Parings 101: Cigars and Spirits

Stogie Spotlight20 Comments on Parings 101: Cigars and Spirits

Parings 101: Cigars and Spirits

Below is the first of three Guest Articles we have for you on pairing cigars and alcoholic beverages. All three pieces have been written by Lindsay Heller and cover Spirits, Beer, and Wine. To prevent information overload, we have separated these articles by beverage type and will present them in the same manner. After reading what Lindsay has to say about pairing cigars and spirits, be sure to check back next week to see what she has in store for you on pairing cigars and beer.

If you are interested in writing a Guest Article for Stogie Review, please take a moment to read our forum thread listing what we are currently looking for. The forum thread will change as we receive Guest Articles and consider other topics. If you have something in mind to submit which is not listed, feel free to drop us a line as we are always on the lookout for good guest content.

EP Carillo Edition Inaugural 2009.jpg

Pairings 101: Spirits

There is no reason to be intimidated when wanting to enjoy a favourite cigar with a favourite beverage: as long as you keep in mind why you like each consumable on its own, then you are almost guaranteed to figure out which cigar goes best with your drink of choice. The following is a basic overview of how to pair your cigars with spirits, beer and wine. (And for those of you who do not drink, I will give you a great, inexpensive tip: get yourself some good hot chocolate and a Padrón Londres and it is the tastiest total combo for under $10!)

* * *

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to focus on three commonly-consumed spirits: rum, single malts, and cognac. (If you are a vodka drinker pairing is not rocket science, but I will warn you that unless you are smoking something rather mild, the cigar will overpower the vodka. If you are a gin lover, then pretty much stick to EMS style smokes because EMS are essentially the gin of the cigar world.)

Rum

Rum can be a bit tricky to match accurately with a cigar, but this also depends on what kind you like to drink. I am personally a dark rum drinker and any rum lover will tell you clear rum is for mixed drinks while dark, aged rums are meant for neat consumption. Dark rums are naturally much deeper and sweeter since they receive their colouring from the molasses that remains leftover from the fermentation process, so a traditional maduro with overt spice is not the way to go. My recommendations for a smooth, dark rum would be a cigar that tends to have some natural creaminess or sweetness to it, i.e. Montecristo White Label (mild with hints of vanilla), Toraño 1959 Exodus (medium Cameroon with almost no spice & a bit of natural cane in the back of the draw), or if a maduro smoker virtually anything with a Mata Fina wrapper where there is a pleasant spicy-sweet quality to the smoke on your palette. Keep in mind rums come from countries that also produce cigars, so there are endless possibilities!

Single Malt Scotch

If you consider yourself a purveyor of fine cigars, then more than likely you have had scotch in your lifetime, and when done right, this pairing can be magical. While this marriage seems to be the most common after-dinner scenario, I find scotches tend to be the most mismatched with cigars overall these days on two fronts: (1) most people do not understand the complexity of a good scotch; and (2) the trend in the non-Cuban cigar market is maduro, maduro, maduro. The beauty of a good scotch is how a plethora of subtle nuances come together to form something unique and the last thing anyone should want to do is completely overpower their rather expensive drink. My advice to you would be to pick out one or two elements of your chosen scotch that would be enhanced by smoking a cigar in tandem.

Speaking from personal experience a wonderfully subtle element to bring out of a single malt is anise. If you are a fan of Laphroaig then their 18 Yr is the perfect match for an Illusione 888 cigar, where the Nicaraguan smoke made with ’99 Corojo seed comes with a super smooth draw and perfect anise points throughout. For a good scotch and cigar combination without breaking the bank, I highly recommend Nat Sherman’s Gotham Eastside Collection: the cigars themselves are medium-bodied but pack the flavours of something much fuller without having to have that extra body. The Eastsides commonly give the smoker pronounced hints of toasted nut, cedar and oak, and with that it goes quite well with Macallan Fine Oak Single Malt 10 Yr.

