cigar herf

Robert Graham Cigar & Whisky – Virtual Tasting

As we continue to go through a worldwide pandemic, I have decided to sign up to a variety of virtual cigar events; tastings, talks and training. As I do, I thought it might be quite interesting to blog about each one. So here we go…

This week I attended:

Event: Robert Graham Cigar & Whisky – Virtual Tasting
Date: Thursday 28 Jan 2021
Time: 18:45 – 20:30
Cost: £23.50

I think I first heard about this event on my social media, and looking back through my emails it looks like I signed up to this in December 2020. Probably during that weird time between Christmas and New Year.

Advertisement promoting the event

So what’s in store… to be honest when booking this I didn’t really look at the details, I was just keen to join some kind of online cigar event. Looking at the advertisement in more detail, it looks like we will be smoking a cigar from Nicaragua and drinking some Scottish whiskey. Specifically…

Joya de Nicaragua’s Limited Release ‘Shut the Box’ Antano Robusto Grande

The cigar we will be trying out at the event

…paired with…

5 whiskies from Glenfarclas – 10yo, 15yo, 18yo, 25yo & 105

Wow, this actually sounds pretty good now that I have read the infos in a bit more detail! I don’t think I have ever really experimented with my whisky. I have no idea what to expect in taste.

It looks like there will also be some kind of panel…

Dr Maritinez & Juan Maritinez

Father and son, behind the Joya cigar brand

George Grant

George Grant representing Glenfarclas, Scotland in his kilt

They will be interviewed by Nick Hammond the author of Around The World In 80 Cigars.

Nick Hammond will be Michael Parkinson for the night

According to his bio ‘Nick has travelled the world over the last 25 years, writing for publications such as Country Life, The Daily Telegraph, FT How To Spend It, Cigar Journal, Cigar Aficionado, Cigar & Spirits, Fieldsports, The Resident and dozens more across the globe and was the inaugural winner of the SpectatorCigar Writer of the Year Award. His work is sought after in high-end publications across the world for its evocative imagery, colour and wit.

I don’t know much about the Joya cigar brand but it looks like their Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno L’Ambassadeur cigar appeared in the most recent Cigar Aficionados Top 25 Cigars of the Year.

So all in all it looks like it’s going to be an interesting night.

Before the experience:

The cigar and whisky samples were sent out to all attendees, a week before the event. I was kinda surprised when opening the parcel, at how much whiskey I had been sent. I don’t drink much alcohol, so I imagine I’m going to get quite sloshed when I try these!

Glenfarclas Tasting Kit & Joya de Nicaragua’s Antano Robusto Grande
Glenfarclas Tasting Kit
Joya de Nicaragua’s Antano Robusto Grande

The experience:

Everything was set up; I put my laptop on my balcony. I pre-cut the top of my Joya cigar ready to be lit. I lined up the samples of Glenfarclas whiskies in order of year. I bought a whiskey glass too. I am not sure of the etiquette on sampling whiskey. Is it ok to just ‘down it’ from the miniature bottles? Would that make me look like a right ‘chav’?

This event was taking place over Zoom, and links were sent out to the event attendees a couple of days before. At 18:45 I had a quick scramble though my emails to get the right link, then wham, I was in the event…

The virtual cigar evening via Zoom

The ‘room’ already had a couple of people in it. A Scottish musician Al Nicholas started to play his guitar and sing. It was a truly delightful moment.

At this point I wasn’t sure whether we needed to light the cigar or drink our whiskey. More and more people started to join the ‘room’, but I couldn’t see anyone else smoking or drinking. I held off whilst I enjoyed the music. Once the performance came to an end, a couple of folk from Robert Graham introduced us to the interviewer and our guests.

First up was George Scott from Glenfarclas. He was telling us about the history of the whiskey brand, and talked us through each sample of whiskey. It was at this point I started drinking the samples. I have done wine tasting before and remember being taught how to slurp, but wasn’t sure if you needed to do that with whiskey. I took a sip first to try and taste the flavours, then downed the rest of each sample.

I lit my Antano Robusto Grande, but somehow felt quite self conscious doing so. Sounds stupid, but I actually turned off my camera at that point to light up. I think it’s because I feel so amateur compared to the experts and didn’t want to look like an idiot that doesn’t know how to light his cigar. I am also not used to smoking in front of others and did feel a little self conscious at first, but once the whiskey kicked in… I just went with the flow.

My favourite part of the evening was when guests Dr Maritinez and Jaun Maritinez of Joya Cigars joined us from Nicaragua. Just their background setting looked much more exotic than the other 50-60 attendees of the event, they had palm like trees in the background. It made me want to be there.

Dr Maritinez & Juan Maritinez of Joya Cigars from Nicaragua

It was lovely seeing the father and son bond between the Maritinez’s (it made me think of my own relationship with my father) and the Dr came across like a right legend. He was telling us about the history of setting up the cigar brand, his adventures of living in London, the challenges he faced upon the impact of the financial crash. It made me wonder what kind of impact this COVID-19 pandemic will have on us in the future, and it’s impact on the cigar scene. Interestingly the pandemic has encouraged me to spend more time smoking cigars and trying out new brands – as well as blogging – as a positive distraction from being in a national lockdown.

I found it quite hard to focus on the Joya cigar I was smoking. I am not going to lie, I was also slightly drunk at this point – yes I know I am a light weight.

The attendees looked like they were all enjoying themselves. At this point we were introduced to ‘Shut The Box’. The Dr was explaining why they created such a game. It was a way of making the most out of the cigar box, so it didn’t become a throwaway object, after the cigars had been smoked. It seemed like a nice fun touch.

Dr Maritinez & Juan Maritinez showing us ‘Shut The Box’
A demo on how to play ‘Shut The Box’
Read more about ‘Shut The Box’ @ https://joyacigars.com/shut-the-box/

Overall rating: 7 out of 10

I really enjoyed my first virtual cigar event. It was so laid back. I actually felt as if I had been out to a physical event, which was a nice distraction from COVID-19. The music was great! There was good banter between the hosts, interviewer and guests. And the whiskey and cigar were perfect. A brilliant night. I will definitely be attending more in the future.

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