Bolivar finds much to enjoy in some super-slim cigars.
If you’re a regular reader of the Bolivar column (I thank you for your interest), then you may remember that, from time to time, I’ve been known to predict the imminent return of the slim cigar. So far, this prophesy has yet to be fulfilled, but, rather like that broken clock that gives the right time at least twice a day, I’ll keep on in the belief that, sooner or later, I’ll be right.
It’s not that I have anything against girthy cigars far from it. I had a Behike 56 the other day it was given to me by the greatest living English cigar smoker, Sir Terence Conran and it was delicious. The Behike is a fabulous example of the extra points of the ring gauge being put to good use in terms of a bit more dimension and nuance, as well as, of course, allowing extra room for the addition of that fabled fourth type of leaf, the flavoursome medio tiempo.
The fact is that the centre of gravity if one can talk about cigar diameter having a centre of gravity has shifted. A decade ago, the robusto was regarded as a bit of a mouthful, a chunky, meaty cigar to get stuck into. Now, however, a 50 ring-gauge cigar is regarded as a starting point in much the way that a 42 ring gauge was seen at the start of the 20th century. Strange to say, but, today, a Churchill, which has a 47 ring gauge, looks almost slim at least until one compares it to the positively anorexic Hoyo du Gourmet.
When it comes to cabinet-selection Hoyos, few people venture beyond the Epicure, but there are some interesting cigars in what is called the Le Hoyo range. There is the delicate Hoyo du Maire, which, with a ring gauge of 30, is perhaps a little too slim. However, I have a fondness for the 38 ring-gauge Hoyo du Député, which, at the same length as a Partagás Short, but a bit thinner, is a lighter alternative to the slightly more peppery little Partagás. However, my real discovery or, more accurately, ‘rediscovery’ of the summer has been the Hoyo du Gourmet.
At 170mm in length, it’s not much shorter than a Churchill and the 33 ring gauge only serves to accentuate the pencil-like characteristics of this uniquely proportioned cigar. As a vain man, I must admit that this delicate wand of tobacco, that has more in common with the conductor’s baton rather than the policeman’s truncheon, is a more elegant and these days unusual accessory.
As the pendulum of fashion has swung towards great cabers of tobacco that, at times, come perilously close to parody so the 21st-century cigar smoker has more or less abandoned the sort of slim and elegant cigar that was the rage in the 1970s and 1980s. It is its fall from fashion that has proved the making of the Hoyo du Gourmet and, the other day, I was fortunate enough to come across a cabinet full of the 1990s at Davidoff.
I was asking Edward Sahakian to recommend an interesting cigar that could serve as a 15–20-minute alternative to the Partagás Short; his suggestion that I try the super slim (one might even say Size Zero) Hoyo du Gourmet took me by surprise. I’d been expecting him to suggest a San Cristóbal El Príncipe or Cohiba Siglo I, but I know better than to question the wisdom of the master. It was a revelation.
The time-smoothed flavours were apparent from the moment the flame licked the end of the cigar. Instead of that initial burst of liveliness that does or doesn’t settle down after a few puffs, I had a wonderful sense of toasted almonds, a warm, nutty character that then developed a fullness that seemed almost out of place in such a slender cigar. A faint hint of cracked pepper crept across the palate and there was body, structure and a characteristic that I can only describe imperfectly as the sort of biscuitiness that I used to experience with a good Champagne.
The last third developed a surprising richness, ending with a satisfying tang. It wasn’t the strongest cigar I’ve ever smoked Mr Sahakian likened it to a glass of rosé taken at lunch on the Côte d’Azur but it was a complete cigar in that it developed, changed and revealed different facets of its character over the course of the half an hour I spent in its company. Sometimes, I put a cigar down with relief, but I left this one with a sort of nostalgia. It was a visitor from a different era of cigar-making.