Cognac

Some of the most commonly tasted notes in a cognac are vanilla, nuts, caramel and light florals, which when it comes to cigars you might be wondering how to make a successful pairing with such feminine flavours. While there is no full-proof trick, I have found over the years that the best cigars to have with your cognac are not those that share characteristics with the drink, but rather compliment them. One needs to keep in mind that VSOPs and XOs are the best to pair with a stogie, and in parallel the older the cognac, the stronger the nuances for the palate.

A well-known and moderately priced mid-age cognac is Hennessey VSOP where nuts and wood mix with hints of licorice and for me, there is something about a nice medium-bodied Cameroon smoke to make this pairing worthwhile. I highly recommend a Montecruz cigar which is a fantastic smoke many people thought fell by the wayside, but they are still produced well and able to be purchased for a low price. (I purchase mine from Ron of Serious Cigars for $5.00 per Corona.) There is a delightful smokiness with an air of pecans in this cigar and at the risk of being labeled crazy, this cigar honestly tastes like scamorza (smoked mozzarella), which in its written description sounds like a weird pair, but trust me on this one—it’s just too good.

Lindsay M. Heller is New York City’s only female tobacconist with years of experience as a cigar lover and professional. She has been featured in numerous national and international lifestyle publications, such as Rolling Out, Cigar Snob and Europe’s El Gusto. Outside of her activities in the political arena fighting for smoker’s rights, Lindsay also hosts cigar events and classes, pairing seminars, participates in tasting panels and as a consultant in blending. She currently works for Nat Sherman on Fifth Ave in Manhattan. If you would like to contact her, she can be reached at TheCigarChick@vzw.blackberry.net or you can follow her on Twitter as “@TheCigarChick.”

enjoying cigars since 2005

20 thoughts on “Parings 101: Cigars and Spirits

  1. Excellent article! MUST HAVE MORE!!!!

    I’ve always have something sweet to drink with my cigars, my usual being sweet tea. I like that for me it gives traditionally sweet cigars a new perspective, and allows me to pick up on other things I would have missed. I could never really afford to be a scotch man, but this makes me want to at least dabble in it, and see how it goes.

    My favorite all time pairing (thus far) is an AF Añejo and Grand Marnier neat. With water the Añejo’s cognac aging comes through with a fair bit of sweetness and slight spice. But throw GranMa in the equation and the sugar of the liqueur takes over the palate, and allows the cigar to show its toasty savory side, which for me is complimented to the fullest extent by the orange and vanilla flavors of the GranMa. The cognac based GranMa doesn’t compound the cognac flavors of the cigar…it merely takes precedent, so Its not an cognac blowout on the palate, one just replaces the other, so nothing is missed.
    I highly recommend it!

  2. I don’t have much experience with scotch, but I recently had Lagavulin 16-year-old single-malt scotch and it went terrific with my Rocky Patel Edge Sumatra. The smoky/peaty tastes from the scotch seemed to pair perfectly well together.

    As for blended scotches, Johnnie Walker Black is my usual choice and I have had to have a cigar pairing I didn’t enjoy it with.

    Beggars can’t be choosers, but I wish this article also included traditional whiskey/bourbon. Maybe there could be a part 2 🙂

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for the article. I am always interested in learning more about combing a great cigar with a wonderful spirit.

    In particular I enjoy Scotch Wisky. Right now I am having a wonderful Montecristo, Petite Edmundo, with an Aberlour A’bunadh, while sitting on the patio here in Singapore. It all works together to make a heavenly combination!

    For those interested in learning more about Scotch I highly recommend Ralfy.com. He also does an interesting thing called “peating a cigar” which involves adding Scottish peat to your cigar.

  4. I had a Padilla miami robusto on New Year’s and paired it with Maker’s Mark on the rocks. Delectable! Lots of sweet/caramel from the whiskey, and some wood/white pepper from the Padilla. Really a hit with me, to the degree that the second half of the night is lost from memory.

