All things Whisky & Cigars
Robert Graham Review by Bespokeunit.com
Charles-Phillipe, Editor-in-chief for Bespoke Unit (A Gentleman's lifestyle resource website), visited our Rose street store during August - read what he had to say below about our Rose street store, Core range whiskies and Tobacco Lords cigars...
"Exceptional customer service and products! With two shops in either Edinburgh's Old Town or the historical Rose Street, Robert Graham is worth visiting for any whisky or cigar enthusiast."
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★
"To conclude my family vacation in Scotland, we spent a night in the historical capital, Edinburgh. While my loved ones went on a shopping spree, I snuck off to find a cigar shop that hopefully sold whisky too.
As if my prayers had (unsurprisingly) been answered, I discovered a small shop as I marched up Rose Street. With an eager grin, I stepped in and was welcomed by Simon, a friendly and laid-back gentleman with facial piercings and tattoos down his arms.
Although I had already heard about Robert Graham as a retailer of fine cigars and whiskies, I had never actually paid one a visit. As such, I was excited to discover their offerings!
In this article, you will discover Robert Graham as well as its very own Highland whisky and maduro cigar.
Overview Of Robert Graham
Founded in 1874 by the Treasurer of Glasgow of the same name, Robert Graham is among the oldest whisky and tobacco merchants in the UK. Starting with a single modest shop on Oxford Street in Glasgow, it soon expanded to include three more, which functioned as tobacconists and bookstores.
Since then, Robert Graham transferred its flagship store to Cambridge with another shop in London. However, it still retains firm roots in Scotland with two shops in Edinburgh as well as one in Glasgow.
Although Robert Graham is best known as a retailer, they’ve offered a number of their own independent bottlings since 2003.
194 Rose Street
Although the Fringe was in full swing, their Edinburgh shop on Rose Street was at a safe distance from the Old Town and reasonably quiet. Therefore, I took my time to take in the displays.
Simon left me to my own devices and was remarkably relaxed about me heading into the walk-in humidor without any supervision. However, he was happy to answer any questions I had and let me manipulate any cigars I fancied before making my purchase.
I was quite impressed with their vast range of New World cigars compared to Cubans. When I remarked upon this, Simon proudly said that he was quite fond of New World blends and was able to influence what they stocked.
Indeed, this is a rarity among tobacconists in Europe. Although cigar shops in the USA will exclusively sell New World cigars for obvious reasons, European ones tend not to give them much thought. Therefore, this was a refreshing change!
After walking out the humidor with one of their own cigar blends, a brief exchange on New World versus Cuban cigars (a hot topic among the BU staff) lead us to whisky.
Although I had already indulged in bottles from the Hebrides such as the Laphroaig Cairdeas, I fancied something from the Highlands.
Simon then introduced me to Robert Graham’s single malts and was very kind to set out a few drams in front of me to try them. At first, I was leaning towards their Islay expression but then I tried their Ailein Mór from the Highlands…
Ailein Mór Single Malt Whisky Review
Expression: Ailein Mór
Cask Strength: 40% ABV
Bottling: Robert Graham
Meaning “Great Green Valley” in Gaelic, there’s very little information on the Ailein Mór expression by Robert Graham. The original distillery is unnamed and there’s no age statement. Although this may put off some enthusiasts who’d liken it to a white label, it’s certainly worth trying before casting it aside.
Furthermore, it’s quite a lightweight expression with only 40% ABV, which is the strict minimum to be considered an authentic Scotch whisky.
Nevertheless, this is an award-winning Scotch. Its accolades include a Silver Medal in the International Spirits Challenge 2014 as well as the Silver Highland Independent Bottler of the Year Award in 2012.
Ailein Mór’s Appearance
Hue: Madeira Amber
Firstly, the Ailein Mór has a classic Madeira wine hue that leans towards amber. It’s an overall attractive colour and adding a few drops of water gives you rich viscometric whirls.
I initially expected this to be a chill-filtered whisky. However, the resulting cloudiness indicated otherwise. Nevertheless, I don’t quite have the experience to be able to confidently say either way.
As for the legs, they were slow to begin with when the glass was swirled. Eventually, thin legs revealed themselves that trickled down the sides of the glass with a medium to fast pace.
Ailein Mór’s Nose
Notes: Ginger, Marmalade, Caramel, Honey
A good whiff of Ailein Mór is refreshingly mentholated but only just tingles the nose. Taking in the aromas, there’s a remarkably tangy bouquet with notes of ginger and marmalade. This is then extended by the syrupy essence of caramel with a touch of floral honey.
Ailein Mór’s Palate & Mouthfeel
Primary Tastes: Salty, Sweet
Notes: Vanilla, Honey, Orange Rind, Shortcrust Dough
Mouthfeel: Oily, Eucalyptic
Finish: Medium [Dried Apricot, Ginger, Vanilla]
Opening with a burst of sweet aromas, Ailein Mór begins with a honey and vanilla accord. Added zest from a mildly bitter orange rind adds a some tang that hangs over the palate before experiencing a yeasty shortcrust dough note.
The mouthfeel is quite oily and the expression retains the mentholated eucalyptic body from the nose.
Finally, the overall sweet profile is harmonised by a touch of salt that draws towards a medium finish. The oily texture left on the tongue reveals notes of dried apricots and ginger whilst the vanilla continues to linger.
