CIGARS and drink pairings is a huge topic.
Everyone has their favourite, and we’re here to tell you about a few today and in future columns, but – first, we’ll add the caveat that we wish could be stuck on all boxes of fine cigars instead of the disgusting so-called health warnings we have to endure. Why don’t they put a picture of a naked obese person on every burger wrapper?
Anyway, our caveat would be – If you like it, feel free to do it. It applies to absolutely everything when it comes to cigars, so don’t let some old codger or antsy know-it-all tell you you’re doing it all wrong if you’re doing something you enjoy. That’s the whole point of the exercise.
To drinks. Many cigar smokers stick puritanically to plain old water to keep their palates scrupulously clean for each expectant puff. Many more of us can’t reach these levels of abstemiousness and so descend into a wonderful pit of debauchery that ranges across fine vintage malts, deep, unctuous rums, top-end tequilas, Grand Cru wines, finest Epernay Champagnes and much, much more.
Let’s start with Scotch. It’s a match made in heaven. Two natural products, carefully managed through a number of intricate but non-invasive procedures bring out the best in both tobacco and whisky, and from the heather-honey ethereal notes of lowland Scotches through the silky class of Speyside to the oily, lobster pot saltiness of Islay malts, all can add something magical to your cigar smoking experience. We do have a particular bent towards Speyside whiskies when it comes to cigar pairings; they work so damn well. Often subtle yet immensely rewarding, their soft and intricate sweet fruit and nut notes play perfectly with the cigar-tasting wheel of wood, spice and toastiness.
You do need to be careful when pairing the peatier whiskies, in our experience. They are an event in themselves and do not always play nicely in the sandpit with other flavours. Bold, smoky, spicy and oily, they can overwhelm the palate if they are, for example, paired with too mild a stick. And if you’re not careful, if you pair a cigar which is an absolute beast, you might just end up with a fried palate and no real understanding of what either pairing was offering. The choice, as always, is up to you and your preferences, experience, state of mind and more.
Lowland Scotch is very rewarding and oft-overlooked in favour of better-known and more trendy distilleries. Delicate and yet full-flavoured, they pair superbly with cigars of a similar ilk – think Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 or perhaps a Por Larranaga Petit Corona.
If you are going for something altogether beefier, the ever-wonderful Partagas Serie D No.4 won’t let you down if you pair it with a Speyside with some age. And full bore? Go Ramon Allones Gigantes or even Romeo y Julieta Cazadores.
Sample, experiment, have fun and see what floats your boat. It’s what it’s all about.