The art of pairing cigars with fine liquors is a time-honored tradition that creates a sensory experience that transcends mere consumption. However, with countless options out there, finding the perfect drink to effortlessly enhance your cigar’s flavors can be daunting. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of cigars and liquors and uncover the key elements that make the perfect pairing.
Before diving into the world of cigar and liquor pairings, it’s essential to grasp the intricate details that make each cigar a work of art itself. From the composition of the cigar to the various types available, understanding the fundamental aspects of cigars lays the foundation for choosing perfect pairings.
What are Cigars Made of?
Cigars are meticulously crafted using a combination of tobacco leaves that contribute to the cigar’s flavor, strength, and aroma. The three main components of a cigar are:
- The Filler: The innermost part of the cigar, made up of a blend of different tobacco leaves. These leaves determine the cigar’s strength and flavor profile. Long-filler cigars consist of whole tobacco leaves that run the length of the cigar, while short-filler cigars contain smaller pieces.
- The Binder: This is the middle layer that holds the cigar together. Typically, the binder will have the company’s logo or any other distinguishing marks that will show where and how it was made.
- The Wrapper: The outermost layer of the cigar, the wrapper is responsible for delivering much of the cigar’s flavor and aroma. It’s carefully selected for its texture, color, and oil content.
Types of Cigars
- Large Cigars: Usually, this cigar has at least 0.5 ounces of aged, fermented tobacco. This kind of cigar normally takes an hour or two to smoke.
- Cigarillo: Compared to a huge cigar, which is around 3 to 4 inches long, a cigarillo is shorter. It typically has about 3 grams of tobacco and lacks a filter. This type of cigar can be smoked more quickly than large cigars.
- Little Cigars: The size of this cigar is usually significantly smaller and comparable to that of a cigarette. Filters are common in little cigars.
Cigars by Strength
The category “Cigars by Strength” encompasses the overall body of the smoke as well as how it affects your palate. Cigars are often categorized as mild, medium, or full-bodied based on their strength.
The flavor makes up the second factor in the equation for cigar strength. While strength is usually agreed upon by all, not everyone can agree on flavor. Given that each person has a unique taste, the flavor or flavors of a cigar are frequently determined by the specific nuances that each smoker notices on their palate.
1. Scotch and Cigars
Scotch and cigars were meant for one another. Indeed, the two come together to create one of the most iconic pairings, which can provide you with a very memorable sensory experience. If you are new to cigars and Scotch, one principle to always remember is matching body weights. Light-bodied cigars go well with mild Scotches, while full-bodied cigars go well with heavy ones.
Scotch Whiskies and their Ideal Cigar Pairings:
- The Glenlivet 12 Year Single Malt Scotch and Macanudo
- Lagavulin 16 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch and Partagas
- The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask and Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Churchill
2. Cognac and Cigars
Unwinding after a long productive week or celebrating a special occasion deserves a fine cigar and a Cognac. Cognacs are one of the most popular drinks to pair with cigars. The lengthy and difficult process of distilling the wine and maturing it in barrels for many years results in a smooth spirit that pairs wonderfully with a cigar.
Cognacs and their Ideal Cigar Pairings:
- Hennessy Paradis Cognac and Ashton Symmetry Sublime
- Remy Martin Cognac XO and Montecristo No. 2
- Hine Rare VSOP Cognac and Arturo Fuente Hemingway Classic
3. Rum and Cigars
It’s quite shocking that rum isn’t usually the preferred pairing for cigars, especially because renowned cigars and rum hail from similar regions, Cuba. A well-made cigar coupled with a premium rum can transport you to a place of pure bliss.
Rums and their Ideal Cigar Pairing:
- Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Ashton Classic Connecticut
- Blue Chair Bay Pineapple Rum Cream and Macanudo
- Bacardi Rum Superior and Montecristo No. 4
4. Bourbon and Cigars
The beloved American whiskey, bourbon, is known to be the best pairing for cigars. The ritual of cigar smoking has been a part of American culture for centuries, and it has been embraced by many iconic figures throughout history. When bourbon and cigars are paired together, they create a sensory experience that brings together the smooth, sweet flavors of the spirit and the rich, smoky nuances of the tobacco.
