I’ve wanted to do an Armagnac pair for a long time ever since first trying Armagnac du Montal (although I had intended to do that drink with a much darker cigar, the Alec Bradley Tempus). After researching the flavour profiles I ended up on the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial – a brand we also hadn’t paired before.
About Larressingle XO Armagnac
Armagnac is a member of the brandy family and a cousin to Cognac. Armagnac is the oldest eau-de-vie in Europe at over 700 years old. It’s older than cognac, scotch, or any other spirits from Europe. I’ll make comparisons to Cognac because it’s more well known. Cognac is made from 99%+ ugni-blanc grapes whereas Armagnac can be made with up to four different types of grape (Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Bacco). Cognac is double-distilled whereas Armagnac is single-distilled in a continuous still. Aged Armagnacs can be up to 100 years old though this one is aged 10 – 12 years.
Larressingle (pronounced La-Ro-Sang-Gluh)
“has a bouquet of prune, old wood, ancient cellars, vanilla and mushroom. The taste is deep, mellow and satisfying with notes of sponge toffee, smoke and dried fruits. Layered and lingering, it’s the kind of drink that just lifts your spirits up. One sip will have you exclaiming ‘holy sh*t’ this is good.” Margaret Swaine, winealign.com
And she’s right! This is a strong drink served typically at 1.5oz. Don’t warm the glass in the hand like you do with cognac as this will cause the alcohol to evaporate too quickly and you’ll lose the fragrance of the fruit! Hold the glass by it’s base and sip slowly!
About Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial
This 5 1/2″ x 50 gauge Cuban puro was released in response the the massive success of the 2004 Edicion Limitada which had a similar blend. This stick is the length of the Epicure #1 and the ring gauge of the Epicure #2.
The company began in 1851 when Don Jose Ger y Batet moved from Spain to Cuba to work his uncle’s plantation. He used the profits from the factory to acquire one of the best tobacco farms in Vuelta Abajo and named the company La Escepion and then renamed to Hoyo de Monterrey, meaning “The hole of monterrey” referring to the concave shape of the terrain the farm was on. In 1900 Gener died and his daughter took over the business for the next 30 years. The brand was sold to the firm of “Fernandez, Palicio y Cia” who added the Hoyo and Escepcion lines to their other brands – Punch, Belinda and the Chateaux series (which would eventually become the Davidoff line). After the Cuban government took control of the business Fernando moved to Florida and sold the line to the Villazon family who continued to make all the lines out of Honduran tobacco for the American market.
Side topic: One thing I really like about this is that Hoyo de Monterrey from Honduras is still the legitimate Hoyo, following the same lines as the Hoyo from Cuba. This is unlike the Cohiba line which has a rightfully Cuban line and a Dominican line of the same name owned by General Cigar. You will read on some site that they are still legal, official Cohiba’s. They’re not. They’re not affiliated with Cohiba nor did they branch off from Cohiba. They are a different company with terrible cigars and who ignore the legal claims made by Cuban Cohiba.
The foot smells like sweet hay with a little black pepper. Some reported earthy smells but I don’t really get that myself. The flavours are of earth, cocoa and spice with notes of honey and graham cracker. Some reported other flavours like honey, caramel, and towards the end, mushroom. There is also salty notes and a “twang” which is common to Cubans.
Pairing Larressingle XO Armagnac & Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial
After smoking the cigar the armagnac becomes a bit more tame as the fire in your mouth is exchanged with sweetness. The finish remains long and the citrus notes seem to move from the front of the tongue to the back of it. The cigar is salty on the lips and peppery in the mouth and this works well with the smokey oak coming out of the drink.
I feel like this pair had appropriate flavour profiles but the strength was unbalanced. The cigar couldn’t keep up to such a powerful drink. I think that this cigar would work much better with the Armagnac du Montal (which is half the price) and I think this drink would work nicely with a darker stick like the Alec Bradley Tempus.
I compared my Edicion Limitada 2008 with the Armagnac du Montal but the cigar was very different from the Epicure Especial despite being a similar vitola so the experiment was a waste – well, not completely!