A glass of scotch in one hand and a cigar in another is, for many, the embodiment of relaxation and style. Finding the right pairing can be quite a task. A Camacho Connecticut in one hand and a glass of Bookers Bourbon in another might look classy, but it is a guaranteed way to ruin a good cigar.
The goal of pairing a cigar and spirit is to find a combination that will bring out the flavor and personality of both the cigar and spirit you are enjoying.
That might sound simple, but learning to pair cigars and spirits is challenging for a number of reasons. First, knowing a good pairing takes knowledge of your personal tastes, which takes time and experience to discover. Second, cigars and spirits–even on their own– are incredibly complex. Combining them produces even more complex results.
The guidelines below are a good start if you want to discover pairings that you enjoy most.
- Make sure your cigar and a spirit match in strength and body
This is the most critical step because regardless of how complementary the flavors may be, if one is much stronger, it will dominate and mask the flavors of the other. In general, I try to stay in the 80 – 90 proof zone with my spirits, regardless of cigar strength. Much above that and you’ll almost certainly overpower your cigar.
- Consider starting with gentler drams
Discovering pairings that involve stronger spirits takes time. So start with gentler products like Burgal Anejo rum, Glenlivet 12 year scotch, or Basil Hayden bourbon.
- Explore new types of spirits to pair with
If you’re a current cigar smoker wanting to learn what you like, you’ll need to start getting comfortable with a wide array of available products. If whisky is your drink of choice, great! But as a whisky drinker myself, I later found that the majority of my favorite pairings involve involve rum or cognac.
- Pay attention and take notes
Learning takes focus and attention. So whenever you try a new cigars and spirits pairing, make either a mental or physical note of the pairing, whether or not one overpowered the other, and if and how flavors complemented each other.
Important items to note:
- Did the cigar overpower the spirit or vice versa?
- What are the basic notes of the cigar?
- What are the basic notes of the spirit?
- Did you enjoy the combination of the flavors and aromas?
- If the pairing worked, write it down and come back to it later!
After time and attention, you’ll begin to notice some trends. You might enjoy how the molasses of Ron Barcelo rum complements the rich, earthy notes of some Connecticut Broadleaf wrapped cigars. Or how the oakiness of Auchentoshan Three Wood scotch pairs nicely with a similarly woody Ashton cigar. The key is to continue the journey and see where it takes you!
Do you have a favorite cigar and spirits pairing? Do us all a favor and leave it in the comments below!