by Chuck Kern, co-founder of The Delancey Scotsmen Scotch-Tasting Club

1. Cragganmore 12 Year

2. Glenmorangie Lasanta

3. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

4. Ardbeg 10 Year Old

5. Glenmorangie Tain L’Hermitage