Tobacco Lords Maduro Overview
Brand: Tobacco Lords / Joya de Nicaragua
Glassford: Petit Corona
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Maduro
Estimated Smoking Time: 45 – 60 Minutes
Pricing: £8.95 Single Retail Price
Robert Graham’s exclusive Tobacco Lords are made by Joya de Nicaragua, which is the country’s oldest tobacco company and based in Estelí.
Available only at Robert Graham’s stores or via their site, this was the first time I came across the blend and was curious to discover it.
They’re available in a number of vitolas, which each have fun names. Surprisingly, the largest seems to be the Robusto, which is named the “Speirs”. This was the size I took for the purpose of this review.
Tobacco Lords Speirs Look & Feel
Wrapper Hue: Dark Espresso
Rolling Consistency: Even
Aromas: Farmyard, Coffee Beans, Dark Chocolate
A characteristic maduro cigar, the dark brown wrapper’s aromas consist of an overt musty farmyard scent accompanied by coffee beans and dark chocolate. Its texture is mottled with a variety of colours and shades as well as a few visible veins.
As for the rolling consistency, it’s remarkably even with a very firm spring when pinched.
Draw: Slight Resistance
Aromas: Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Vanilla
After cutting, I gave the cigar a quick dry draw. There’s a slight resistance but nothing uncomfortable. In terms of aromas, there’s a gourmand accord of dark chocolate and vanilla with a hint of salted caramel.
1st Third Smoking Experience
Notes: Espresso Bean, Copper, Liquorice Root
The Speirs starts off as surprisingly mild with smooth wisps of smoke after lighting. After about a centimetre of burn, the flavours began to reveal themselves. Opening with overt notes of espresso coffee beans, there are slight undertones of metallic copper.
Meanwhile, there a unique presence of herby liquorice root on the tongue that leaves a trace of salt on the lips. This sensation can be likened to the aftertaste from the skins of pistachio nuts under the shell.
2nd Third Smoking Experience
Notes: Labdanum, Cedar, Gingerbread Dough
There’s a clear evolution of aromas once into the second third. Whilst the profile is quite gourmand, the espresso and copper subside to reveal a dominating leathery labdanum flavour. This is further extended by some fragrant cedar as well as a yeasty gingerbread dough.
Meanwhile, retrohaling reveals a creamy coffee note that lingers on the palate.
Final Third Smoking Experience
Notes: Roasted Peanut, Charred Oak, Labdanum
A distinctively woody note emerges in the final third that transitions from cedar into charred oak. Rather than being peppery, I found that the cigar was closer to nutty, which was reminiscent of roasted peanuts.
Furthermore, the labdanum endures throughout the final third, which acts as a delectable base to the woody and nutty accord.
Ash Backbone: Resilient
Burn Angle: Slightly Wavy
Draw: Faint Resistance
Final Smoking Time: 65 Minutes
Despite being very firm, there were no burn or draw issues throughout the cigar, which suggests that it’s just a characteristic. Although slightly wavy to begin, the burn was particularly straight with a resilient ash stack that was grey steel in colour.
The final smoke time came to around 65 minutes. However, I did enjoy it somewhat zealously so considerate cigar enthusiasts will enjoy it for longer!
Pairing The Ailein Mór & Tobacco Lords
Overall, my Robert Graham haul offered a tantalising marriage of flavours. The vanilla and honey notes of the whisky offered excellent balance and harmony to the cigar’s liquorice root in the first third.
As the cigar progressed, the labdanum notes extended the single malt’s citrus notes for an immersive and enjoyable experience.
When enjoying the two, I had diluted the whisky down to around 35% ABV. However, as it’s a reasonably light-bodied whisky, this would be quite pleasant straight.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
Although a little light on information, both the box and packaging of the Robert Graham single malt is absolutely stunning. This is the fruit of a 2015 rebranding effort that embraces traditional aesthetic with a touch of modernity.
As for the cigar, the bands are made from a matte paper. Although these usually are somewhat fidgety to remove, they came off quite easily. I was also particularly fond of the writing on the reverse of the main band that shares a few words on Robert Graham and Joya de Nicaragua’s collaboration.
Being both an affordable whisky and cigar, they both offer excellent value for money. Both experiences were pleasant and can be enjoyed either alone or with friends.
In fact, this would be an ideal dram and smoke to have with a few buddies without breaking the bank!
Finally, I was particularly appreciative of the attention to detail when packaging the cigar, which I didn’t notice at the time. Not only was the cigar packaged in an ornate and attractive cardboard box but it was enclosed in a zip lock bag with a miniature Boveda bag.
This final touch was particularly appreciated and is rare among most retailers who tend to only box or bag them. In this instance, my cigar was secure with a humidity device to ensure that it stayed in the right conditions.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience with Robert Graham. Simon’s warm welcome was much appreciated and he did his utmost so that I felt at ease. He was also great for a general chinwag and I hope to return and pay him another visit in the near future.
Of course, Robert Graham doesn’t exclusively sell their own wares but offers a wide range of whiskies and cigars. If you’re ever in any of their neighbourhoods, make sure that you nip over to say “hello”... "
Reviewed by Charles-Philippe on 23rd August - click here to see the original article