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Dominican Rum & Cigar Pairings

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Back in the day, when I was young, around the time the Fuente Fuente Opus X was coming to the market, I visited Santiago, Dominican Republic (DR), to take a look at the state of the country’s cigar industry. I stayed at the Hotel Gran Almirante (nice enough then, much nicer now) and became romantically involved with the bar’s local offerings. That means Dominican rum and I had a brief, torrid affair involving nothing more than a couple of ice cubes, a rocks glass, and the right Dominican cigar. Even then there were plenty of good pairings. Today, we all know how the Dominican cigar industry has developed, but the rums of the DR have also come along nicely. Lately, I’ve found a lot more complexity and variety among the better Dominican rums, making pairing them with the best Dominican cigars that much easier.

Here are my suggestions for enjoying those pairings. All these rums are dark and aged and are available in the US. Rum is made from sugar, so they’re all founded on sweetness. Drink these straight or with a couple of ice cubes.

Brugal XV & Ashton Symmetry Prism

Let’s talk about the Ashton Symmetry Prism ($12.75) first. This Corona, 5.625 x 46, is full-bodied with Nicaraguan and Dominican leaves filling in an Ecuador Habano wrapper. The flavor profile is heavy on figs and cedar from the wrapper, which blends nicely with the spicy and creamy character the cigar possesses courtesy of the A. Fuente factory, where the entire Ashton portfolio is produced. This is a luxurious smoke. This cigar is complex and requires a nicely balanced rum to complement it. The Brugal XV (extra viejo; extra old) fills the bill quite well.

The Brugal brand was established in 1888 and created the DR’s first aged rum. There are more expensive rums in the Brugal portfolio, but the XV (from $35) delivers a lot of what you want to pair with the Symmetry. The XV blends rums from three to eight years old in white American oak casks, then ages the mix in sherry casks for two to three years. What comes out is an amber-colored, smooth nectar, full of fruit with a sweet and long finish. You’ll note honey, dried fruit, and a bit of caramel. A really refined palate will pick up some mild woodiness. 

Bonus Fact: The Brugal factory is in Puerto Plata, north of Santiago, and offers tours.

Bermudez 1852 Aniversario & Arturo Fuente Hemingway Classic

Bermudez ($32) might be the best known name in the DR’s rum industry. Ron Bermudez (Ron is rum in Spanish, not the guy’s name) came about in 1852. Bottled only once a year, the liquid inside the green glass bottle is aged for 12 years. This rum has a lot of fruit aromas. On the palate, the rum is drier than you anticipate and is quite smooth. The taste holds hints of banana, plum, cherries and a sort of creamy vanilla. The finish is slightly peppery.

The Arturo Fuente Hemingway line is among the company’s most popular and all the cigars are Figurados. The Classic ($9.35), 7 x 48, is an excellent example of the medium-bodied combo of Dominican fillers and a somewhat sweet Cameroon wrapper. It has a distinctive tapered foot that makes it foolproof to light. You’ll get earthiness, some spice, and good bits of brown sugar coming through. It’s a luscious smoke that plays well with the drier rum.

Bonus Fact: Ron Bermudez assures that all the rum in the 1852 is 12 years old. Often, when you read the age of a rum made using the solera method, the advertised age means that the oldest rum is that age and is blended with other, younger rums.

Ron Barcelo Imperial & La Flor Dominicana Ligero No. 500

Founded in 1929, Ron Barcelo is the third of the DR rum industry’s “three B’s.” The Imperial ($31) is the most internationally awarded Dominican rum and, possibly, the strongest as well. That makes it a rum you love or leave alone. I find it especially fitting for cigar smokers and particularly good for those who favor stronger cigars. In truth, were you to drink the Imperial by itself, you’d likely notice some cigar flavor coming through. The blend is quite smoky, aged between four and ten years, and quite complex. There are notes of brown sugar, apple, stewed fruit, madeira wine, spices, and smoky oak. The finish is long with cedar and that cigar note I mentioned. The aroma is buttery and carries a lot of the fruit and oak to entice you.

For this rum, I like the La Flor Dominicana Ligero #500 ($8.40), a 5.75 x 60 Gordo. This cigar is a full-bodied beast and you will appreciate the match with a strong rum. The filler is Dominican and Nicaraguan wrapped in an Ecuador Sumatra wrapper that highlights the spices in the filler. There’s a solid earthiness and a peppery core.

Bonus Fact: You have a choice of wrapper here, between the Sumatra and the Oscuro. The Oscuro is a notch or two stronger, super-dark and finishes with a little sweetness.

Siboney Reserva Especial & Montecristo Epic Robusto

Siboney is a sort of boutique producer in that it’s not too big and its rums are a little hard to find, but worth the effort and the price. The Reserva Especial ($25) is aged at least five years in oak barrels, developing a sweet taste of dark caramel, toffee, and spices. This is a smooth rum that will not overwhelm your cigar. It finishes with some fruit, nuts, and that toffee note. A few of my friends find it too sweet, but if you’re smoking a good cigar, I don’t think you’ll have that issue. The color is darker than the other rums here and the aroma is relatively mild.

The rum’s mellowness pairs well with the Montecristo Epic Robusto ($15.57), 5 x 52, which is solidly medium in flavor. Still, this line delivers big flavor from its oily Ecuador Habano wrapper and a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. You’ll enjoy its big notes of cocoa, spice, coffee, and earth, and you’ll like it more, I’m betting, with a silky rum.

Bonus Fact: The Reserva Especial is better than the more expensive, older Siboney 1920.

Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 & Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real No. 2 Belicoso

You’re gonna love this rum. Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 ($42) is distilled in small batches and then aged between 18 and 21 years in oak barrels that once held bourbon. This is the definition of a sipping rum. Velvety on the palate, this rum will warm you with smoky spice, cinnamon, vanilla, clove, ginger and tropical fruit. The first sip will be sweet maple and butterscotch, but you’ll start picking up other flavors as you go. You might leave the ice aside for this one. This rum is about as lush as it gets.

My choice of the Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real #2 Belicoso ($9.07), 6.125 x 52, is because for a cigar that is medium in body, it’s also consistently rich in taste. Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers pack an Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. This cigar is toasty with considerable cedar and nuts coming through, balanced with a spiciness that carries to the end. This pairing is sure to make for a mellow end to the evening.

Bonus Fact: The Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 is made in the old Cuban manner, with pure sugar cane juice instead of molasses. In this case, the juice is fermented and distilled using a style called methode agricole. The Cask 21 is darker than many other rums you’ll find that are made this way.

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