The amount of thought that goes into creating both the perfect cigar and the perfect whiskey is truly staggering. Interestingly, there is a master blender for each. The tobacco blenders work with tobacco leaves grown throughout the world, knowing that each different soil produces a distinct taste to blend together. Similarly, whiskey blenders work on perfecting their distilled creations, sometimes combining up to 60 individual malt whiskeys to create the perfect premium blended scotch. Both of these indulgences are made in a painstaking process and should be savored slowly. Sipping a glass of whiskey and enjoying a premium cigar are two of life’s joys, and you must appreciate the nuances of each to match the flavors well.
In general, a bold whiskey should be matched with a bold cigar. If you don’t balance the flavors, one or the other will get lost in translation. Distilleries and cigar manufacturers both use the same language, words like woodsy, spicy, and fruity. They also both have a flavor wheel, and these wheels work well in the contemplation of how to pair them correctly.
Woodsy and earthy cigars
Woodsy cigars, with hints of oak, cedar or hickory, have a natural edifying flavor and are fairly strong in intensity. Pair this cigar with a whiskey that is spicy or fruity. Small local distilleries create some fun fruity whiskeys that have been aged in cherry wood casks, for instance. You could also make the choice to highlight the oak hints in a cigar by pairing it with a smooth sweet caramel toffee whiskey. The deep flavor of earthy cigars, highlighted by moss, humus, and mushroom depth, would be well-paired with a single malt scotch with caramel tones. The deep caramel tone can stand up to the earthy undertones while adding a sweetness.
Sweet cigars are lighter and often contain hints of floral or citrus. These lighter cigars should be paired with a lighter whiskey, perhaps a floral vanilla-tinged whiskey. If you want to take your experience one step further, pair your light cigar with a fruit or chocolate-toned whiskey. The cigar will be lighter, and the whiskey will offer a deeper experience.
Although cigars and whiskey both have a spicy category, you would be unwise to pair them together, as the combination would confuse your palate and aggravate your tastebuds. If you enjoy a spicy cigar with hints of chilli, peppers, and nutmeg, choosing a smooth sweet whiskey would be a great choice. Often American whiskeys, that use newer oak in the aging process, are nice choices. Selecting a whiskey that is sweet with honey and fruit, but offers a little bite at the end, would also be a nice complement. If you are a bit more adventurous, try pairing a coffee, cocoa-tinged cigar with an ultra-smooth whiskey with a hint of cinnamon. Although you usually wouldn’t layer spice on top of spice, the coffee cinnamon combination is a delightful duo.
Leathery, animal-toned cigars
Leathery cigars are definitely not for newcomers and tend to be heavier and more dramatic. The savory, meaty flavor offers a depth of flavor that woodsy and spicy cigars cannot match. This is the type of bold cigar that needs to be paired brazenly. Combining a leathery toned cigar with a peaty, heavy whiskey like a single malt scotch whiskey is a great choice. The robust flavors can stand up to each other and make for an adventurous experience.
At the end of the day, your chosen pair is completely up to you. Whether you prefer vanilla or citrus, coffee or carnations, one thing is clear: the journey is better than the destination.