Cigars and music, an enriching experience

Published March 22, 2015 9:53 am PT

In common language we call ‘pairing’ anything we enjoy along with our cigar. This is typically done with spirits, chocolate and much more.  Listening to music while relaxing and smoking is nothing new. We often choose some nice musical background, based on our mood, when we sit down and relax with a good cigar. However, what is suggested with the pairing of cigars to music is something very different, that goes beyond the conventional process of mixing various flavors.

In fact, the definition of pairing may not be adequate for this tasting approach. With typical pairings, touch, sight, smell and taste are already stimulated by the cigar. When accompanying the cigar to music we stimulate all five senses, including hearing, which highly contributes to our mood and can amplify the emotions offered by a great cigar.  This is why, when we complete the smoking experience with music, it is suggested to describe this as sensory enrichment rather than pairing. It is not necessary to limit the marriage to cigar and music, but even the two alone create a very complete emotional state: the perception of the natural organoleptic characteristics of the cigar without ‘contamination’ from external factors as occurs with traditional pairings.

Habanos e musica - Diadema
Image credit: Diadema SpA

This opens the door to some fascinating new ways to experience extraordinary delight for our senses and our soul. An innovative seminar at last year’s ‘IX° Aniversario Encuentro Amigos de Partagas en Italia’ deserves special mention. This event started years back as a gathering of friends at the Cigar Club Matelica, one of the very lively Italian cigar clubs, and has now become one of the most important European happenings dedicated to premium cigars, expanding every year to highlight excellence in Cuban and local products and culture to international passionados.

The seminar has been introduced by :
Paolo Juncker, well-known collector and music passionado
Stefano Minoia, Master of the Habanos Academy and Sales Manager at Diadema SpA, founder of this project aiming to expand and share the premium cigar passion from a cultural and sensory perspective
Walter Battagliola, professor at the Milan ‘Civica Scuola di Musica’, who has held principal roles in a number of European philarmonic orchestras
Giuseppe Elefante, a lover of and expert in Cuban cigars, with a rich background in connected educational and institutional roles at national club level. He is a pioneer of the in depth study of pairing of cigars with music.

The choice of the cigar and music for this seminar, being the result of meticulous research in time and evolutionary complexity of both elements, fell on one of the most popular cigars in the world, Partagas Serie D N.4, and an equally important symphonic poem, the An Alpine Symphony (Eine Alpensinfonie), Op. 64, written by Richard Strauss.

Despite the fact that An Alpine Symphony is one of the finest musical compositions of Richard Strauss, it is also a less often performed work, mainly due to the high number of musicians required (125 elements). The work started in 1899 and completed in 1915. The style of Strauss is linked to harmony and love for nature, elements that in this work reach their highest expression. This symphonic poem differs from the conventional setting in four movements; it describes each stage of a mountain excursion as if it were a unique movement that lasts about 50 minutes, approximately equal to the time of the Partagas Serie D N.4.

The virtuosity of the technique of Strauss transmits a crescendo of emotional tension to the apex of an exciting drama through 22 sections of music. This work is perhaps the pinnacle of Strauss genius, a sensory experience that leads to deeply think about the harmonious symmetry of life impulse as opposed to life drama.

The Partagas Serie D N.4 was created in 1930, exactly 15 years after the completion of Eine Alpensinfonie so both, somehow, are witnesses of a troubled period which had dramatic consequences on the history of humanity. Representative of the strong character and determination of the Partagas brand, the Serie D N.4 seduces with its aromatic amplitude, unraveled with vigorous progression. Its evolution is articulated, seductive and intense, like the strength which progresses inexorably.

The structure of the music defines and marks an evolution, ‘going up’ and ‘down’, which is similar to the evolutionary dynamics expressed by the cigar. The work has been divided into three parts, the same way as we do with a cigar.

In the first part:
1) Nacht (Night)
2) Sonnenaufgang (Sunrise)
3) Der Anstieg (The Ascent)
The ‘Night’ gives way to ‘Sunrise’; this section seems very similar to the first puffs, the first aromas still delicately outlined but starting to take on a certain density and aromatic depth just before the start of ‘The Ascent’ in the mountains.

4) Eintritt in den Wald (Entry into the Forest)
5) Wanderung neben dem Bach (Wandering by the Brook)
6) Am Wasserfall (At the Waterfall)
7) Erscheinung (Apparition)
8) Auf blumigen Wiesen (On Flowering Meadows)
9) Auf der Alm (On the Alpine Pasture)
10) Durch Dickicht und Gestrüpp auf Irrwegen (Through Thickets and Undergrowth on the Wrong Path)
11) Auf dem Gletscher (On the Glacier)
12) Gefahrvolle Augenblicke (Dangerous Moments)
13) Auf dem Gipfel (On the Summit)
14) Vision (Vision)
From the ‘Entry into the Forest’ the movement takes us into a heavier state of mind and marks the beginning of the second tercio in the cigar, because it is from this moment that the music varies in a crescendo that will accompany the smoke until the end of the ‘Vision’, just when the evolution of the cigar expresses its maximum organoleptic complexity.

15) Nebel steigen auf (Mists Rise)
16) Die Sonne verdüstert sich allmählich (The Sun Gradually Becomes Obscured)
17) Elegie (Elegy)
18) Stille vor dem Sturm (Calm Before the Storm)
19) Gewitter und Sturm, Abstieg (Thunder and Tempest, Descent)
20) Sonnenuntergang (Sunset)
21) Ausklang (Quiet Settles)
22) Nacht (Night)
The last tercio, which inevitably introduces the epilogue, is highlighted by the sudden change in mood that begins when the ‘Mists Rise’, where there is a clear awareness that our journey is about to end. But it is from this point that the emotions induced by music and cigar flavors converge first in a deep reflection phase, almost melancholic, while ‘Mists Rise’; consecutively, in ‘The Sun Gradually Becomes Obscured’ and in ‘Elegy’, the meditation becomes more intense, as if to fix in the soul the emotions that are inexorably ending.
A sense of resignation delights us when the ‘Calm Before the Storm’ brings us back to reality; then the beginning of the ‘Thunder and Tempest’ catalyzes a state of anxiety just before the ‘Descent’, when the cigar, almost aware of the impending ‘death’ unleashes its full strength in a final burst of vitality, which will accompany us until the ‘Night’ where it all began.

We hope you will find the opportunity to experience this full range of emotional expression unleashed by the harmonic marriage of a truly fine cigar with an exceptional work of music. And we would love to hear your comments!

Reference: ‘Habanos e Musica, un Tripudio di Emozioni I’, seminar conducted first at the ‘IX° Aniversario Encuentro Amigos de Partagas en Italia‘, Matelica, Italy, June 2014

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