I was originally going to run this review on Easter, but I couldn’t find the cable to my digital camera (again), so even though I lost out on the Hops joke….I think I made up for it in a pretty good day.
A few days ago, I received some of the new HOPZ cigars from Teds Cigars. Ted’s has been around since 1996, and I am sure you have seen their flagship product in your local cigar shop, The Maker’s Mark Cigar.
I’ve tried the Maker’s cigar before, so I had rather high expectations going into this review. I was particularly excited, because my wife had also picked me up a 6-pack of New Belgium's Ranger IPA. I sensed a pairing made in heaven.
Shipped in a glass tube, the 6 X 50 Toro (Cameroon Wrapper, US Connecticut binder and Dominican Republic filler) looked good, solid leaf that was not to veiny. Opening the tube didn’t reveal to much of a hops nose, but there was something there. I don’t know if it was the Centennial hops as advertised, but the cigar smelt fresh. I particularly like the glass tubes, as I can keep the cigar in my humidor, without the oils/scents permeating and lingering into the wood.
Lighting was easy, as the draw on the cigar was very smooth.
The initial 3rd of the cigar was much lighter than I expected. While I could definitely get the floral tastes, it was not as overwhelming as I expected. Slightly sweet and creamy, there were also undertones of the outdoors that I associate with pine.
After a good 5 minutes, the cigar began to open up and I could really get not only taste of hops, but also its telltale flowery aroma with hints of cedar.
It was at this point I started pairing the Ranger IPA, and the true nature of this cigar came to light.
Score – 3.5
Appearance- Clear, Golden Orange in Color with small foamy head. The head held well almost all the way through the drink.
Nose- A nice pungent hoppy aroma that dominates the nose really got my taste buds flowing. Hints of fresh cut grass and citrus round out the scent and were very enjoyable.
Taste – A little drier than expected. The light complexity of the beer covered a Fruity (Orange and sourness of Grapefruit) palette, combined with a crisp, heavy hops taste (with minimal maltyness). There was a slight piney and citrus aftertaste that I usually associate with an American IPA, and while the “Pineyness” lingers, it did not distract from the beer.
The Pairing -
What is particularly interesting about this combo is how well they worked together. Traditional cigars are said to perfectly match with Scotches and Brandy/Cognacs, and I think HOPZ Cigars are going to expand that horizon by saying flavored/infused cigars can now tailor themselves to a new market.
By pairing HOPZ with an IPA, we are enhancing the flavors of the beer with the subtle nuances of the cigar and vice versa.
Not only did the flavors then jump out at me from the Cigar (enhancing/bringing out the hops infusion), but the beer actually took a step forward and took on another level of complexity. By pairing these two above average products together, you actually improve the overall experience.
While I rated both a 3.5 standing alone, I would score the pair as a solid 4.
I can really see this type of marriage as something that could introduce Beer Drinkers to Cigar Smoking, especially if Ted’s expands their range to include other beer types (I’m thinking roasted malt infused with a Guinness Stout pairing).
I realize that Cigar Purists are not going to to be big fans, but they need to realize that innovative ideas such as this expand the market and allow other people exposure into a world that might otherwise been closed off to them. Not only do I think this is brilliant on many levels, I applaud Ted’s for partnering with some of the best of breed when it comes to flavors (Maker’s Mark, Gran Marnier, Dumante ect…).
These are both excellent products and I look forward to the upcoming Missouri Beer Festival, where I can sample this cigar with even some local IPAs.
Great job to both vendors.
PS- For those of you wondering what is in the bags, that is the 3rd “Hops”, my newly arrived Hops Rhizomes. Stay tuned as I blog about the growing process.