  5. Thanks for the feedback, guys!

    In response to “beaverc32,” I’d be more than happy to do something on whisky and bourbon, but it sounds like all of you just want me to get drunk. :o)

    To “RichM:” I can’t say I’ve ever had a Fuente Añejo and Grand Marnier. I’ll have to give it a shot because I like both the cigar and the liquor, so it would be great if they married well!

  6. My pairing technique is pretty simple:
    Red wine – something maduro or Ecuador sumatra wrapped (med-full, rich & spicy)
    Scotch – corojo or habano wrapper. Or a fuller conn w/a mild scotch.
    Port – maduro all the way
    Rum – Depending on which one, maduro or corojo
    Beer (good beer, not Bud) – maduro, corojo or habano.
    Then again, it really all depends on your palate. I just find that a rich med-full red wine is great with a rich full flavored maduro. I like Laphroaig scotch, so I smoke a spicy corojo wrapped cigar with that. Everything else seems to fall into place. Kind of like which condiments or seasoning you put on certain foods.

  7. Excellent article Lindsay! I can not wait for parts 2 and 3!

    I myself hardly ever drink anymore but have been looking for a nice Scotch to try with some cigars for a relaxing evening or weekend. I will have to give the ones you mentioned a try!

    Mike

  8. Thanks for the article Lindsay. I’m always trying to figure out cigar and drink pairing. I like bourbon and smoke certain cigars that I think go well with it only though past experience. I never gave thought as to the type of wrapper and blend of a cigar when pairing with spirits or any other drink. When having a milder or stronger drink I would just tend to lean towards a mild or fuller bodied cigar not to have one overpower the other, although, if I know a cigar has certain predominant notes such as coffee or a cocoa flavor I would try a drink that may match that profile. A lot of times this turns out to be a crap shoot especially when trying a new cigar. Sometimes if it doesn’t seem right I’ll set a drink aside and try something else with the cigar I’m smoking to see if the match is better.
    I look forward to your next articles especially the one on beer because I find very few cigars that I enjoy with beer as much as I do with other drinks and am interested reading how you pair them up.

  9. I think the biggest thing I’ve taken out of this article is to “keep in mind why you like each consumable on its own”. I can break down a cigar, and nitpick the nuances establishing what I like and don’t like. I’ve never really done that with spirits, I really just took the naive approach and took what was given to me, or available at the time. But now I will do some “research” on potential companions to my cigars with Lindsay’s suggestions in mind!

  10. Nice article Lindsay…

    I like smoking a Camacho Triple Maduro 6×60 with a Youngs Double Chocolate Stout or a Rogue Chocolate Stout.

    I also recommend Vizcaya VXOP rum paired with a Camacho Connecticut Figurado.

    Or a Don Pepin Cuban Classic Toro with Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 yr. rum, pretty much any great cigar pairs with this liquid perfection.

    And a great after dinner classic for me is a Left Hand Milk Stout with a Padilla Miami Robusto.

  11. I hope you get to different coffee beans and cigars. That would be interesting. Nice article.

    I agree for the most part with giving balance and smoking something that would add to the drink, but I always thought of what can a drink add to my cigar, so this perspective is kind of new to me.

    Thanks, can’t wait for more!

  12. Excellent article Lindsay! It’s pretty obvious you know your stuff! Rum is one of my very favorite forms of alcohol and I have found the following rums pair very well with many different cigars, especially maduro & habano wrappers: Mt. Gay Extra Old, Zaya 12 yr, Ron Zacapa 23 yr & Barbancourt 15 yr. Also I really like the Rhums Agricole from Martinique that are enjoying more exposure these days. These rhums are made only from fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. My favorites here are Neisson Rhum Agricole Reserve Especiale & La Favorite Rhum Agricole Vieux. These rhums tend to have a bit more “kick” IMHO.

    I have to admit I tend to go “the darker the rum the darker the wrapper”. Simplistic, but it works for my palate.

    As a big bourbon drinker as well, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on pairing bourbons and cigars. Like to know if we have some of the same favorites.

    Thanks again and I’m looking forward to hearing more!

    Mad Mango

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back To Top