Pairing Cigars With Libations
While I wish I could have done all the research for this one-a lot of drinking and smoking seems to have gone into it-I did not. As a matter of conversation, I prefer Evan Williams bourbon. I also enjoy George Dickel, as well as other “sipping” blends like Crown Royal, Canadian Club, etc… But mostly I like bourbon. I like a medium to strong smoke when I’m drinking bourbon. I enjoy a little taste of spice like I notice in a Tatuaje Tattoo or a Rocky Patel Sun Grown. Right now I’m smoking a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 and it is working just fine, thank you very much. But most of this article comes from other “researchers” from JR Cigars, Cigar Aficionado, Bourbon Life and others.
Bourbon and cigars are a match made in heaven. Few things are more satisfying, from a palate pleasing point of view, than pairing your favorite cigar with a suitable libation. But not all fine bourbons and fine cigars pair well, and a bad pairing choice can ruin the experience of both.
Sure, you could just drink whatever and smoke whatever, but some cigars just make the drink open up and come to life. Instead of using trial and error to find a bourbon and cigar pairing that works for you, use some of the suggestions below to help you get the most out of the experience.
Know Your Stogies
Just as Master Distillers work to create a whiskey that has certain characteristics
smoothness, heat, sweet, smoke, etc), so to do Cigar Masters. Professional cigar makers go to great lengths to express flavors like citrus, oak, allspice, and chocolate in their cigars. So just as you would appreciate the elements of a fine bourbon, you should also appreciate the subtle flavors hiding in the smoke.
There are 3 characteristics of cigars that can help you determine a good fit for your pairing: the cigar’s ‘body’, the size, and the rating.
Mild, medium, or full – the body of the cigar describes the strength of the taste of the cigar smoke.
For an article about how cigars are rated, click here.
For an article about cigar sizes, click here.
Now that you know a few cigar basics, you are ready to start pairing. The best suggestion that I have gotten is to match the body of the bourbon to the body of the cigar.
Light Bodied Pairing
Evan Williams Single Barrel is a lighter-bodied and mild bourbon at around 86°. A good suggested pairing would be a Macanudo. Macanudo are premium cigars with a mild, aromatic and smooth character. The creamy, spicy sweetness of the Macanudo dances with the orange, vanilla, and caramel flavors of the Evan Williams SB in a way that compliments both.
This is a nice pairing that can be enjoyed any day of the week, any season of the year, and in mixed company.
Medium Bodied Pairing
Rock Hill Farms is one of my favorite medium bodied bourbons. Not too hot (100°), not too rough, and the finish is appreciable but not rough, and the finish is appreciable but not too long. That doesn’t mean Rock Hill Farms is a bourbon that you can pair with any old cigar. Its mash bill is high-rye at about 12%, so cigars that have a spice kick in their own right should be avoided. The honey, fruit, and oak in the bourbon should be paired with a cigar that respects those flavors while bringing its own dimension to the experience.
Nice suggestions are the popular Drew Estate Liga Privada or the popular Cohiba Esplendido. The Cohiba cigar was created by Che Guevara (of Cuba fame) as a super-premium cigar strictly reserved for Castro and other world dignitaries. The Cohiba Esplendido is a rich creamy tobacco with a buttery character that plays oh so nicely with a three finger pour of Rock Hill Farms bourbon!
This is the pairing you would break out to wow a new client, for special occasions, and for holidays. Of course, if you and the crew are planning to hit the town, Rock Hill Farms and a nice Cohiba can be a great kick-off.
Full Bodied Pairing
Booker’s Bourbon is a full bodied, full flavored, full proofed bourbon that can easily run over a mild mannered cigar. A good pairing is one that compliments the orange peel, vanilla, leather, pecan, honey and heat of the Booker’s without losing the flavor and fullness of the cigar. Enter the legendary Don Arturo Gran Aniver Xario Fuente; an intense cigar with pepper, cinnamon, and coffee flavors.
The Don Arturo can be a little hard to find, so Upman makes a great stand-in. H. Upman is one of the oldest cigar brands around today, and was established in Cuba in 1844.
This is the kind of pairing that celebrates life’s victories – your best man getting hitched, winning a long-fought for promotion, closing an important contract, or welcoming a new life into the world.
When All Else Fails
Not every pairing that you try will work. We all have different perceptions, styles, and tastes. When all else fails, smoke what you got, drink what you got, and if they dont go together, enjoy them separately. It isnt so much about getting it right as it is about enjoying your bourbon and stogies for what they are!
From: JR Cigars
Best American Whiskey/Bourbon And Cigar Pairing
Gentleman Jack and an Ashton Estate Sun Grown 23 Year- This pairing shows that things get better with age. The Gentleman Jack is aged passed the normal amount of Jack Daniels and makes it great for cigar pairing. This additional “mellowing” gives it s full bodied yet smooth taste with hints of spice and fruit. This perfect sized Ashton ESG uses a rare aged Sun Grown wrapper that is spicy and flavorful, yet has the characteristics of silk. The smoke billows out like a cloud.
Pappy Van Winkle 15 Family Reserve and J.D. Howard Reserve HR50- The holy grail of bourbons, the Pappy 15 is a real treat. It’s dark and rich, with delicious hints of brown sugar, vanilla, and wood. The Crowned Heads J.D. Howard, uses a Brazilian maduro wrapper, also giving it a dark rich flavor profile with blasts of natural sweetness. This pair may be bold, but is also beautiful.
Knob Creek Smoked Maple and a Kentucky Fire Cured Fat Molly- It doesn’t get more homegrown then these two. This Knob Creek Smoked Maple is the epitome of Kentucky bourbon. It’s full-bodied with a slight maple and hickory taste and a great bold smoky undertone. What could go better with smoky Kentucky bourbon than a smoky Kentucky cigar? This beauty from Drew Estate uses sweet burley tobacco and has a fantastic smoked hickory flavor to it.
Makers Mark and a Davidoff Classic No. 1- Makers Mark has the reputation of being one of the smoothest bourbons on the market. Its smooth and sweet with a slight oak finish. The mild Dominican Davidoff Classic is like silk with a hint of cedar and cream. This long thin size will burn long and optimize the flavor. A great match for the connoisseur!
High West Campfire and an Oliva Cain Daytona Corona– If you are lucky enough to find this unique whiskey from Utah, buy all that you can. The campfire is a delicious and complex mix of straight rye, straight bourbon, and a blended scotch. It starts of sweet from the bourbon, then becomes spicy from the rye and ends with a peat/smoke flavor from the scotch. The Cain Daytona is a flavor machine that changes over the course of the cigar from peppery, to sweet and spicy and then finally rich and smoky with a hint of coffee. This is a unique but unbelievable match up.
Living the Life
I look forward to doing more “research ” on this subject. But in the meantime, I hope this helps.