Bourbons and their Ideal Cigar Pairings:
- Angel’s Envy Straight Bourbon and Romeo y Julieta
- Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon and Pennsylvania Broadleaf
- Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon and Liga Privada No. 9 Robusto
5. Wine and Cigars
Despite the fact that wine lacks the long, rich history of affinity whiskey has with cigars, everything else about it – the body, aging, flavors, and terroir – perfectly overlap; one might even argue that wine and cigars were made to be savored together. Pairing wine and cigars is a classic practice that involves combining two luxurious and complex indulgences. When paired correctly, they can enrich each other’s flavors and create a delightful experience.
Wines and their Ideal Cigar Pairings:
- Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon and Maduro
- Apothic Red Blend Wine and Connecticut Shade
- Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Figurado
The Basics of Cigar and Liquor Pairing
Ultimately, the key to pairing cigars and liquors is balance. A great pairing should enhance the flavors and notes in both your drink and cigar instead of overwhelming or dominating your palate. Rum, bourbon, and cognac are typically suggested as pairings with cigars because of their rich, woody flavors that go well with almost any full-bodied smoke. Clear alcohols like gin or vodka are more difficult to pair with cigars, as cigars can easily dominate their mild flavors.
There are two recommended methods for cigar and liquor pairing - complementing and contrasting – each with a different impact on the flavors you select.
True to the saying ‘birds of a feather flock together,’ many cigar enthusiasts recommend matching your cigar’s flavors with a similar liquor. The complementing approach follows the criterion that you should combine light-bodied cigars with light drinks and full-bodied cigars with hard drinks. For example, if you choose a light and sweet cigar, pair it with a light and delicate liquor such as white wine. Similarly, if your cigar has spicy and woody notes, choosing a whiskey with a similar flavor profile will enhance the overall flavors.
Contrasting flavors can make for a wonderful match since sometimes opposites really do attract. It can be challenging to choose contrasting flavors, but when done correctly, the pairing can bring out subtle flavors that would otherwise be missed. For example, pairing a full-bodied cigar with a delicate and refined liquor, such as a fine wine, creates a captivating contrast. The liquor’s subtlety enhances the cigar’s robust flavors, allowing each component to shine independently.
While these basic principles are excellent for beginners, they are not set rules. You are the best expert on your preferences, meaning that anything you enjoy is the perfect pair.
Ultimately, exquisite matches are just as distinct as the taste receptors that adore them. Finding the optimal cigar and liquor combination is a personal journey, given each person's unique palate preferences. The hunt entails trying with various combinations, which leads to the discovery of personal favourites. The possibilities are endless, whether it's enjoying the powerful harmony of smoky whisky with a delicate cigar or savouring the synergy of rum's sweetness lifting the earthy undertones of a robust smoke.
Why Is it Important to Wet a Cigar Before Smoking?
Wetting a cigar before smoking makes it easier to cut cleanly and reduce any harm to the wrapper. However, some connoisseurs think wetting a cigar before smoking may harm it and change how it tastes.
Should I Eat Before Smoking a Cigar?
When smoking cigars, nausea can overcome us. This frequently happens to beginners who try to smoke on an empty stomach. Before smoking your cigar, ensure you’ve had a light meal to avoid feeling nauseous. If you do get nauseous, consider keeping a high-sugar beverage close by.
Can I Pair Liquors and Cigars Based on Personal Preference?
Absolutely! The world of pairing is as much about personal preference as it is about traditional guidelines. While there are some rules, keep in mind that your personal taste matters most. Trust your palate and take pleasure in discovering your favorite pairings.
Why is Pairing Cigars and Liquor Considered Luxurious?
The combination of carefully aged liquors and meticulously crafted cigars creates a delight that is often associated with luxury and refined taste.