Confessions of a Sommelier: Jasim Ahmed
What makes a good cigar pairing? What are the secrets behind sipping and puffing harmoniously? So many questions left unanswered as even more cigar smokers try and fail to solve the eternal mystery of what determines a good cigar pairing. Fear not, fellow cigar aficionados. Following on from part 1 of our Interview with Jasim, where we talked about Cuban Cigars, lifestyle, and sartorialism, we spoke once again with the sommelier who finally throws some light on the everlasting mystery of cigar pairings.
“ALCOHOL IS NOT NECESSARILY THE BEST MATCH TO A CIGAR”
PAIRING TIPS – As a habanos sommelier, Jasim knows his stuff when it comes to cigar pairings. “There are two options for an aficionado to achieve a good pairing. One is to go with the flavours of the cigar. For instance, if a Cohiba is offering you a sense of herbal spiciness go with a drink that has a similar compliment." Choosing a drink that agrees with the flavours of your cigar will certainly do the trick. However, the sommelier prefers doing his pairings with a bit of contrast, as this would ultimately make his pairings more challenging and interesting in terms of flavours. “I personally prefer contrast rather than pairing the flavours together which is, also, the second way to achieve an equally well-balanced pairing. One thing's for sure; the result is much more enticing that way."
MYTHS AND FACTS – There are many myths around cigar pairings, however, the misconception according to which cigars should always be paired with alcoholic drinks is the one that the sommelier finds as the most untrue and inaccurate. “The biggest misconception about cigar pairings is that a smoke should always be paired with an alcoholic drink. A cigar doesn't have to necessarily be paired with alcohol." Speaking from his experience, Jasim confutes this misconception by offering a clear and straightforward example. “Especially in the country where I live and work (United Arab Emirates), I happen to know a lot of cigar smokers who appreciate a good smoke without the need of alcohol."What could make a better pair to fine smokes, such as any from the Romeo y Julieta or Partagas Cigars, you may wonder. Of course, Jasim has the answer to your question. "For those who prefer a non-alcoholic drink, a cuppa of premium tea or coffee can actually work miracles. Both of these beverages can go well with a cigar." Whether you prefer the light and mild flavours of the Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto Cigar or you'd rather choose to puff smokes of strong, complex, and deep aromas, like the Bolivar Royal Coronas Cigar, tea or coffee can be a gamechanger when it comes to your cigar pairings.
Contrariwise, pairing cigars with dessert is not based on misconceptions but simple facts. “Some cigars present flavours of cacao and chocolate. Smokes of similar flavours go well with the sweetness of a dessert”. Cigars and desserts can certainly be a match made in heaven. However, their successful marriage lies in the contrasting flavours between these two products. “A cigar can be creamy, earthy, or even spicy. But it cannot be sugary - even though we experience taste notes of sweetness in certain smokes. That’s where the dessert comes in. Putting these contrasting flavours in your mouth, it will change the way you smoke forever”.
Left: Pairing cocktails with cigars at The Hari, London, Middle: Jasim Ahmed with a Ramon Allones La Palmera Cigar (Ex. UAE 2016), Right: The H. Upmann Magnum 54 Cigar matched with a cocktail at The Hari London
“PERFUME SHOULD COMPLIMENT THE AROMAS OF YOUR CIGAR”
CIGARS AND PERFUME – As we have discussed in our post, Cuban Cigars and Perfume: An Enticing Combination, an aficionado’s fragrance should always be paired with their smoke. Experienced in all types of cigar pairings, Jasim agrees with this unexpected combination. “Your perfume should always be paired with your smoke as to compliment the aromas of your cigar”. Besides choosing the right perfume to accompany your smoke, aficionados should be cautious with the ways they wear their perfume as well. According to Jasim, applying perfume on your hands can lower your overall smoking pleasure. “You can have perfume on your body, but you cannot have it on your palms. As your fingers come closer to your nose, the perfume’s scent comes through your nostrils, overpowering the aromas of your cigar, and, thus, killing your overall cigar experience”.
UNEXPECTED PAIRINGS – When we asked Jasim to name his three most unexpected cigar pairings, we certainly did not catch him off guard. The cigar sommelier started things off with a pairing that he personally enjoys a lot. “Cigars with champagne is a very fresh and quite contemporary pairing. Many might disagree with this combination, but I personally like it”. The idea of pairing a drink of cool temperature, like champagne, with a smoke is indeed very unconventional. Nevertheless, Jasim, known for his distinctive and unique taste, followed up with an even more interesting pairing suggestion. “Truffles are very popular in the U.A.E. lately. I would really love to have a cigar paired with a truffle-based desert”. Although it is still considered an unconventional material, many restaurants from all over the world seem to include more and more truffle-infused dishes into their menus, making truffles the next big food trend. Finally, Jasim saved the best for last, revealing an equally unexpected pairing as the previous two. “It’s hard to take rum away from me! However, if you could create a cocktail with Amaretto Di Saronno, I would strongly recommend it for a cigar pairing”.
Left: Jasim Ahmed lighting the Montecristo Dantes Edicion Limitada 2016 Cigar, Top Right: The Cohiba Behike 56 Cigar paired with a cup of premium coffee, Bottom Right: Pairing Cuban Cigar with tea at The Lanesborough, London
From useful tips on how to achieve a successful pairing to discussing about the enticing combination of habanos and perfume, Jasim shared a piece of his knowledge about cigar pairings with us. If you haven’t already, read the first part of our conversation with the sommelier, Jasim Ahmed talks Cuban Cigars, Lifestyle, and Fashion, where we discuss Cuban Cigars and their connection with lifestyle, and sartorialism. Find out more about the enticing world of Cuban Cigars Online by reading the latest stories from our Cuban Cigars Blog.