Welcome to Kenfessions, my occasional and irregular blog, looking at the world of cigars and drinks, and hopefully matching the two. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. No doubt, it will veer off on all manner of tangents, but we will try and stick to the subject (when it suits).

- Ken Gargett

Quai d’Orsay Corona/Hine Antique XO Cognac; Asahi Super Dry Beer

Quai d’Orsay Corona/Hine Antique XO Cognac; Asahi Super Dry Beer

I would love to be able to share with you my endless knowledge of the Quai d’Orsay cigars and in particular this neat little corona from November 2011, but there is a problem. I know the proverbial bugger all about this line. By coincidence, I was chatting with Rob a week or two ago and he kindly gave me a Quai d’Orsay Imperial, which I understand has been discontinued, to have a look at. I could not think of another occasion when I had tried one. 

Then this popped up for Kenfessions. Now, as I said, I could not honestly remember ever having smoked one before so I thought I had better jump on the internet and see what I could find out. Embarrassingly, first up was not one but two reviews which Rob and I have done on this very cigar. And even more bizarre, the first, from early 2012, was of one from November 2011 (there’s a box he has struggled to sell). It was with Rob, Smithy and a friend of mine, Didier Mariotti, who was then the chief winemaker for Champagne Mumm. He brought the fizz! And we did not hate the cigar.

YouTube link


Then, two years later, another young Quai d’Orsay Corona from 2013 on the balcony – this review is worth watching as it ends with a roll call of the text messages Rob sent me from Havanathon that year. Utter and complete gibberish. But the cigar? Well, Rob ditched his over the balcony. Bit of a concern.

Youtube link


In fairness, he does state often that these cigars need some time as a preponderance of seco leaf. So, this was an 8-year-old cigar, but in fine condition. It did start slightly harsh, but quickly settled down and offered pleasing nutty notes, a creamy coffee character, nutmeg and cinnamon and got quite toasty towards the end. A very pleasant cigar, not the highest order or elite or anything like that, but a perfectly enjoyable one. About 89-90 for me. 

Two drinks, as is usual now. 

One was the Asahi Super Dry Beer, which we looked at recently, so I won’t go over the same ground. But for this mid-weight cigar, which was perhaps slightly simple, it worked very well. Two decent if not very complex products and they trotted along quite happily. Nothing wrong with a good clean, dry beer for this smoke. 

The second perhaps deserved a better cigar (no offence to the Quai d’Orsay, but…). It was a stunning Cognac, the Hine Antique XO Cognac. Really smooth and complex and while it is so finely balanced that it avoids any harsh spirity notes, it was a bit too powerful for the cigar. Walnut, peach, tobacco notes, some vanillin and cedary oak, but most of all, a really lovely baked apple character. Was very evident from the first sniff. Delicious. Great length. 

I’d be happy to drink it with anything, but if we are going for the ideal match, this was a bit overwhelming for a nice modest cigar.

To finish, was doing some research for a serious publication on how the House of Hine began. Came up with several versions. All riffs on the same theme, but some interesting differences. 

What was agreed was that young Thomas Hine was born in Dorset in 1775, the 6th of twelve children, and at the age of 16, travelled to France. Also, his father was a bit keen on Cognac – I reckon I’d drink heavily if I had 12 kids. 

In the first version, Thomas headed to France to work in what was described as ‘his father’s favourite Cognac house’. He did a little more than that, marrying the owner’s daughter and giving the house his name.

The second version suggests that young Thomas was over in France for matters pertaining to the French Revolution, though precisely what those matters were remains somewhat clouded in mystery (a sixteen-year-old Scarlet Pimpernel?). He was arrested but avoided the fate which befell a number of those less fortunate (in other words, his head and body did not part company), and subsequently married Francoise Elizabeth, whose father owned and ran a Cognac house in Jarnac. Thomas quickly became involved and took the house to new standards. In 1817, the House was renamed Thomas Hine & Co. 

And yet another version has a slight twist, with Thomas deciding to learn how his father’s favourite drink was made. To do so, he ventured forth, as most 16-year-olds are wont to do, to a new land. Not the wisest decision ever made, given that a young Englishman heading straight into the French Revolution was a recipe for trouble. He allegedly fled from the troubles, but was caught and imprisoned at, of all places, Château de Jarnac. In a plot development that would embarrass the most florid of historical novelists, young Thomas, while so imprisoned, woos the daughter of the house, Francoise Elizabeth, and goes on to turn this small Cognac producer into a worldwide success, whereupon its name is changed to honour him (I can’t help but think of an alcoholic version of Ken Follett’s ‘The Pillars of the Earth’).  

Worth a drink and a cigar!


Quai d’Orsay Imperiale/Lighthouse Gin; Monteith’s Apple Cider

Quai d’Orsay Imperiale/Lighthouse Gin; Monteith’s Apple Cider

H. Upmann Sir Winston Churchill/Flor de Cana ‘Spresso’; Sullivans Cove Single Cask XO Brandy

H. Upmann Sir Winston Churchill/Flor de Cana ‘Spresso’; Sullivans Cove Single Cask XO Brandy