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2010 UK HabanoSommelier Crowned

The annual UK HabanoSommelier final was held at Hunters & Frankau’s London head offices on Wednesday December 8th. Three finalists from some of the leading cigar friendly restaurants and hotels, with outdoor cigar areas, arrived to face a tough day of competition.

The prize at stake was an all expenses paid trip to Cuba to represent the UK at the International HabanoSommelier final during the annual Cigar Festival (February 23rd to February 27th 2011) in Havana.

Although the competition was strong and all of the contestants had their individual merits, at the end of a tough day’s assessment the judges, Hunters & Frankau’s Sean Croley (General Manager for Sales & Marketing), Simon Chase (ex-Marketing Director of H&F) and Ignacio Balmaseda (H&F’s Cuban Corporate Director), came to a unanimous decision to award Jeremy Pascal (Hotel du Vin, Poole) with the coveted title. His strong written exam coupled with an in depth knowledge of Cuban cigars and exemplary cigar service carried the day.

Twenty-six year old Parisian, Jeremy Pascal, has been with the Hotel du Vin group for six years and is now Head Sommelier at their Poole hotel. He learned much of his cigar craft under former UK HabanoSomelier of the Year, Julien Foussadier at the Birmingham Hotel du Vin before moving over to assist with the opening of the Poole hotel.

The morning began with the contestants sitting a stringent written exam covering a range of cigar related topics including, Cuban tobacco farming techniques, cigar production, vitolas (sizes), tastes, flavours and service.

They were then set a role play designed to assess their knowledge of Habanos cigars, their ability to recommend the correct cigars for specific occasions and their skill in cutting, lighting and serving the cigars that they had recommended.

The scenario the competitors faced was:

A husband and wife have just finished their lunch to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and would now like to enjoy a cigar. They have around 40 minutes before they must leave for the matinee show at the theatre. The wife would also like to purchase an additional cigar to enjoy during the 20 minute interval at the theatre. She prefers medium flavoured Habanos whilst her husband likes full flavoured cigars.

They were presented with a humidor containing eight different cigars and asked make the correct recommendation for each specification. The cigars they had to choose from were:

Bolivar – Corona Gigantes

Partagas – Serie D No.4

Hoyo de Monterrey – Epicure No.2

Romeo y Julieta – Corona

Punch – Churchill

Montecristo – No.3

Cohiba – Siglo I

Cuaba – Divinos

Finally, having cut, lit and presented a cigar, they wererequired to recommend a drink to compliment each of the cigars. The selection they were offered consisted of:

1988 Dom Ruinart Rose Champagne

Hennessy XO Cognac

Remy M

1974 Armagnac Domaine De Lasgraves

Havana Club 15 Year-Old Rum

Macallan 18 Year-Old Highland Malt Whisky

Lagavulin 16 Year-Old Islay Malt Whisky

Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila

Niepoort 10-Year Tawny Port

Taylor’s 1977 Vintage Port

Jeremy Pascal said of his victory ’Of course you get nervous during a competition like this, but it is important to make the presentation fun as well as informative.’ He then added, ‘I think I need a bit of time for it to sink in. I am actually going to Cuba.’

Everyone at the Cigar Smokers Club wishes him the best of luck in his attempt to bring the trophy back to the UK.

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